Running Tips: Achieving a Strong Finishing Kick

running tips

You’re racing and you’ve paced yourself well, you’re nearly at the end and feeling spent, like you’ve given it everything you’ve got. You round a corner and suddenly you can see the finish line and hear the crowd ahead cheering the finishers on. Out of nowhere, you have a burst of energy, your speed picks up and you’re passing runners ahead of you as you sprint your way towards the line. Where does that burst of energy come from for a finishing kick and how can you harness it for every race?

running tips

A few things to realize about what’s behind the finishing kick when you’re racing: First up, remember the old adage of mind over matter? Well, that really comes into play when you’re working hard physically. Your brain protects your body by sending signals that your muscles are sore, that your legs feel heavy, that breathing is difficult, so that you don’t constantly overdo it when you’re working out and injure yourself. There’s so little known about the absolute potential for human speed, strength and endurance. What we do know is that even when your body is screaming at you, ‘Enough!’ you often find a little extra reserve of energy within to complete a hard workout, or to speed up for the last hundred yards of a race.

Visualization is also important for achieving a strong finishing kick. In order for mind over matter to work, you need to harness the power of your mind and SEE yourself sprinting the last leg down to the finish line. Plan out how you want the race to go in your head before you even get to the starting line. Imagine how you will be feeling during the race. Think about that fatigued sensation and how you will push through that when you round the final corner, or when you see the finish line. Imagine how it will feel for your lungs, for your limbs, when you push and get faster for your kick. Believe that you’ll be flying to the finish line – it’s the first step towards it actually happening.

running tips

Part of being able to successfully visualize and imagine how it will feel to speed up at the end of a hard race, is to approximate the experience during training. I am not advocating you incorporating a finishing kick into every training run, but I do suggest you get used to the way it feels to push hard when you’re already fatigued. Training tips for achieving a strong finishing kick:

If you’re not already doing speedwork sessions, start! Speedwork and intervals train you to push hard through fatigue and have the added bonus of making you a faster runner overall.

Don’t overtrain. Not every run should be a hard effort, or even a moderate effort. Hard workouts should be followed up by an easy recovery run the next time you’re running. The easy effort runs are vital for you to avoid injury and let your body recover so when you do run hard, you’re able to achieve more.

Get used to getting faster as you run. Make negative splits your goal for your training runs – even your long runs and your recovery runs, when the focus is not speed. Start at a conservative speed if you’ve never attempted negative splits before, then every mile, try to shave a few seconds off your pace.

Incorporate strides into your training runs. Maybe once a week, take a long run, or a moderate workout, and either halfway through, or towards the end of the run, run hard for 10 to 20 seconds, then recover with a minute at an easy pace. Start with 5 stride intervals, working your way up to about 8 to 10 intervals as you get more comfortable with using strides.

Don’t forget to keep track of your workouts, using either an online or paper training journal. Tracking your progress is important not only to encourage you when you look back on your hard work, but to also track your improvements in speed, distance and endurance. You can also take a past workout and replicate it to gauge just how much you have progressed.

running tips

You can prepare and train for a strong finishing kick for months, but where it counts is during your race. The way you approach your race strategy will have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your finishing kick.

Go into your race with a pacing strategy. This goes beyond your visualization of how the race will turn out. Having a pacing strategy means knowing exactly what pace you want to hit for every split. Check out the course beforehand, note the elevation, where the hills are, if there are a lot of turns. Know where you will be able to make up time and where you will be slower due to the course itself and form your pacing plan appropriately.

Don’t start out too fast. This is easy to do in a race, because nerves and excitement work together to make you a little faster than you may realize you’re running at first. With a good pacing strategy in place, this should be less of an issue, but do try to keep an eye on your pace for the first part of the race to make sure you’re on track. This will ensure you don’t burn out before the end.

Focus. This is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned during training and racing. It’s easy for your thoughts to wander, especially during a long distance run. Anytime you lose that focus  on your pace, breathing and form, is when your speed can suffer. Keep pulling yourself back into the race and focus on your planned strategy throughout.

As you approach the spot you plan to unleash your kick, give it all you’ve got. You’ve trained appropriately, you’ve visualized this kick in your mind, you’ve raced intelligently and with focus and a plan, now kill it!!

Having a strong finishing kick can be the difference between a PR and not, between finishing well and finishing knowing you left it all out there.

Do you sprint towards the finish in a race?

Do you train for a strong finish?

What’s the best lesson you’ve realized through running?

Comments

  1. Great tips!! I’m all about the strong finish and training to finish hard – I do it on almost every training run just to stay in practice!!!
    Kim recently posted…My Biggest Failure – FriendshipsMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      I think it’s so important to practice running fast on tired legs, even if it’s just a few strides at the end.

  2. This was great Carly. I love the tips. I am running my first half marathon this Spring and your post gave me some really great tips! I look forward to following your blog.

    Lisa

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      You’re welcome Lisa! Good luck for your first half! I remember being terrified before my first half marathon, but now it is by far my favorite race. You’ll do great. 🙂

  3. I’ve been practicing fast finishes for awhile now and it really helps. I love to add strides on the end of an easy run! Great tips!
    Angie @ A Mother’s Pace recently posted…The Rumor Is TrueMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Thanks, Angie! I’ve only been using strides for about a year and I’ve found they make a big difference.

Trackbacks

  1. […] you’ve been running and racing for years. Sometimes you get to the last stretch of your race, kick it into high gear for the finish and realize you have so much energy left in you. If you’re crossing the finishing line […]

  2. […] If you’re a runner, you may just think, well my priority is always to run above anything else. But you should get more specific with your goals for your running. If you’re not training for anything specifically right now (you’re in between goal races, or you’re just ramping up your mileage before a racing season), then your priority might be on building strength so when you do get into training mode, you’re set up to be a stronger runner. (Check out this post for how and why strength training can make you a stronger runner.) If you are in training for a specific race, what’s your focus? Where have you fallen short in the past? Do you need to work on speed? Endurance? Do you struggle with consistent pacing or having enough left in the tank for a strong finishing kick? […]

  3. Nuvub Blog says:

    I M Strong To The Finish

    […] ut. Having a pacing strategy means knowing exactly what pace you want to hit for […]