5k Running Tips

Use these 5k running tips leading up to and during your next 5k race to execute the perfect race day plan and realize your full potential. These running tips are specifically intended for all runners who are looking to go beyond the ‘just finish’ goal. It really doesn’t matter if your goal is to break 30 minutes or 18 minutes, running your best 5k means finishing strong and leaving nothing on the course.

5k Running Tips - BEFORE the Gun

  • Warm up - don’t underestimate the need for a thorough warm up. Once the gun goes off, you very quickly approach your maximum effort for the duration of the race. Allow yourself at least 15 minutes or ideally more to do some easy running with accelerations. Shake off your warm up as you approach the start line. If you must line up ahead of time and wait with the pack, do some very light jumping while you wait.
  • Empty your Stomach – this includes over hydrating before the race. This is not a half or full marathon - the 5k can be intense but short lived. You don’t need the extra calories or sloshing in your stomach for the duration of your effort.
  • Ditch the Gear - extra clothes and gear are not conducive to speed – this is not an endurance event wear you will need fuel supplements or extra clothing. Go into the race lean and under-dressed. Even if it’s on the colder side, you can put up with anything for 20 minutes.
  • Seed Yourself – there is little to no room for error in pacing and effort. It’s safe to say for example that if you plan on going under 20 min that you’ll need to be near the front of the pack when the gun goes off. To run your best 5k, you don’t want to be in a situation where you are playing dodge the runner so don’t by shy – take your place accordingly and minimize wasted effort!
  • Have a Race Plan – it’s surprising how long 1 km can seem when you are running at near your maximum effort! Breaking down your run into individual km splits will give you immediate short term goals to focus on. Memorize what you plan to run each split and adjust your pace accordingly.

5k Running Tips - AFTER the Gun

  • Run your Own Race – this is easily the most important of all the 5k running tips listed on this page. It's also one of those tips (which applies to all distances) that you can read or be told countless times but likely you’ll still make this mistake yourself a few times before you’ll appreciate the outcome. At the start you’re huddled in close with several hundred other runners like sheep. The energy and nerves of anticipation in the air are thick enough to cut. The build up is apparently just too much to take for many runners as when the gun sounds they go madly dashing off. Your training, like your racing, is a very personal journey. Know yourself and follow your race plan by doing your best to focus inward on yourself and going out in a controlled and steady manner. Ignore what all of the other runners around you are doing. Use the entire first km to get into a good pacing and breathing groove. This will help prevent you from going into oxygen debt and having to deal with an early or untimely side stitch.
  • Race your Strengths – in your current state, do you have a strong finishing kick or do you tend to fade in the last km? Some runners strategize that they like to start easy and build pace gradually over the run (negative splits) while others might like to run even splits throughout the entire run. In reality, you will find that the majority of runners will begin to fade as the finish line gets closer despite best pacing efforts. It’s also very mentally challenging for a runner to be passed. So it stands to reason that an effective 5k racing strategy should include a fast last split ending with a strong finishing kick.
  • Pass on the fuel – this is probably the only length of race that I would recommend you pass on taking what’s offered at any aid station. Not only is there no time to waste slowing to grab and drink but your body will not be able to process any fuel at this intensity so you’re only wasting time and setting yourself up for ‘gurgly guts’. Taking fuel at a 5k is more of a distraction tactic from the discomfort of your aggressive pace than it is a physical need
  • Practice Focus - running at your maximum velocity for close to 20 minutes requires a tremendous amount of focus. The littlest distraction can throw off your breathing rhythm and bring on a stitch. The ability to focus through a grueling pace can and will be acquired through abundant speed practice which you’ll get plenty of from all of your all of your Vo2 max workouts at the track! As you may well know, this 5k running tip can of course be applied to any running distance.
  • Try Lighter Shoes - of all the 5k running tips, this one is geared more towards more experienced or perhaps runners on the 'lighter' side who are very concerned about their finishing time but also not carrying around a bunch of extra weight:p Since 5k is a relatively short distance there is not an excessive amount of pounding from the road. For this reason, it's relatively safe to experiment with lighter shoes that will sacrifice some support. Consider wearing a lighter shoe such as a performance trainer or racing flat. I have read over the years in more than one study that a decrease by 4 ounces per shoe can save a runner an average of 6 seconds per mile by promoting a quicker running cadence. While this may not sound like much, it’s tremendously important if you have been teetering on breaking an important time barrier. Weight aside, you can also feel the difference when you put on a lighter shoe. You get a sense of speed and fluidity. So, whether this gain in speed is physiologically or psychologically based, it’s an edge just the same :P

I hope you find at these 5k running tips helpful to you as you CRUSH your next 5k running goal!!!

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