HOW TO WIN ROAD RACES- THE CHRIS THOMPSON BLOG
British endurance runner Chris Thompson is ready to run this weekend’s TCS New York City Marathon on Sunday 4 November 2018. As a member of Team proto-col and user of the brand’s range of natural nutrition, he spoke to us about his approach to road racing and passed on his tips on competing at the front.
Q: You’re one of the most experienced athletes in the British athletics set-up and aged 37, some people think you’re ready to retire. But you’ve had a great 2018 so far. What’s been good about this year?
I train differently now. I do things that I’ve never done before. But this is less to do with my age, it’s more to do with the way my body changes and how I deal with it.
Bodies are always changing and I think back to when I was in my early 20s, there was always something to which I had to adapt; an injury, conditions, imperfect training.
My body has learned from the races I did when I was at different stages of my career and the experiences I’ve acquired are influencing my decisions today. I don’t know if I feel older but I know I feel a little bit wiser.
Q: After running the 10,000m and 5,000m for Great Britain in the European Athletics Championships in August, how have you prepared to transition to the marathon?
It was great to run on the track for my country in Berlin. The 10,000m was a particularly hot night and the race paced surged up and down. My experience told me to keep out of trouble and not get tangled up with the games at the very front until necessary.
While I was disappointed to finish 11th and ninth in my races respectively, I really enjoyed the competition and came away eager to train smarter and run stronger through the rest of the year. Mentally I felt very positive.
Straight after the championships, I headed off to start my marathon training in the US. I base myself in Flagstaff, Arizona where I stay with friends and where there’s a training group I can readily join. The group includes US runners Steph Bruce (Rothstein), Scott Fauble, Aaron Braun and Scott Smith while coaching is delivered by Ben Rosario.
Q: How tough is the training in Arizona?
Many of the other runners in the group were also preparing for the New York Marathon so the training load was big for all of us. I’ve been to the area enough to know not to over-cook training in the first week or so but sessions increased in intensity once I’d adapted to the altitude.
This will be my fourth marathon and training for this distance is never easy. Weekly mileage has consistently exceeded 120 and in Flagstaff, that’s at over 2000m in altitude. Only in the week that I flew home to the UK did weekly mileage dip below 110.
I’ve continued the big training weeks, often roping in others to join me. I even managed to convince GB 800m runner Andrew Osagie to ride my bike alongside on one occasion. He moaned for most of 20 miles that day as I’d forgotten to pump up the tyres sufficiently.
Q: How have you tuned up your speed for New York?
My running in September and October has been a product of the sustained fitness I’ve enjoyed in 2018. I’ve not been able to say that too often over my career but I know I’m in a good place right now.
At the end of September, I successfully defended my Great Scottish Run Half Marathon title in 1.02.07 and then backed this up with a second win at the Great South Run over 10 miles, finishing in 46.56.
Q: What do you hope for in New York?
I’m happy in my running shoes and I’ve found my rhythm this year. Training under my coach Alan Story has been precise and, combined with my deepening understanding of my body’s nuances, I’m coming to NYC in a good place in some important aspects of my running.
I’m relaxed and I know I’m bringing more experience than when I ran 2.11 in London back in 2014. It’s the beginning of something and I want more than anything to have a positive experience on the roads of New York that leaves me wanting more.
Chris was talking to proto-col’s Matt Exley
THOMMO’S TIPS ON COMPETING FOR THE PODIUM
If you find yourself in the mix for the big medals and regularly finish in the top three percent of races, follow Chris’ tips to cross the line first.
- Don’t wear a watch
Looking at your watch in a race creates an anxious reaction in your brain that filters through the body. In training a watch helps you to control the pace and maintain speed but in a race, you should be able to let it all go, dispose of the barriers and listen to your body.
If you see the best world record breakers, they do not look worried, they are in a relaxed state. If you want to win, learn to tune in to the constant feedback flowing from your body to your brain.
- A meticulous pre-race routine
Have a race day routine that works for you and stick to it. This should include hydration and sleep in the preceding days, food and drink in the hours before the gun, travel and bathroom visits.
The aim is to make the morning of the race as normal as possible as this will promote comfort and calmness. If one or two elements go wrong, don’t panic. Instead, focus on all the other aspects that have gone to plan and know you’re well prepared.
- Warm-up your way
Keep your race day warm-up simple and familiar. Have a rough plan of running, stretching and mental preparation and try to do each aspect as intended. If anything changes keep focused on the elements that have gone well. All these things combine to reassure you that you’re ready to race.
- Find your place in the pack
Running in a pack is about finding your happy place within it. You can sit at the back or lead from the front, there are no rules that suit everyone so recognise that every time you’re in the mix for the podium, you’re learning what’s right for you.
Then find your rhythm and your pace and stick to it. Don’t fight what feels natural to you.
- Know your rivals
Races in which you have a chance of winning may contain some runners that are familiar to you; other local club runners or good runners from across the region that have been among the medals before.
Learn the strengths and weaknesses of those runners and know which ones you should watch and which ones you can safely ignore.