After spending many months training for two marathons I find myself entering a new phase of running: It’s 5K season! I live in the south and as the weather heats up, the race distances get shorter. There are not that many half marathon or marathon race options but there are plenty of 5K’s!
To a distance runner 5K’s can be extremely intimidating. I have many runner friends who refuse to run in 5K’s. I often find myself having a love/ hate relationship with them. When you are used to running marathon paces or even half marathon paces a 5K can feel like a sprint. It feels like a sprint because that’s basically what you are doing for 3.1 miles. Sprinting.
I have run more 5K’s in my life than any other distance. Yet I feel like this is the race distance that I have the most to learn about pacing and strategy. Why is it so hard to run a fast 5K? More specifically, why is it so hard for distance runners to run a 5K?
Below are a few random observations from one
marathoner 5K runner to the next…
A Marathoners Unofficial Guide to Running 5K’s:
1. Swallow your pride and register for a 5K. Sounds easy enough but this may be the hardest step for many distance runners. If you want to race a faster 5K you have to…. actually run in a 5K! And don’t just stop at one- embrace the 5K season. Local 5K’s are fun and they are a great way to promote wellness in your community.
2. Add speed work into your training. This is an important part of training if you want to get faster. Be sure to include at least one run a week at a track or somewhere where you can focus on speed. Running sets of 200’s or 400’s or 800’s are just a few examples of some speed work that will make you faster. Be sure to warm up at least 1-2 miles before and 1-2 miles after any track workout. Also, the day after your track workout should typically be an easy run or a rest day.
3. Warm up before you race. If you are running for time, not completion then you should warm up. Personally, I like to warm up 2 miles before a 5K. I know some people who like 3 and some who like 1. Find the amount that works for you.
4. Pace yourself. This is probably the most challenging part of racing a 5K. It is a fast race but there is definitely a pacing strategy involved. If you have raced a 5K recently then you have an idea what your average mile time should be. If you’ve never raced a 5K or it’s been a while, plug in a recent race time you’ve run in another racing distance into the McMillan calculator and see what your 5K prediction time is. In 5K’s it is very common to start too fast. Maybe it’s because many of the participants are recreational runners who are unsure of their pace/ fitness level so they just take off when they hear the words, “GO!” When I race a 5K, I often have to tell myself to slow down during the first mile.
5. Have fun! 5K’s are usually low key and local. If you are unsure about “racing” then maybe you could run with a friend who is new to running or your child. 5K’s are a great introduction into the sport of running and to your friend or your son or daughter you are the running expert. My husband has run quite a few 5k’s with our oldest daughter. Her first 5K was when she was 5 and he ran with her every step of the way. They make a great team.
Do you have any tips for running 5K’s? Do you like to run them? Do you like working in 5K’s during or after marathon training?