You gotta love a good 5k. 12 and a half laps around a track. 3.1 miles on your neighborhood roads. However you run or race a 5k, the distance is challenging enough for new runners and demanding enough for experienced runners.
If you’re a new runner, you can expect that the 5k will be a good goal to reach for, but not so long or hard that you can’t try again soon after. If you have some experience under your belt, you can then get into running workouts and longer runs that’ll help you prepare to run your 5k faster than the last time.
In this post, I’ll be sharing all the tips I’ve learned over the years that have helped me run a 5k in 14:17 that will help you get the best out of your next 5k race – whether it’s your first or your next – so you can come away with a positive experience and a good time.
The Morning of Your 5k
- Get to the course at least 40 minutes prior. Nothing says last minute like running from your car right to the start line as the final instructions are finishing up.
- Warmup with some light jogging. Beginners should/can run 10 minutes while more experienced runners can run up to 3 miles prior to the race. Do not stand still until the race starts.
- After your jog, do some active stretches. Getting loose and staying warm are key to successful 5k races.
- Run 2-6 sprints (75 meters with adequate rest). Your car doesn’t want to go from 0-100 and neither does your heart and legs. Get them ready with some gentle strides.
- Start in the middle of the corral – not right up front and not back with the walkers. If you aren’t sure, ask what pace the people around you are running.
- Don’t run your fastest mile first. If you want to run a really good race, save your fastest running for the last 1/3rd of the race.
The Night Before Your 5k
- Charge your watch, headphones, music/podcast player. It’s tough out there without any motivation. Even harder if your watch dies.
- Eliminate/limit alcohol intake night before. I’m pretty sure if you’re reading this, you’re willing to give up drinking for one night. You’ll be okay. I promise.
- Eat well-balanced meal (don’t do fettuccine Alfredo like Michael Scott in The Office). Eat something plain and not a lot of it. Try and eat foods you are familiar with as they are likely to be well-digestible and you’ll feel fine in the morning.
- Get to bed at a reasonable time. Sleep is always good, especially the night before an early morning race.
- Plan your clothing the night before. Pack extra – it’s better to have it and not need it than not have it at all.
- Pack what you’ll want for after the race (food, dry clothes, etc). I always believe that being comfortable helps me perform better. So after a race, if I need to have a change of clothes and some food to start the recovery process, then that’s what needs to be done.
- Know where the course starts so you can park close by. Do a quick search and make sure you have the right address so you can eliminate unnecessary stress the morning of the race.
The Weeks Prior to Your 5k
Running in a 5k race is different than racing a 5k. If you are looking to complete a 5k, you may (or may not, depending on your current fitness level) need as many weeks to prepare. If you are trying to compete and set a new personal best in a 5k, you might need more weeks.
Here’s what you should be doing in those 6-8 weeks prior to race day.
- Buy proper running shoes from a running store. The added touch of getting shoes at a specialty store is absolutely worth whatever nominal extra price you might pay. Personally, I will gladly spend my money at a locally-owned shop that carries a variety of shoes and products that help me become a better runner.
- Give yourself ample time to train for the race – beginners should at least be able to run 3 miles prior to race day. Advanced runners should consider running workouts that are targeted to run a fast 5k.
- Mix in easy running (majority of the time) with some quicker, shorter running.
- Find a plan that works for your needs (coaching: online or in-person); personalized vs cookie-cutter.
The 5k is a great event because it’s relatively short. You can adequately train to complete a 5k in a few weeks, assuming some level of fitness prior. But it’s not so tough that you can’t come back in a week and try again.
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