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The End of Race Kick

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4/9/97

You are in the late stages of a race. Your heart and lungs feel as though they are going to explode as you push toward the finish line. Your legs are loaded with lactic acid and feel like they are moving in slow motion. You try not to give up and slow down. You really want to try to maintain pace, or even pull out an end of race kick. But, where are you going to find it? How can you even hold on to the finish without giving in to how bad you feel?

What has worked best for me is to run the last 10-20%, and especially the last few hundred yards, of any race from 5k to marathon with my upper body....and, no, I don't mean to go upside down.

For every running stride there is an arm swing, and vice versa. One will not happen without the other. If you concentrate on maintaining or increasing your arm swing cadence near the end of a race, your legs must follow....no matter how bad they, and your cardio-respiratory system, feel. And, focusing on your upper body diverts your attention away from how bad everything else feels. Just let your upper body "coast" through most of the race and then carry you to the finish. I've pulled out some very good kicks at the end of races when I felt as though the next stride would kill me just by concentrating on keeping my arms pumping. Before I learned this tactic, I could never accelerate at the end.

Upper body weight work to strengthen the shoulders and arms helps them to remain fresher during the late stages of a race. Especially for longer distances of 10 miles and beyond when the arms and shoulders, though not working as hard as the legs, can really tire. For instance, since there are more than 40,000 strides and arm swings in a marathon, the arms can get very tired toward the end, even after letting the upper body "coast" through most of the 26.2 miles. Arms and shoulders strengthened (not bulked) through weight work can drive at the late stages of a marathon more rested and ready to drive harder at the end. Your legs, heart and lungs might come to hate you for how hard those upper body workouts will help you push them late in a race, but your mind and psyche will love you for the results they bring.

The other late race tactic I use is not worry about how many other runners pass me in the first half of a race, and then concentrate on steadily picking people off after the midpoint all the way to the end....and, finally, challenge someone near me in the last hundred yards or so of a race to a sprint to the finish. Chances are they are feeling as bad as I do and the "arm pump" will often make the difference. Win or lose, however, I always congratulate and thank the person who I "raced" while in the finish chute. I've made some good running friends of strangers that way.

Jim2