4 tips on how to beat your PB:

Post by Dan Worth

Beating your personal best

Okay, so you’re a competent runner. You’re a 10km pro, perhaps have a few half marathons under you’re belt, and maybe even a marathon and, towards the end you’re usually overtaking – and that makes you feel good. But, when the time comes up after the race, there’s a nagging doubt that perhaps you could be doing better. But how? How can you shave off a few minutes here, some precious seconds there, and start to improve those times? Well, thankfully, here are some tips to help you smash that PB:

  1. Race everything

    You see that other runner plodding along 60 meters away? Yeah? She’s going to win £1,000 instead of you unless you catch her in two minutes. Oh and that tree blowing innocently in the wind? It’s going to fall on you unless you’re past it in under 45 seconds. Basically: find motivation, whatever it is, to make yourself run faster than you need to. Overtake other runners, see how long you can stay ahead of a cyclist coming up behind you, imagine a dog is about to attack you, and so on. Anything you can do to exert extra energy will help you reach a new level of fitness. And it’s fun too. This is essentially the Swedish running style known as Fartlek (Speed Play) and is a good way to have fun, and increase your speed, while out running.

  2. Push yourself

    Perhaps this will sound obvious but you’ve got to push yourself. This though, needn’t mean running like Usian Bolt and sweating more than Lee Evans, it just means easing yourself from a position of comfort while running to one of, well, a bit less comfort. Next time you find yourself ticking along nicely, gradually start to accelerate. Nothing major, but a slow, steady increase, so that after about 200 meters you’re doing a good speed. Now maintain that pace for about three minutes, or as long as you feel comfortable with, and then ease back down to a comfortable pace. Speeding up gradually and then easing back down will help to shift the boundary of your most comfortable running speed to one that’s slightly faster than before.

  3. Time yourself

    Investing in a good watch is a great way to go faster. Being able to accurately record how fast and how far you’re running while out and about provides you with a much better way of being able to assess your ability. And using the Fartlek running style (mentioned above) means you can put a specific speed and/or distance limit on each sprint you do – say, 0.4km at 4.30 minutes per km. Garmin, the most well-known brand, have watches that start at around £60 on Amazon and a little shopping around will help you see what seems best.

  4. Plan your race

    This is the time when you might feel like an obsessive runner. Pick a race that’s flat, on a smooth surface, and avoids laps. Have a good breakfast (and a banana) and make sure you’re there in plenty of time to warm up. The race itself is also something you need to plan. The first 3km could dash any hopes you have if you go too slow or get caught in a crowd, so get to a good position in the start and ensure you begin at the pace you’ve planned for. Through 3km to 8km, you want to find that rhythm you’ve built to in training and stick to it: this is where your fancy watch will come in handy, telling you your exact pace, and alerting you if you’re going to slowly, allowing you to pick up the pace before you fall too far behind. Then over the last two kilometers really push it home, using the adrenaline of the race environment, the knowledge you’re close to home, and the fact you’re about to smash your PB, to really shave off as many seconds, or indeed minutes, as you can. Hopefully, this will see you home in your best time yet; and there’s something intensely satisfying about that.

Only trouble is once… now you’ve set it you’ve got to break it again. Back out on the road you go…

Avoid laps...

Dan Worth writes  for a UK business/trade magazine company, across a range of their titles. He has also written articles for Runners World and The Guardian. You can find his blog at danielworth.blogspot.com. Dan ran the London Marathon in 2009, has a half marathon time of 1 hour 42 minutes and his 10k PB is 42:20.
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