The Best 10-Second Drill for Runners

MOST DAYS, you probably shouldn’t take my race advice. Why? Because my best race came after a breakfast Snickers. Because I once took a wrong turn on a course. And because who wants advice about going faster from someone whose gas pedal always seems stuck in the up position? So take my RW Ace Your Race Week tip for what it’s worth—just a small portion of the strategy pie that you can mix into your racing-preparation plan.

Some of you know that I like my tyre-flipping, sledgehammer-pounding group workouts that consist of all kinds of moves that focus on strength, speed, endurance, agility, and core in a beat-up-your-body-but-really-fun kind of way. My favourite move during those workouts is one I read about a few years ago in a magazine: The towel run.

Here’s how it works (make sure you’re properly warmed up or do after a run): Wrap a towel around your waist, and have a similarly sized partner hold the two ends of the towel behind you. On “go,” you try to sprint a predetermined distance (say 20 metres) while your partner tries to keep you from going anywhere. At the end, make sure your partner continues to hold you while you decelerate so you don’t end up face-first in an ant hill.

Now, your partner can provide a moderate amount of resistance or anchor down, making it nearly impossible for you to move. To get from start to finish, you have to drive your knees up, pump your arms hard, and grunt like a malnourished hog. Those 10 or 15 seconds feel like three times longer than it is.

Switch positions, then repeat as may times as you like. After every set, you’re winded (or at least I am) and you feel strong because your whole body has to fire at its capacity to complete the run.

One of the reasons why running is such a soul-soothing sport is because we tend to mainly compete against ourselves. There’s less jockeying for position and peacocking for pride than you’ll find in other sports. Sometimes, though, maybe we need a little more resistance—the kind that comes from one force pushing and pulling against another.

The towel run works physically, challenging your muscles and your lungs and helping you develop power for your race-day push. But it also works mentally, reminding you to grind against whatever forces are trying to hold you back.

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