The indoor season has officially started and I’m sad to say that even though it’s only been a week long, I’ve already witnessed some very poor cases of race distribution. Some of them were my athletes, some were not. Perhaps it because it’s the early season and athletes aren’t truly race fit for the events they’ve been placed in? Perhaps it’s because some athletes don’t fully comprehend that you can’t race a 400m (200m, 100m?) all out from the gun? Perhaps thoughts of ‘winning the break’ are taking precedence over winning the race? Whatever the case, I’m always shocked to see how few athletes really understand how to distribute their effort over the course of a race to achieve maximal performance. While this is most evident in the 400m (and brutally so if you are from the Northeast and have the displeasure of running the 500m indoors) you can still see this phenomenon at play in races as short as the 60m.
Is there an ideal race distribution model that fits everyone? Probably not. Every individual’s unique combination of physiology, gender, anthropometry, and physical preparedness should all play a part in what is ideal for a given athlete. But is there a generalized plan that, if followed, will improve performance? Heck yeah! In fact, running with a good race distribution is often the great equalizer in track for those who may be less talented or less fit. Why? Beause if you run a race plan that permits optimal results given the unique factors above, you can often beat people who are much more talented and in many cases even more fit but who fail to distribute their race effort appropriately.