Saturday, December 09, 2006

Race Strategy

Earlier this year, Rob P published some analysis of split times from the Gisborough Moors Race on Sunday 9 April 2006 on the NYMAC website. This is what he had to say:

The "% time to Cooks" is the % of total race time it took competitors to reach Captain Cooks Monument. A higher % than the average of 43.9% implies that the runner took it relatively easy to Captain Cooks Monument (compared with the rest of the field), whilst on the other hand a lower than average % implies the runner slowed (suffered more?) in the latter stages of the race (relative to everyone else). Correct pace judgement in this race pays dividends and it can be quite satisfying passing fellow runners as they struggle on the long grind from Roseberry Topping to Highcliff Nab. The No.1 early cruiser (i.e. strong finisher) was Chris Wright who spent 46.5% of his time getting to Cooks Monument where he was 84th overall. He then proceeded to overtake 23 runners and finish 61st overall.

Having been named as the No 1 'early cruiser, I felt it only right to respond, which I did as follows:

Comments from Chief Cruiser (First Class):

Interesting race analysis from the Moors Race, and supporting comments by John Telfer.

Having been officially named as Chief Cruiser, I thought my 'take' on the award might be of interest (to some!).

Based on experience, observation and reading of comments by others, the following might be pertinent:
- in the 800m, the winner is often the runner who is slowing the least in the last 150/200m
- in the 1500m, the third lap is the hardest
- Steve Jones (Wales) suggested (when setting the marathon World Best) that the marathon is a 20mile training run followed by a 10km race

When I used to regularly race on the roads, on a flat course my strategy was to run the first half comfortably, start working harder for the next section, then flat out over the last section. This uneven effort often resulted in an even paced race (min/mile).

In a fell race, I would adapt this strategy to the course and my own strengths and weaknesses - these are (in order, best to worst): steady uphill; flat sections; steep downhill; steep uphill; and steady downhill.So for the Moors Race, I run steadily to Gribdale, work hard round to Little Roseberry, do my best up and down Roseberry, work hard round to Highcliff Nab, then do my best down to the finish (not getting too uptight about people passing me on the last downhill sections).

I have, in the past, run hard from the start and drifted backwards, run quite hard from the start and maintained my position, started conservatively and gradually worked my way through, and started right at the back and worked my way through. The first and the last seem to cheese other runners off, particularly the last!

My preferred option at the moment is to start conservatively and gradually work my way through, and this is very much based on my Orienteering race strategy - I start steadily in order to make sure I 'spike' the first control cleanly, then start working when I have got into the map and the course and am 'flowing' through the terrain and controls. You need to save something for the latter part of an Orienteering race, as a lot of time can be lost in the latter stages by making navigational errors when tired (and course planners do tend to deliberately throw in some technically tough challenges in the later part of their courses!)

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