Have you ever run the perfect race? If so, perhaps you could do it again if you were able to capture how you prepared and how you ran the race. For all of your less-than-perfect races, it is useful to write down what errors you made and how you could do better next time. Too often during our racing careers, we make the same mistakes again and again. We all know the obvious cases, such as the runner who always starts too fast and “blows up.” But, there are many more subtle racing errors that may not be obvious until you analyze your races. Perhaps you don’t give yourself time to warm-up properly, or you let your concentration ease during the middle miles of races.
The questions below are designed to help you analyze your racing performances to identify ways to improve in future races. There are 32 questions grouped into six sections. These questions are just a start, and some are no doubt more relevant for you personally than others. You may want to develop additional questions that are specific to your situation. Of course, this method will not guarantee that you always run the perfect race. Over time, you will no doubt make new mistakes. Analyzing your races should, however, help you to recognize areas for improvement and to gradually improve your performances.
Your race preparation:
These questions ask about your fitness and how you tapered your training for the race. Your preparation during the last few weeks before a race largely determines your racing performance, and your taper determines how well rested you are on race day. By reviewing your preparation, you will gain insight into the types of training that are most effective for you and how many races you need before you race your best.
Before the race:
What you eat and drink the morning of the race and how you warm-up are important factors in your racing performance. Runners often compromise their performances by eating too much or too little, or by doing an incomplete warm-up. By reviewing what you do before the race, you can fine-tune your pre-race routine.
The first mile (or first km):
Many runners start off too fast and pay the price during the rest of a race. Others start off too conservatively and never give themselves a chance to reach their potential. Recalling your first mile (or however long it takes to settle into the race) will help make sure that you get it right next time.
The rest of the race:
Regardless of the length of the race, some runners have trouble maintaining their concentration. Other runners have difficulty with specific aspects of racing such as up-hills or down-hills. The following questions should prompt you to remember what happened during the heat of battle so you can work on your weaknesses for the next race.
After the race:
Besides recording your finish time and place, think through how you could race better on this course or at this distance next time. If you met your pre-race goals, what were the factors that led to your success? If you did not achieve your goals, try to identify what factors stood in your way.
About the race:
You may want to run this race again, or may encounter similar courses or weather conditions at other races. A thorough description of the course will remind you of important details for future years. Other details will help you decide whether to return next year.
(This column originally appeared in Running Times Magazine.)