No-Man’s Land – 5 Tips to Surviving the Runner’s Island of Desolation

Runners in lane one! I really wish there could just be a little track gnome with a megaphone who could shout this to clear out lane one from walkers and joggers so that any runners attempting to do speed-work wouldn’t have to try to dodge them, weaving in and out looking like some fellows who belong in the drunk tank. ;)

pack running

Sharing the pacing duties takes off a big mental burden.


Alas, alas, not everyone is as schooled at track etiquette as us, right? Today I’m riding a nice endorphin high thanks to getting out to the track myself. The track was loaded with people, which is how all tracks should be, running IS the best past-time after all. My friends head a local track group and it looked like there was a soccer camp going on in the middle of the field and the kiddies then bopped on over to the lanes as well.

I was just doing my own thing today and it did make me ache for a workout budding to help share pacing duties, not going to lie. I think that ache turned into more of a burning desire come those last ones! As any runner can attest having someone or a team for hard workouts make them infinitely *easier*. Well, that is unless you happen to be the one doing all the work.

Having the liberty of sitting behind your training partner, letting them worry about the splits and just keying in on their back takes off a big mental burden and for the most part you all end up clicking off times that are faster than if you were going solo but the effort felt the same, if not less. This goes triple time if there is some wind, tuck in and draft, baby, draft! ;)

Same thing applies in races, the best spot to be is right behind someone so you can ‘use’ them, save your mental energy and then when you feel strong enough blow on by them and then ‘use’ someone else. But you know the worst spot to be in a race, or workout for that matter? Trapped in No-Man’s Land, that empty space between groups or people is like the chasm that opens up on the track and swallows runners up whole. If you’re lucky the black hole island spits you back out, but sometimes you’re stuck there until the finish line.

lone runner

Feeling tired and alone? Don't give up yet! :)


Sometimes you can’t avoid falling into No-Man’s Land, sometimes it’s a small field and no one is around your pace. But even so, there are a few ways to improve your chances of surviving No-Man’s Land, even getting out of it, but it takes some work and a portion of that is mental.

* Admit you have a problem. The first step is always being honest with yourself, right? ;) That said, the moment you realize that you’ve fallen off the group ahead of you, looking back you don’t see anyone approaching, try to catch the No-Man’s Land trap as soon as possible. If you sense this early enough do all you can to cling on to that group ahead of you and hold on for dear life.

* Don’t beat yourself up. It aint gonna happen? So you’ve been dropped by the group despite your best efforts, that’s okay you can still key off of them. Do your best to keep the gap minimized, but DON’T start the negative self-talk or beating yourself up…if you throw the pity party too early chances are you’ll give up, slow down more, and then the race is basically over. Shake out your arms, relax, do a form check and just keep your eyes locked straight ahead, search for a body up ahead and don’t let the body leave your sight.

* Surge. This may sound crazy because chances are you feel tired, but doing a quick surge and gear-shift can work as a little ‘reset’ button. Going into a different speed will tap into your faster twitch muscles, thus using a different muscle group that isn’t as tired; when you settle back into your pace it may feel easier and you’ll feel a bit recharged.

* Use the catching pack. Sometimes the group from behind catches up to you: USE THEM. Stay positive and use their presence as a positive (not a negative by telling yourself how slow you’re going that they caught you) by letting them do the work. Let any ego go, tuck in, and allow them to do the work and pull you along. If you do this you may come to the point where you feel better and are able to blast past this group.
fortune cookie
* Mindset. Worst case is you are left along in your No-Man’s Land island for the rest of the race or workout, it happens. Here is where your mindset and outlook is key. Assess the situation; if you know your legs just haven’t shown up for the day then remind yourself that goal times/paces could be out the window and if this is the case stop looking at the splits and times because they will only stress you out more and depress you. Instead, turn the race into a chance to work on other things: stay relaxed, keep your breathing controlled, focus on your form, and try to get the most out of the given day. If it’s not the legs and you physically feel good then again, focus on the tangibles: form, breathing, stride, running smooth. Use mental tactics, like mantras, to keep going and remind yourself that regardless of if you are alone or not, running is usually a race against yourself and the clock. Stay positive.

Hopefully these suggestions can help you slug through a race or workout if you’re solo or stuck in No-Man’s Land…even better I hope that some tips can actually help pry you out of that nasty solo island! :)

1) On your last race or workout were you alone for all, most, or some of it? How did you handle that?

2) Have you been stuck in No-Man’s Land recently, if so what did you do to still get the most from the race/workout, and were you able to get out of it?

3) What’s one of your biggest pet-peeves when it comes to people ignoring track etiquette?
Not to sound runner elitist, but I’m sorry, please stay out of lane one and don’t walk in a chain extending to lane three or four if you’re walking or jogging. :P

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16 thoughts on “No-Man’s Land – 5 Tips to Surviving the Runner’s Island of Desolation

  1. Aaaah walkers in lane 1… they are firmly relegated to lane 7 or 8 on our track! One of my pet peeves is when people just leave their blocks or hurdles out on the track. Put your toys away when you’re done with them please children. Also when people use too big spikes and wreck the track. Stop being selfish and buy some $4 spikes to switch in! Sorry, rant over lol! Hope your workout went good despite being a bit lonely! I am also lonely a bit at the moment in some of my tougher speed workouts…400/ 600/800 etc repeats are soo much better with someone to hold onto and work off. Last time I got ditched off the back of the pack I basically just focused on enjoying the race coz my legs just weren’t there! Cheers for the tips, I’ll try to remember them the next time I get dropped ;)

    • oh my gosh, soooo with u on the spikes! preserve our tracks!! the other thing that KILLS me is when they actually drive all those trucks across it for certain school events, look i’m all for having a fun half-time show but parading the floats and prom court around the track again and again makes me cringe. :P

  2. My pet peeve is the runner who, even though it was clear water was coming up, decides at the last second to veer over from one side of the road to get water from the other.
    I don’t mind being totally alone, as long as there’s someone behind me, and a group ahead of me in eye sight. If I can’t see anyone, then yikes, I probably took a wrong turn.
    When you want to pull ahead and you’re surrounding by others and can’t,that’s frustrating.

    • wat, i mean couldn’t u read their mind and know they were going to suddenly peel to the side and bodyslam into you?? haha. maybe we should make a belt with blinkers for runners to wear, alert u when they plan to make a turn. ;)

  3. Is it bad that I like to be in no mans land sometimes? I do like to be in races where I am running with a bunch of people but sometimes I just need to clear my head and being away from people helps me pull it back together!

  4. I love running close to other people but not in a pack, but sometimes it’s fun to go completely alone too if you want to clear your mind. Thanks for posting these tips too, it really does help to run with a group and have someone to push yourself off of to train harder, I always find my races are better when I’ve had training partners.

    • glad u found the tips helpful! and u’re right, there’s a fine balance between having company in the race/working and then getting boxed in or feeling like u may get tripped up. :)

  5. I often find myself in “no man’s land” in races. I tell myself it is because I’m a little slower than the leaders, but faster than most of the field. But maybe it ties in with my introverted personality? Rare is the time where I’ll deviate from my desired pace (slower or faster) just to run with a pack. Sometimes on windy race days this mentality is pretty stupid!

    • haha…i like that u draw the parallel between being a more shy person and then being stuck in no-man’s land a lot! but every now and again it’s good to step out of the comfort zone, force a bit of a conversation with a new person or notch up the pace just a hair…if for no other reason that to draft off them in the wind! ;)

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