The 3M Half Marathon is one of the fastest 13.1-mile races in the country.

Fact: Half-marathons are more popular than ever. Fact: The 3M  Half Marathon is one of the fastest 13.1-mile races in the country. The event will celebrate its 29th anniversary on January 22. Starting at the Gateway shopping center in north Austin, the course descends steadily to the finish line on San Jacinto Blvd. a stone’s throw from the Capitol, hence the race’s slogan “downhill to downtown.” In fact if you look at the elevation chart, it pretty much looks like a downhill ramp from the start to the finish. Suffice to say it’s a PR course for sure. Adding consistently good weather to all of the above means that most runners, from elite to mid-packers, are looking to run their best times.

So, how about some tips for running fast on race day?

Warm up properly. You’ll see runners contorting and stretching non-stop before the race. Effective? Sure, for yoga. Not so much for running. To prepare for a fast effort, the best thing to do is to warm up the  muscles you’ll be using for racing. Start with an easy jog for five minutes, then throw in some fast stride-outs. Time this so that you do it within 10 minutes of the starting gun for best results.

Don’t blast off form the start. Sure, it’s tempting to go out like a rocket when the starting horn blows. You’re caught up in the moment and your legs are fresh. But remember this: virtually all long-distance world records have been set by running negative splits.

Hit your goal pace. By four miles, as you approach Shoal Creek, you want to be running the pace that will bring you across the finish line at your target time. It’s OK if you’re a little ahead or a little behind at this point. Don’t panic either way—you’ve got nine miles to even it out, most of them downhill.

Find a pack. Merge into a pack of runners that are running the same pace (or slightly faster) as you and use that energy to relax. The group will help pull you along with them. If you find you’re holding back,  feel free to chase the next pack ahead. That’s part of the beauty of racing.

Focus. You’ll be passing eight miles as the course turns from Shoal Creek onto 45th Street, and though it may not be challenging from an elevation standpoint, this is where it becomes a challenge to maintain focus. Focusing on the word “focus,” is one way to do that!

Finish strong. The beauty of the final 5K in a half-marathon is that you don’t have to hold back any longer. You’re done saving anything at this point and what makes it easier mentally, is you know that the finish line is drawing near. Who’s afraid of 3.1 miles? The last mile is great for catching people and passing them. Use that technique to nail down your PR as you approach the finish line. Again, that’s the beauty of racing versus training. Good luck!

Upcoming races: Sunday, January 22 at 7:30 a.m., the 3M Half Marathon at Gateway Shopping Center. Saturday, January 28, Tutus & Tennies 5K at 7:30 a.m. in downtown Buda. Sunday, February 5 at 7:30 a.m., the San Marcos Half Marathon at the Tanger Outlet