The importance of learning the course in setting a PR

I’ve found two more races I want to try to win (age group) in 2015. One is a small trail race, and the other is a road race with over 1,000 runners. Frankly, I was surprised to see the winning time in the 50-54 category of last year’s River City Rat Race was half a minute slower than in the Swiss Days race, which has half as many runners. Maybe the course has something to do with that, but it doesn’t matter: I’m going for it.

That makes four races that I’m hoping to win this year, and they all have this in common: I’ve run every one of them at least once. And the only one that I haven’t run multiple times is basically an extension of my “home court” course.

When it comes to setting a PR – which I’ll have to do in all but one race if I hope to win my age group – course familiarity is HUGE. I’m no expert, of course, far from it. But that’s been my experience, and that’s what works for me, given the vast importance of the mental aspects of running.

So I’ll be getting in my mileage and my speed work and my cross training in the coming months, but I’m also going to make sure I run these race courses every so often as well. Learn which parts I want to attack, where I feel confident and where I struggle. Those weak points are then where I’ll focus my energies.

As Ben’s pitching coach likes to say, it’s more important to strengthen your weaknesses than to hone your strengths. He’s coached several guys who’ve made it to the pros, most notably Oakland A’s pitcher Jarrod Parker, who graduated from our local high school. But when he tells that story he’s talking about a talented hitter who never worked on anything but the stuff he was good at and consequently never made it out of the low minor leagues.

It seems to me that lesson could apply to every sport that exists — not to mention life in general.

Anyway, for the record, here are the races and the times I need to beat:

June 28, Waterfall 5k — 39:30 (I’ve beaten this time in the past, but this is a longish, hilly trail course and the time reflects this.)

July 25, Swiss Days Race 5k — 26:21

Aug. 30, Parlor City Trot Half Marathon — 1:58:03

Oct. 25, River City Rat Race 5k — 27:08

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5 Responses to The importance of learning the course in setting a PR

  1. OmniRunner says:

    It’s interesting how different races draw different crowds of runners.
    I’ve been in rural Maine and run 5Ks with 100 people but all of the guys in my age group were super fast.
    Last weekend I ran a 5K in Cambridge with 574 other runners and managed 2nd in my age group. Totally unexpected. Urban races always seem to bring out the good runners, but you never know who you will be up against in these far-flung races.
    Good luck with your PRs, those are great goals.
    Cheers – Andy

    • tischcaylor says:

      Thanks, Andy. These goals do depend quite a bit on who else shows up, but I’m OK with that. If I get the time I’m training for and somebody else is faster, that’s OK by me. Thanks for being an inspiration. I’m going to go over and sign up on your blog now, because I miss seeing your posts since you switched sites.

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