Four keys to beating someone who’s faster than you

In a race situation, it makes sense that the person with the fastest personal best would win, but as we’ve seen time and time again, things don’t always play out this way. If you’re slower on paper than the runner standing next to you, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to cross the finish line behind them every time.

Whether you’re trying to break the tape or simply beat the guy next to you, use these tactics to get ahead of your competitors in your next race.


If the conditions on race day are less than ideal (think wind, rain, etc.), your opponent likely won’t be running quite as fast as they would on a better day. This is where your opportunity lies: tuck in behind them and do your best to stay close, so they do all the work heading into the wind for you. That will tire them out while saving you some energy, which you can take advantage of at the end of the race to surge past them for the win.

Use the hills

If the course is technical with a lot of hills, often all it takes is some smart racing to take down faster opponents. Instead of trying to run the same pace on the ascents as you are on the flats, like most people (and likely your opponent) will, try to maintain your effort level and stay relaxed so you don’t over-exert yourself as you climb the hill. You will probably get passed on the hill when you do this, but don’t worry: because you didn’t use up all your energy on the uphill, you’ll have enough in the tank to accelerate over the top and use the downhill to make a move, rather than needing it to recover from the ascent. If the course has multiple hills, you can use this strategy over and over, watching as your opponents gradually fall back as you charge confidently forward.

Blind corners

Throwing a few surges into a race can help give you an edge over your competitors, and combining a surge with a corner will give you even more of an advantage. To make a corner work to your advantage, try to get ahead of your opponent as you approach the turn, then accelerate around the bend, continuing at the pace for another 20 to 30 metres. When the other runners turns the corner, you will be much farther ahead of them than they thought, which might cause them to give up, thinking you’re too far ahead to catch.

Go out hard and break their heart

This is arguably the riskiest play on this list, but it works if you know you’re fit and your rival isn’t quite in race-ready shape. The idea is simple: as soon as the gun goes off, go out at a pace you know you can’t maintain, but you know your opponent can’t, either. If they’re competitive enough, they’ll go with you, and all you have to do is wait until they drop off the pace. From there, try to maintain that pace for another couple of minutes to create a large enough gap that they’ll give up, thinking you’re going to keep going at that pace.

Then, gradually start to slow down to a more manageable speed. You likely won’t achieve a new PB running with this strategy, but if your goal is simply to win, then it’s a solid plan.

posted Wednesday November 17th
by Brittany Hambleton