If you want to reduce the number of steps it takes to cover that 8k on June 24, you'll want to employ a simple strategy that we don't do during training. You just need to remember that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

We don't worry about that when we're on public trails, sidewalks and streets. We follow the rules of polite society and stay to the right to leave plenty of room for pedestrians, bikes, cars, dog walkers and others to pass by on the left.

But on race day, the road is closed and all the foot traffic is one way. As long as you stay on the course, you can utilize any and all of it.

So instead of hugging the right, look ahead and draw an imaginary line through the center of the course laid out in front of you. Then make a beeline through it. There are times this will put you on the left side of the course. Every time you round a curve, redraw your line.

This is called "running the tangents." Truth be told, you need to run the tangents if you want to only do 5 miles because that's the route officials use to measure the course.

Here's a picture that shows what running the tangents looks like:



One tip: Don't wait to cross a street to adjust. As soon as you round the curve, redraw your line. Many times, your adjustment is going to be done while crossing an intersection.

I don't run the tangents on training days, even if it's obvious no one is in my way. There's no point. Every step is part of the workout. But on race day, my only goal will be to finish the race as quickly as possible.

Not having run a race with thousands of other people, I don't know how easy it is to run the tangents. If your pace is keeping you in the company of experienced runners and walkers, it may be that the whole mob easily adjusts at each curve. Or maybe you'll find yourself trapped on a bad trajectory because you're surrounded by swinging elbows.

If you are in the back of the pack with inexperienced runners and walkers, or on a pace that isolates you from everyone else, plotting the shortest route will be entirely left to you.

There may be some moments when it makes sense to forget the tangents. I might be tempted to swap the extra steps for a nice stretch of shade or a better running surface. But some articles I read said running the tangents can amount to a half mile difference for a full marathon runner. If that's true, then it's not unreasonable to think it could amount to nearly a 10th of a mile on a 5 mile course. I'll take it!

- Paula