It’s no secret that I love racing 5ks. While I love racing in general, 5ks are the easiest to distance to race hard, recover, and race again next week.
Recently I was asked about tips and strategies of how to race and PR. I can show you what has worked well for me in the past. Keep in mind I’m not a coach or an elite!
During a 5k, you have two options:
Option 1: You blink, and the race is over
Option 2: You take the race out too fast, and it feels like five back to back marathons.
If you’ve run more than one 5k, you’ve probably experienced both situations.
So first why race such a short tactical and precise race?
It’s clear the marathon bug has bit a lot of people. The word “only” becomes associated with half marathons.
“New Runner” has become associated with those training for 5ks. To be honest, despite being short, 5ks are one of the hardest races distances to run well. There is little room for error. Thinking out loud, most any athlete can benefit from adding a few 5ks into their training plan.
Reason 1: The need for speed: 5ks make you feel fast. Longer distances make you feel strong while shorter distances make you feel fast.
5ks are quick and dirty. 5ks are all of a distance “race pain” in a short amount of time.
Reason 2: Easier to Recover From: If you have a terrible race, try again next week: I’ve had a terrible 5ks only to be followed by an awesome 5k the following week.
A few years ago, I raced one of the most mentally challenging and grueling 5ks I’ve ever run. It was slow (for me), my legs were fatigued, and I felt awful. I had high expectations and fell hard. I was devastated.
What did I do? I rested and recovered. The following weekend, I ran an entire 90 seconds faster.
Reason 3: Benchmarks: You can mark your progress. Two years ago in my quest to gain speed back, I raced no less than 30 5ks in a year. I was able to track my progress and see small results lead to bigger results.
For some people, myself included, seeing progress is motivating. I like to feel like my hard work is paying off!
Reason 4: 5ks are Fun! It’s one of the few distances you can see a range of people finish. It could be someone’s first 5k or someone going for a PR. Either way, you see a broad range of people from every fitness level!
Tips for Racing 5ks:
These are tips that have helped me throughout the years. I haven’t counted, but I’ve probably run about 100 5ks. They still remain my favorite distance.
- Get a good warmup: While I don’t always warm up for longer distances such as a half marathon, I find I need to warm up at least 2-3 miles with a few striders before a 5k. You want that blood pumping.
- Pacing: I’ve learned that you have to give a 5k everything you have and then keep giving it more. If you take out a 5k too slow, you can often regret it in the last mile. My goal is always to make it through the middle mile. I remind myself after mile 2, the race is almost over.
- Run the Tangents: Okay yeah so .1 doesn’t matter, but realistically it does! A tenth of a mile run in tangents can mean an extra 30-40 seconds. In such a short race, that is even bigger of a deal.
- The 5k Hurts: Of course it is easier to finish running a 5k versus a marathon, but it is not easier to race a 5k. The 5k is all of the pain of a half or full marathon in a short amount of time. Look around while you’re running and you will see plenty of other runners, riding the pain train.
The 5k is a rewarding and fun distance. Sure, it’s the shortest to complete but that doesn’t make it the easiest!
Questions for you:
What is your favorite race distance?
When was the last 5k you ran?