The former elite runner shares some racing tips.
Brad Hudson has been involved with running since he was 10 years old. As a former elite athlete, the Boulder, Colo.-based Hudson boasts a 2:13 marathon PR and is a two-time winner of the Columbus Marathon. As a coach, he’s assisted the likes of three-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein.
What are some tips or strategies that runners can use to help them from going out too fast in a race?
No. 1 is to do some pace work by feel and not even getting splits. They need to get a feel where they are so that race pace is something they are comfortable with. They have to be familiar with it. If it’s a track, you are going to get splits every 200 meters. But with road races it’s a little different, because of the weather. You have to learn what that race-pace feels like. We like to send them off slowly and have them do some low-key races. Another thing is to do a tempo run or a progression run in training—something where they start slower and finish faster.
Is there anything you’d tell your athletes at the start other than, “Don’t go out too fast?”
Yes. It depends on the race if it’s cross country or half marathon. I definitely tell them to get out and don’t lose the competitive side of it, but also to go out gently and be smart. It’s always better to pick off people at the end and roll them up. But sometimes it’s good to send them out a little bit aggressive.
Is there a good time to draft off other runners?
It’s huge. I’m a big fan of drafting. I tell people that it’s a race, and that it’s not necessarily their job to set the pace. Their goal is to execute their strategy. I don’t want athletes sitting on the leader the whole way. I do want them to help out, but it definitely helps to draft. Of course when it’s windy. You look at cycling where it makes a huge difference. On the track, it’s huge. There’s a big difference between having to lead the pace by yourself and being pulled by a pack on a breezy day.
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Is there ever a time when you should lead the pack?
Absolutely. When a runner is feeling horrible or having a bad patch, when they feel like they are going to go out the back door, it’s a good idea to take the lead or change that stimulus. Before they slow down, it’s smarter to see if they can get themselves out of that situation by taking the lead or being aggressive. It’s a very smart thing to change it up. If you’ve run marathons you will have bad patches and it can get better. You can get out of that on your own.
What are some things that runners can do to train for that final kick to the finish?
Some of it is mental and some if it is physical. You need to be smart. Some athletes need to relax. They need to concentrate on getting their feet down to the ground quickly over the last 20 to 30 seconds—picking their speed and cadence up. In training you practice that, which is recruiting your fibers when they are full of lactate. When you are hurting, you speed up. It’s one of the most important things to do. It’s training your body how to run when it’s tired. There’s definitely a psychological element as well.
Would doing progression runs in training help with your kick?
For sure. It’s a lot of things. You can do hills when you are tired. It’s doing anything when you are tired—anything that recruits [muscle] fibers and presses the brain, anything you can do to speed it up. We do it on long runs. For 10K people, we do 4 x 2Ks at pace to simulate a 10K and then they run an all-out kilometer. It’s sort of the same idea. We do hill sprints. A part of it is to train the brain to fire when it’s tired.
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Do you ever use races as training events?
For sure. We do a lot of that. For example, we use Mt. Sac as a dress rehearsal for Payton Jordan in the 10K. I’m big on not going too long without racing, but I’m not a huge proponent for racing a lot for the sake of racing. There are some coaches who are in favor of that. I like to have a specific purpose for each race—a reason—so it can be preparation for other races like a marathon or it could be a half [marathon]. For cross country it could be a cross country race. For track, it could be a shorter-distance race to get the feeling of a dress rehearsal. For marathon training, if I had unlimited amount of money they would do a ton of races for training. [Laughs.]
For specific endurance, it would be easier if they could go do a half marathon at sea level. I think it’s a good idea. Still, I think you definitely have to be careful how much you race athletes. It’s a fine line between being prepared and being relaxed. I think it can be dangerous expending too much nervous energy always going to the well.