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Run the Tangents

Even though race courses are accurately measured and certified to be the correct length, many racers run a longer distance and thus increase their time for the race. Learn to "run the tangents" so you will run the shortest but still "legal" distance for the race. A tangent is a line that just touches a curve. It doesn't intersect the curve, and it doesn't miss the curve. When a race-course is measured and certified, the course follows the tangents to the curves, and by running those tangents, you run the measured distance. If you don't run the tangents, you run a longer distance. To visualize this, look at the following diagrams.

In the first diagram, the runner is running the tangents by running a straight line from the inside of a curve to the inside of the next curve. In the second diagram, the runner is following the curves by always running on the same side of the street. Depending on the number and size of the curves, a runner that runs the tangents can decrease his or her time by several minutes without running faster. Pretty cool.

As you run the tangents, keep the following suggestions in mind.

bulletYou will be switching from one side of the street to the other side of the street. Only do this if you won't create congestion and you won't endanger yourself, that is, when you're not in a mob of runners and you don't have to run in front of vehicular traffic.
bulletAs soon as you reach a new curve, look ahead for the next curve. When you see that curve, run a straight line to the inside of that curve. Don't just blindly follow the first curve to its completion. This means that you may be in the middle of a curve when you start a new tangent.
bulletWhen running a large curve, you can run a tangent to reach the curve, but you may have to follow the curve until you can see the next curve.
bulletWhen going around a curve, run as close to the edge as you can, but don't do that if the edge has pot holes, crumbly asphalt, lose dirt, etc. You have to maneuver around bad spots as well as other runners who are blocking your way. Because of this, your distance may not be the measured distance, but it will be shorter than if you always run on the same side of the street.

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The information in this site is for informational purposes only; it does not constitute medical or physical therapy advice. For medical advice, consult a physician. For physical therapy advice, consult a physical therapist.

Copyright Allen W. Leigh 2003, 2008
All Rights Reserved