The fastest races are run with even splits: world records reveal that, statistically, fast, steady speed yields the best performances. Yet some races demand a tactical rather than time-trial approach, where occasional and well-timed bursts of speed can separate you from your racing rivals. Here's when and how to surge - and leave your competition behind you.
Surging at the bottom of a hill can leave you fatigued before you reach the top. Save your speed for the last third of the hill. You'll have more chance of maintaining momentum up and over the peak. Time it properly and you'll fly downhill while your competition is still chugging up.
My favourite place to start a surge is going into a turn. At this point, most runners slow down to keep their balance. But if you surge heading into - and through - the turn, you'll open a gap every time. Compensate for the natural slowing produced by centrifugal force by focusing on your foot placement and keeping your inside arm close to your body while throwing your outside arm wide.
Olympic marathoner Mark Coogan told me that when you start feeling tired in a marathon, you should throw in a little surge. Running for long distances at the same pace fatigues your slow-twitch muscle fibres. A brief stint in a high gear recruits fast-twitch fibres that have been passive. Just 100m can be enough to revive you.
Open a Gap
When you surge mid-race, only you know how long it will last. This uncertainty can unsettle your rivals, and they may let you go. This will allow you to build a gap before settling into a rhythm you can maintain for the rest of the race. If you believe your opponents will follow you, wait until you're close to the finish so you can carry your speed to the line. A sustained surge half a mile out can leave even the speediest finishers with rubber legs.
Simple training principles stoke faith in your running
Warm-up: Run easy for 30 minutes
Workout: Two to three one-mile repeats. Run the first 400m at 10K pace, then drop the pace by two to three seconds for each successive 400m
Recovery: Jog for four minutes between repeats.
Ed Eyestone is an exercise physiologist and two-time Olympic marathon runner.