It’s no secret that I love racing 5ks. While I love racing in general, 5ks are the easiest distance to race hard, recover, and race again next week.
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!
So Why are 5ks are the Best?
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?
The marathon bug has bitten 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 best and hardest race distances to run well. There is little room for error. Most athletes can benefit from adding a few 5ks into their training plan.
But Why 5ks are the Best?
Reason 1: 5ks are the Best because of 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: 5ks are the Best Because They 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: 5ks are the Best Because Benchmarks: You can mark your progress. Two years ago, I raced no less than 30 5ks in a year in my quest to gain speed back. 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 the Best Because They 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. 5ks are the Best, and they remain my favorite distance.
- Get a good warmup: While I don’t always warm-up for longer distances, I find I need to warm up at least 2-3 miles with a few striders before a 5k. You want that blood pumping. I always say, the shorter the race, the longer the warmup.
- 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 will 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 is the Best, but it HURTS: Of course it is easier to finish running a 5k versus a marathon, but it is not easier to race a 5k hard. The 5k is all of a half or full marathon pain in a shorter amount of time. Look around while you’re running, and you will see plenty of other runners riding the pain train. Don’t look too much because those are seconds lost.
5k is the best and a rewarding and fun distance. Sure, it’s the shortest to complete, but that doesn’t make it the easiest! If you run hard enough, the 5k can be the most challenging road race out there.
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Questions for you:
What is your favorite race distance?
When was the last 5k you ran?
I equate 5Ks with pain–lots and lots of pain if you run them right. The most painful 5K I’ve run in recent years was in a crit-style format, so we ran around in a flat, fast circle four or five times. It was also raining that night, which made me feel like a total BA, haha. Now that I’ve experienced a new level of pain from swim meets, I’d love to target a 5K and see how fast I can go (read: how much I can hurt, lol).
Great post about 5Ks. I have a love/hate relationship with them. I love them once they are over and I hate them with about .75 to go. 😉 I try to incorporate a few of these in throughout the year as mandatory speedwork to make my half and full marathons paces seem easier. For me, the half marathon is probably my favorite distance because I recover from it quickly and can get right back to running, but I sure do love the satisfaction of completing a full, too.
I agree- 5ks are definitely the best because they are DOABLE. They don’t seem INSANELY impossible to most and so many more are qualified to tackle them. Plus, when you’re done, you feel a sense of accomplishment and empowerment!
Love this article about 5ks. I enjoy running these events.they are fun ,cheap, and a fast race..i agreed I have a bad race I can always recover and get ready for next week 5k.
And I like to meet new people at these races.
The last 5k race I did was the adrenaline 5k.. I ran a 21:11, my fasted time since my surgery. I miss running sub 19 or 18 mins. But after my knee surgery I’m just glad to run again and see all my running peers.
I kind of hate when people dismiss the 5K and are like oh well it’s 3 miles that is nothing. I’m just like but if you RACE it you’re riding high on the pain train for a good portion (or is that just me?). Our team coach calls them “sneaky speed” work as most people are focused on distance and jumping into 5K’s is a great way to get in a good workout. I plan on doing a bunch during the warmer months!
Weirdly enough, I have never actually “raced” a 5k! I have thought about it, just never really done it. Probably because of all of your descriptions of riding the pain train, haha!
Do you get sore anymore from 5ks? I do MAYBE three 5ks a year (I just loathe the distance even though my body isn’t built for long-distance running – too many injuries when I up the mileage) and I am always SO sore the following day. Not just tired legs, sore legs. Is that ever an issue for you anymore (disregarding super hilly races – I know those will make anyone sore no matter how often they race)?
I do get sore after almost every race! I can’t imagine not getting sore. It takes a few days to fully recover from a 5k but I seem to be better by the following weekend!
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