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Gain an Edge as an Everyday Athlete

Brian Goldman's article teaches us how to gain an edge as an everyday athlete.

Over the years, I’ve learned that you don’t always need to be the fastest person to be competitive. You can sharpen your skills as a runner, and while that might not give you faster splits, it should equate to faster race times and more competitive finishes.  How can you gain an edge you ask? 

Step Up Your Aid Station Game

One way is to step up your aid station game by taking inventory about a mile before the aid station.  Check in on how you feel, what you have in your pack, do you need to get a drop bag, are there cutoff times, and what you need to resupply.  That way you can come into the aid station, hand your bottles off and grab some food quickly before taking your bottles back and heading out.  I’ve helped friends save over 10 minutes per aid station stop.   

Beyond Our Comfort Zones

We can also push ourselves beyond our comfort zones, safely. I’ve never felt accomplished when I’ve taken the easy road.  Those days when I’m covered in dirt, legs scratched up and struggling to get up the stairs after a day of adventuring are when I feel proud of doing some gnarly sh*t.  The days when I push my fear of heights or vertigo on the trails.  I’ll get stuck at a sketchy part of the trail with the anxiety taking over and tears rolling down my face, but I push on and tell myself, “Hey F*cker, you’ve done this a million times, and you haven’t died yet.”  Comedy is my love language. Take deep breaths and push through.


Run Through the Night

When I was training for my first 100 in 2018, I wanted to feel what it would be like to run through the night.  I worked a full day, took my kids to their sports before heading up near Auburn to do hill repeats for the next 8.5 hours…alone…in the dark.  I got scared by animals a few times and may have done a bit of sleepwalking, but it was perfect.  

Rio Del Lago 100

A few months later at Rio Del Lago 100 around 3:00 am, I lost the ability to focus my eyes.  I knew it would be okay and used the reflective strip on my pacers shoes to light the way.  There was a problem, I looked for a solution and went with the best option. 

Walked Through Worse

If its pouring rain with 20 mph wind, I am on some single track (or just on local bike paths if it’s too unsafe Mom).  I take enough gear to be safe and even survive a night out if I needed to.  The Garmin InReach Mini is a satellite messenger with SOS capabilities. I highly recommend it if you like doing dumb things and have parents that worry.  It also is great to send messages when you don’t have signal. The idea is to know that no matter what happens on race day, you will have walked through worse. You will gain an edge from walking through worse. 

Making a Smart Decision

Some days your body is screaming at you to not run, for me it’s my Achilles that send a clear signal.  It’s okay to have a terrible mile and just pull the plug.  You are walking home making a smart decision that will pay dividends on race day.  Just don’t use that as an excuse. 

Have the Race Map

If you are prepared for whatever adventure awaits you, it will be a more enjoyable experience. Think about not only what you need in the short term, but if you are going on longer runs, think of bathroom needs, food needs, and weather.  Have you plotted a route, and do you have a map on your phone?  It really helps to have the race map on your phone (GPX if possible).  I can’t tell you how many times people either miss a turn or ribbons get sabotaged at races.  If you have the map, you can easily see if you’re off course and get back to racing. 

Make it Fun

I hope that you can incorporate some of these ideas into your training or discuss them with your friends. What works for one person may not work for another so take what you can and leave the rest. Train smart, get to race day healthy, and pursue this sport with the desire to make it fun.  Small steps will help you gain an edge as an everyday athlete. 


Brian Goldman Author Run Tri Bike

Brian Goldman is trail runner out of Northern California and father of 3. He has a passion for the mountains, but also a fear of heights. Quesadillas and coke fuel my adventures.