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Pace yourself at 3M Half Marathon

Brom Hoban

Ask Austin runners where they set their half-marathon personal record , and nine times out of 10, they'll say "3M." When it comes to fast 13.1-mile races, not too many beat Austin's 3M Half-Marathon.

The race, scheduled for Sunday, boasts one of the fastest half-marathon courses in the nation and attracts an elite international field.

For many local s, it's not so much the prestige of the race that matters but the chance to set a personal record for the distance. Looking at the online elevation chart, the point-to-point course appears to tumble down a mountain. From the start at Gateway Shopping Center to the finish at Waterloo Park, runners will lose 102 meters in elevation. Miles seven on Burnet Road, through 11 on Duval Street, are especially fast, following a steady descent that naturally accelerates your pace.

Master the art of downhill running, and you're going to get a fast time .

According to running expert and best-selling author Jeff Galloway, you should "stay relaxed as you head downhill and avoid overstriding, which pounds the feet, stresses the hamstrings and overuses the quadriceps muscles. Also, keep your feet lower to the ground, as that will give you more control. On gentle downgrades, you might want to try leaning forward slightly to increase speed. Just be careful — leaning too much may chop your stride or make you go too fast."

You'll want to have a strategy to achieve your best time.

"Get there early, get warmed up — give yourself plenty of time," said Rolando Roman, a local running coach who ran a 5:31-mile pace to set his PR of 1:12:20 at 3M in 2005. "Before the race starts, use visualization, and think how you will feel along certain points on the course. For example, see yourself picking it up on the downhill at North Loop Boulevard (mile nine)."

Because the course is downhill, Roman cautioned, you may be pulled into a faster first half than you should, and it may affect your overall time.

"Even though it's a fast course, you need to conserve," he said. "To set up a PR, you need to enter the last third of the race being comfortable, so that you'll be able to run it fast. If you conserve a bit, you'll be prepared physically and mentally to take advantage of that stretch from Burnet Road to Duval Street."

It's all a matter of setting yourself up for a fast time.

"Just be patient," said Roman. "You can be at threshold pace (without oxygen debt) for the first part, and then accelerate to 10K pace for the last several miles. You should be capable of doing that by the nature of the course. And don't worry if you lose a few seconds on the race's few uphills — you'll pick up 10-15 seconds a mile on the downhills."