Analyze last year’s races to make improvements this year! – Brief Article

Shelly-Lynn Florence

It’s the New Year and you’ve got big plans for racing and training. Before you get too cozy visualizing all those personal records, let’s analyze last years races for patterns, hints and habits in your racing history. A backward glance helps direct and focus your future training and racing goals. The finish line clock isn’t the only valuable feedback from your races. Run your races through this checklist to pick details that may affect racing in the coming year. If you haven’t been keeping a detailed diary, the New Year is a great time to start one. This checklist can help you organize your diary so that you’ll have all the data you need for a thorough race analysis.

Most races aren’t all good or all bad. While the event is still vivid, mentally play back the episode. Take the time to categorize what went right and what went wrong. Be specific. The objective of analysis is to reinforce what you did well, and help you learn from mistakes. Here’s the information you need to evaluate your racing performance.

Race Time

* Did you have a time delay to the starting line? Subtract it from your final race result. Was the start crowded? Baby-stepping the first few minutes of a race, or zig-zagging to avoid slower folks affects your final race time. What were your times at each mile or kilometer along the course? For example at two miles, 10K, half-marathon, 20 miles, etc.

Course Conditions

* Careful notes about the placement and grade of hills can be very helpful in your review for the next time you race a course. Mud, rocks, uneven pavement, brick or cobblestone roads, loose gravel, traffic, banking, turns, slippery pavement and puddles can all affect your time. Take this opportunity to qualify your final race time. Note temperature, humidity rain, snow, pollen count, wind and cloud cover.


* Time isn’t everything in racing. For a novice, just finishing can be worth the effort and entry fee. Go into each race with a specific goal in mind. Here are a few examples: Time goal; Specific pace; Specific strategy; An age adjusted time; or Running by heart rate.

Mental Preparation

* Record your motivational techniques. What works for you? Visualization; Affirmations; Course rehearsal sessions; Relaxation techniques; or Course memorization.

Race Strategy

* Make notes on how you planned to run the course. Did they work? Sample strategies might include: Even pacing; Starting slow and finishing fast; or vice versa; Pass a specific number of runners; Not get passed during the last half of the race; Winning; or Power up hills.

Food and Drink * Make notes here about what you did and if it worked or bombed: Pre event meal; Sports fuels including energy bars and gels; Type of fluids consumed; Timing of fluids; or Timing of fuels.


* What did you wear? Any ideas for improvement? Note if your garb caused any rubbing or blisters. Choose among the following for comfort: Tights versus shorts; Singlet versus short sleeve versus long sleeve; Coolmax versus other materials; and Cotton or acrylic socks.


* What shoes a runner wears can be key to performance. Recording how they impact your race can shave minutes off your race preparation time. Next time you go to the closet searching for that perfect shoe–you can check the race notes for details that you might otherwise forget. Just think–you won’t have to stand at the closet door hefting first one running shoe then another trying to remember which shoes are best for which distance in which weather. Record these factors: Training versus racing model; Cushioning; Brand; Fit.

Your Body Stats

* Training isn’t the only factor that conditions our bodies to race. Check this list for a few hints to jog your memory when deciphering race times: Weight; Sleep; Injuries; Miscellaneous aches and pains; or for women, Phase of menstrual cycle.


* If you succumb to the temptations to supplement your training and natural talent with the things you see in the back of magazines, be sure to make an entry on how you think they impact your race. A few examples are: Food supplements; Magnets; Pacing beeper watches; Heart rate monitors; and Other gizmos.

Race Summary and Analysis

Sort out your list of factors and determine which items affect your race the most and decide what you’ll need to do to ensure a great run next race. Use these items as guides: Best parts of race; Lessons learned; comments; Goals for next race; and Analyze splits for pacing.

Looking back has lots to offer the runner. Take a piece from each race. Put it layer upon layer. Believe that great race will come. Use the pieces you’ve discovered analyzing your races and place them carefully into a game plan you can believe in. Good luck!

Shelly-lynn Florence, MA., is an applied physiologist, co-author of The Runner’s Handbook; The Competitive Runner’s Handbook, and the Runner’s Training Diary (available at a discount to AR&FA members by calling 1-800-776-ARFA and a professional coach. Shelly-lynn can be reached at

RELATED ARTICLE: Training is the core of the issue. A good training program overcomes almost everything else on the list. Spend a little time evaluating these factors: How much total mileage during training cycle; Number of speed workouts; Number of weeks in preparation; Number of long runs; Number of weeks at peak mileage; Supplemental training; Weight training; Cross training; and Stretching.

COPYRIGHT 1999 American Running & Fitness Association

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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