How to Develop a Strong Finishing Kick for Your Marathon

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In the racing world, kick refers to sprinting towards the end of a race.

Having a good kick doesn’t happen by accident. Some runners have more natural proclivity toward running faster, but kick has to do with neuro-muscular training. It involves a combination of physical and mental preparation.

I was recently interviewed by a writer for Men’s Running Magazine on the subject of how to achieve a sprint finish at the end of your run.

Here are some key points from this interview:

[Question #1] Do you have any practical training tips for improving kick?

The best way to improve your kick in training is to do regular speed work. As a marathoner you need to work on speed and endurance. A runner should also avoid overtraining and pay attention to the principles of recovery. Proper recovery includes taking regular rest days, interspersing hard days with easy effort, and refueling properly.

You won’t have much of a finishing kick if you’re running on dead legs. If you’re looking to finish a marathon strong you need to make sure that you’ve tapered properly and haven’t raced back to back marathons.

There is also psychological preparation that accompanies a good kick. You need to have mentally rehearsed the race in your mind and prepared yourself for that extra effort at the end when you’re fatigued and don’t have much left physically or mentally. Visualize when you’ll start your kick and how you’ll push yourself physically to finish strong.

[Question #2] Is it ever bad form to practice your kick in a training run?

You should definitely use some training runs to help develop a strong kick. So, if you’re running with a training partner or group make sure that you communicate your strategy beforehand so that they don’t feel like you’re trying to show them up.

A good training strategy for long runs is to use the negative split. Run the first half of your miles at a conservative pace and then run the second half at a faster pace. This will prepare you to run a smart race and have a strong finishing kick. There are other track workouts like ladder intervals and Yasso 800’s that will teach you to maintain a fast pace even when you’re fatigued.

[Question #3] Is there an optimum time to use a kick in the race? Is it easy to kick too early or too late?

The proper time to kick depends on the length of your race and the competition that you’re up against. For a race less than 800 meters you’ll pretty much be doing an all out effort for the entire race. For other distances your kicking strategy with vary.

That’s why it’s very important to go into the race with a pacing strategy. If you don’t use controlled pacing it’s easy to go out too fast in the beginning of the race when your energy and excitement are high and not leave anything for the end of the race. I encourage marathoners to use a conservative pacing strategy. Stay on target with your pacing splits for the first 20 miles of the race. If you still have good energy at that point you can start to speed up and finish strong.

Remember to study the race course when planning your racing strategy. Knowing where the hills are or the out and back sections can help you prepare mentally as well as physically. If you want to be more competitive in a race it also helps to practice running the course and even study your opponents. Having a great race mantra can also help you keep the mental edge and avoid giving up when the going gets tough.

[Question #4] What can you do if you really have no kick? Is it a question of going for broke with your pace earlier in a race?

The biggest reasons why you may not have a kick left for the end of the race is a lack of speed work during training and running too fast during the first half of the race.

However you should never underestimate the power of your mind and will. We’ve all heard the expression “mind over matter.” Your body is capable of much more than you think possible. It’s likely that there will be at least one point in a race where you feel like giving up. This is when the power of your mind and will have to take over.

One of my favorite mantras is “leave it all here.” I don’t want to look back on a race and regret that I didn’t give it my all. Proper training and the right mindset will give you an edge over the competition. If a race doesn’t go according to plan, take the time to evaluate what went wrong and work on those areas in the future. There are so many factors that go into getting a PR or having an amazing race. The only real failure is when you give up.

Also Mentioned in This Episode. . .

The Winthrop Marathon in Winthrop Washington -a small race that attracts a lot of Marathon Maniacs.

Click here to read Trevor’s recap of this race.

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