Strategies for Conquering a Multiple Looped Course
Every runner has his or her preferences when it comes to race route formats. Some prefer getting a glimpse of the competition and high fiving running friends on out-and-back courses, while others enjoy the varied scenery offered by a looped course. And while each format has its pros and cons, there’s one that makes most runners cringe: The multiple-looped course. Because what could be worse than running the same loop over and over again, right?
The Pros and Cons of Racing a Multiple Looped Course
And while a multiple looped course may make you feel like a record stuck on repeat, it certainly also has its perks:
- Knowing what to expect can help psychologically, tactically and strategically. Aiming for a podium or age-group finish? Being (very!) familiar with every twist, turn and uphill of the course after running it a few times can help prepare you for potential surprise tactical moves from competitors during the final lap. Or help you execute your own!
- It divides the race into manageable chunks. Coaxing yourself through three 8-mile laps is sometimes mentally less taxing than trying to conquer the entire race distance as a whole.
- Frequent direction changes increase the chances of not having to run into a headwind the entire way.
- Intimately knowing a loop after running it several times takes the guesswork out of planning bathroom stops.
- Seeing your support squad multiple times during the race. Multiple looped race courses make race seconding a breeze. Your squad can sit in one spot, have a picnic, and cheer you on every time you pass by. Heck, they can even nap while you’re gone! Which means ample moral support for you, and a laid-back day out for the family – it’s a win/win.
- Simplified logistics. Even if you don’t have your support squad with you, the logistics of a looped course is just simpler. No shuttle buses to catch back to the start, no race gear check-in and no wandering around on tired legs searching for shuttles or gear check vans. All you have to do is remember where you parked your car.
But we all know it’s not just moonlight and roses. Multiple looped courses also have its cons:
- Running the same loop over and over can be mentally draining. Because, let’s be honest, what can be more mentally draining than tackling the same killer hill three or more times in a single race…?
- A net elevation gain/loss of zero means that for every downhill, there must also be an uphill. And yes, you’ll meet it several times.
- Wet, muddy trails will be a mess by Round 2. Tackling a multiple looped trail race on a wet and rainy day can be a nightmare. So be sure not to wear your newest shoes and prepare yourself for a whole lot of trudging.
How to Tackle a Multiple Looped Course Without Losing Your Mind
While it is clear that multiple looped courses have its fair share of perks, its downside is also undeniable. So what can you do to best prepare yourself for success?
- Buddy up. Get your running bestie to join you on your quest for multi-loop glory. Not only will the company help you beat the boredom, but you’ll also have your own, personal motivator when the going gets tough.
- Join a pace group. If the race provides official race pacers, consider hopping on a pace bus. The camaraderie and banter are sure to take your mind off ascending the same hill for the fourth time.
- Don’t start out too fast. Good advice for any race, but even more so for a multi-looper. You want your legs to still be strong when your mind starts playing games with you later in the race!
- Don’t think too far ahead. Run the lap you’re in and tackle each lap only when you get to it.
- Set mini-goals. Pick your favorite spot or spots on the course (like a refreshment table or the top of a killer climb) and celebrate reaching it. Then make it your goal to reach it again. And repeat.
- Run to the beat. If the race rules allow it, run with music during the tougher parts of the race. According to Costas Karageorghis, a world-leading authority on music and running, music can decrease the perception of effort and increase endurance by a significant 10 to 15%. Just remember to stay aware of your surroundings and do regular body check-ins.
- Play mind games. When the going gets tough, take your mind off the suffering by counting backwards from 100, composing a race report in your head or planning your post-race feast.
- Get a mantra. Find something that resonates with you and use it to help you dig deep.
- Dedicate each loop to a loved one. Is someone near to you going through a rough time? Spend each loop praying for, thinking of and celebrating that loved one. And be sure to tell them of your experience after the race!
Some Mentally Challenging Multiple Looped Marathons
Ready to take the plunge and take on some multi-looped marathons? Consider entering these:
Winterman Marathon, Ottawa
The Winterman Marathon, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2018, is held annually in Ottawa. And while some dread its 5.274 km looped course, which marathoners have to complete a mind-numbing eight times before crossing the finish line, others feel that it adds to the challenge.
And a challenge it certainly is. In addition to offering a mental challenge, the race also serves up sub-zero temps, bad footing and a nasty hairpin turn en route. It’s definitely one that separates the men from the boys!
Fenway Park Marathon
The inaugural Fenway Park Marathon took place on 15 September 2017 and yes, you’ve guessed it. The race, in its entirety, is run on the warning track around Fenway’s Park’s baseball field. Which means that field of 50 racers have to complete 116.5 laps of the track before crossing the finish line.
According to race director, Dave McGillivray, the race is about the experience, not competition. And it’s all for a good cause. The 2017 event participants raised a whopping US$320,000 for the Red Sox Foundation, which mainly focuses on cancer research and youth programming.
Are You (Mentally) Tough Enough?
So if you’re looking for an event that may just challenge you mentally more than it will physically, give a multiple-looper a go. You may just surprise yourself!
- Out-and-Back, Loops, and Point-to-Point: The Pros and Cons of Race Courses, Online publication, Mar 30, 2008 ,
- Is this 8x5K looped course Canada’s most mind-numbing marathon?, Online publication, Feb 20, 2018 ,
- 4 Ways to enjoy long runs, Online publication, Oct 13, 2016 ,
- The Red Sox Will Host A Marathon Inside(!) Fenway Park, Online publication, May 31, 2017 ,
- The Other Boston Marathon: Around Fenway Park—116 Times!, Online publication, Sep 19, 2017 ,