Finish Line Face: A runner’s grimace-smile as they head for home

You’re running toward the finish line, eyes dead ahead and your face is contorted into some kind of grimace-smile. You’re digging for that extra gear, the lactic acid feels about up to your eyeballs but you spot the line, incentive to keep going. Enter Finish Line Face.
finish line face woman running
It’s strange how the very last bit of your race, the bell of the last lap, the view of the finishing line is at both the most painful yet ‘easiest’ part of all. The end is in sight, you can taste it, the competitive drives kicks in and the desire to push it overrides the built up muscle fatigue.

Now, not all runners are blessed as ‘natural kickers’, or the ones who possess enough fast twitch muscle fibers and raw speed to easily find that extra gear at the end. However, everyone can work on their base speed; yea it’s unfortunate that tapping into that extra gear will take some more work (ie: searching)…but isn’t hard work what defines distance running?
finish line face man running
Speed sessions and short intervals aside, there are other factors that can improve you finish. You’ll probably still have a touch of Finish Line Face but next time you’re barreling for home remember:

* Relax: Don’t clench your jaw, make sure your shoulders are dropped, your arms are swinging front to back and are ‘loose.’ Holding tension in your face, shoulders, and fists is energy being spent, and it’s not being spent productively; it’s also doing damage to your form.

* Form Check: Nice segue, because your form can naturally start to slip as you tire. Working on your form, with core strength exercises and drills, ensures you’ll be able to stand up tall when you’re tired, like at the end of a race.

* Strides: Counting your strides, or thinking about your stride rate does two things: it makes sure you’re being an efficient runner but it also helps distract your brain from thinking of how much pain you’re in. A stride is counting on a single leg, as it makes a complete running cycle. Think strides, not pain. Aim for 90 strides per minute.

* Dead Ahead: Don’t lose sight of the finish, it offers motivation and by looking forward you’re helping keep good form too. Key in on runners you can pass at the line too and go after them!

Finish Line Face…so long as you’re not clenching your jaw, embrace those grimace-smiles and find that extra gear!

1) Do you tend to make a particular face while running or racing?
I’ve been called Popeye before.

2) How do you make sure to keep yourself relaxed when you’re trying to run hard?
I shake out my arms and make sure my shoulders are relaxed.

3) What’s your form pit-fall, the thing that starts to slip when you get tired?
My arms start to swing like a hummingbird. :P

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10 thoughts on “Finish Line Face: A runner’s grimace-smile as they head for home

  1. Ha – I’m sitting at my desk and I dropped my shoulders when I got to that line.

    I have to humble brag that I am one of those people with some fast twitch in me – I can sprint at the end with the last tiny fragments of energy somehow getting me across the line.

    I have a nasty grimace, but usually I run alone, so no drama! When I’m tired I let my core go a bit. I get tummy pain (like a lot of runners!) and so I just want to relax those muscles. It’s always a fight with them to will them to hold me up until the end.

  2. I do make a face! :) I really try hard to relax my upper body when I run, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes, I notice that I clench my jaw and my shoulders. Why do I do this??!!
    Counting strides is a great idea!

    • aaahh, the tension jaw clencher!! it’s because you’re tired (uhhh, running usually does that…hehe) and people slip into different bad habits when they’re tired. next time you notice you’re clenching and your shoulders are raised, open your mouth wide, take a deep breath, and shake out those arms. :)

  3. When I am running a race I am usually in the zone which means blank face or pure agony depending on how fast I am pushing myself and then the moment that I see a cameraman I plaster a smile on my face, I try really hard to have good race pics! lol

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