A blog by runners. For runners.

Race day strategies for a new PR

Hot Chocolate 15k Denver

Learn how regular contributor Lisa tackled her first race at altitude at the Hot Chocolate 15k in Denver this weekend.

This weekend I ran my first 15k. I’ve run plenty of 5 and 10ks and even a handful of half marathons but I’ve never run this in between distance. I’ve also never run more than 6 miles in altitude so I was a little nervous about this race, worried I would push myself too hard, as I’m prone to do in race situations. But, all my shorter training runs these last few weeks seem to have paid off during the Hot Chocolate 15k in Denver.

It was chilly when the race got underway at 7:45am. I wore my running hat and gloves and still couldn’t feel my feet when I crossed over the starting line. Because I’m newer to elevation I didn’t want to overdo it so I started in the 9-minute corral. The race had 2-minute lags between corral starts, which helped keep the overcrowding to a minimum.

The course started in Civic Center Park and wrapped around downtown. Being new to Denver I specifically picked this race as a chance to get to know my new city a little better. No better way to explore then when the streets are blocked off and you can turn your head every which way without fear of being hit by a car.

Starting Slow

My first mile was the slowest of the nine at 8:49 pace as I tried to warm up and get into a rhythm. I had my WalkJogRun app on while I ran which to give me my splits throughout the race. I haven’t run a race with it before and I found it helpful to gauge my splits against how my body was feeling. When I hit mile marker two I felt relaxed and comfortable so I picked up my pace. I don’t know about you but I can tell almost immediately how my race is going to go and Sunday morning I felt really good so I went with it.

Think Positive

I decided to pick up the pace as long as I felt I could sustain it. I ran miles three through six at a very consistent 8:15 pace even with a few little inclines. I had read somewhere that it sometimes helps runners to dedicate each mile to someone else, so I did just that. Thinking of those near and dear to my heart or those in need of a little extra positive energy helped make the miles fly by.

I have always thought that if there were a 7.5-mile race that would be the perfect distance for me. It always seems that I start to tire at about that time. I had a little stiffness in my right ankle and a little cramp in my left clavicle but my lungs felt fine and I just kept telling myself that my body was stronger than my mind was letting on.

Pick a Target

I slowed a bit in miles 7 and 8 to a 8:22 pace but as I passed mile marker 8 I knew I had more to give. I ran my last mile at 8:05 pace, trying desperately to stay with a couple that sprinted past me in the last quarter mile stretch. (They beat me but they were great motivation). I crossed the finish line with an official time of 1:17:12 coming in 230th overall and 29th in my age division.

Hooray for a new 15k PR, got to love when you can set a new PR just for running a race! I may be crazy but this 15k has me thinking about the Denver Rock ‘n’ Roll half coming up in a few weeks. I think I could have gone another 4 miles and it’d be nice to say I ran a half at 5,280 feet, but we’ll see.

What are your top tips for race day strategies?