The Art of the Sprint Finish

As a former 100m and 200m sprinter in my school days I do rather enjoy having a bit of a burst of speed at the end of a run.

Lately I've been doing this in Parkrun and also as part of the club league races I do and I've been toying with my approach to this in terms of what distance to go from. Generally with Parkrun I'll wait until the last 100m before stretching out, but with the club league races, where points are on offer dependent on your finishing position, I might go from further out if there's the opportunity to pick off some places. Often these type of races, mostly being cross country, will end on a downhill slope and so it's possible to pick up a decent burst of speed. Last week, as an example, it was a gentle slope down and going out from 300m I was surprised at how I could maintain my sprint and actually pick up speed to pip someone on the line.

But I've also noticed a difference in attitude depending on the the circumstances. In Parkrun if I attempt to sprint past someone and they speed up I'm inclined to not push on just happy to concentrate on my finishing time. However if someone I've previously overtaken tries to come past me I will put in a bit more of a burst to try and stay ahead.

In a club league race I am probably a bit more focused and it is trying my hardest to pick up as many places as possible. It's a fantastic feeling to pip someone on the line, but equally it's very annoying to be pipped. 

Does anyone else have any tactics for races? 


  • Yes, but not as considered as yours - towards the end identify a point where I know I can make it to the finish regardless of speed and the  run as fast as I can until I get over the line, then try not to collapse in a heap. Definitely not an "art", more of an animalistic lunge. But it is a "tactic" which works well for me!
  • Depending on the distance I will start concentrating on overtaking runners from say 5k out in a half marathon, upping the pace slightly. The sprint finish depends on the course as I don't like to launch it until I can see the finish line!
  • HA77HA77 ✭✭✭
    I always put in somewhat of a sprint finish but if I can manage a big sprint I always think I've not pushed hard enough during the race.
  • You need to do a recce of the last 3/400m when you warm up - so you know when to start the finishing effort.
  • I think it's definitely a case of knowing that when you do go it's something that you can maintain. It is something of a 'run of shame' to be passed by a troop of people who you've sprinted past because you're suddenly dying on the run in.

    The other consideration I've been toying with is whether, when trying for a particular time, the better tactical option is to run ever so slightly under the required pace until the last 200-300m and then sprint from there. So hold something back in the hope that the sprint will ultimately bring me inside the time. I tend to think I can make up more time in that short a distance than I would lose, say, over a 5K.
  • Interesting theory Guarddog - that sounds like a "kinder" way to run (as per the Marco method of pacing), as you're running within yourself for most of the race and saving yourself for a short burst of hard effort. Give it a go at a parkrun?
  • It is in the plan for parkrun RF. I've tried different tactics for for that, running negative splits, progressions, intervals or just going for a defined pace and sticking to it. I feel happier in terms of 'race mood' having finished strongly rather than feeling like I'm just hanging in there at the end.

    I also think I've got natural speed over a short distance which gives me an advantage in a competitive race like a league run. 
  • HA77HA77 ✭✭✭
    I don't think holding back for a sprint finish is the way to your fastest time. All my best times are when I've gone out hard and hung on to the end. It does feel good to finish well though. 
  • I think it's the psychological feel, though HA77. I have done the 'go out hard and hang on' bit, but I find it very difficult to sustain that. I always feel pretty spent and suspect I slow down a fair bit towards the end.

    To be able to get below my PB for 5K (23:45) I need to run sub 7:37 min/mile. To maintain that as a speed throughout the run is a challenge, but if I were to run at just under 8 for the first two miles, then 7:30 for the third and look to then run the last 200/300 at 5 or even 4 I think I may make up what I would have lost on the first two. 

    All a theory though. 
  • HA77HA77 ✭✭✭
    Can't hurt to try. I usually find I'm surprised by the pace I can hold onto even when I've gone out hard and feel like I'm struggling towards the end.
  • DeanR7DeanR7 ✭✭✭
    in a competitive race, where points/medals are on the line...holding a sprint finish back is a good tactic. but i wouldnt be holding one back for a normal race where you are chasing a PB.  run those hard and try to cling on....then throw everything you have into a sprint to the finish.
  • It is the clinging on I have difficulty with. Performance over the weekend shows me I need to up my endurance training.
  • I'm terrible 😂 I usually have 10 second walking break close to the finish but far enough away that no crowds see. I recover quite quickly so make up the time when I do start running again. Also I am then able to overtake easier which then gives me a psychological boost so I can go faster at the end.
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