Want to run a faster 5k? These seven techniques will help you get speedier and crush your next race.
Hit Your Pace
Getting familiar and comfortable with your goal race pace is essential if you want to duplicate it on the big day. The best way to do this (after a one-mile warmup jog) is to run two miles at your goal pace. Gauge your pace by wearing a GPS watch, by checking your split times at bike-path mile markers or after each lap on a track. Finish with a one-mile cooldown jog.
Most runners never do track speedwork—I’ll admit, it’s an acquired taste. But if you want to get fast, sprinkling in just a bit of faster running once or twice a week on everyday runs can make a big difference. In the middle of some of your medium-distance runs, do five to ten one-minute surges at a hard-but-controlled pace. Or do a pyramid: surges of one, two, three, two, one minute(s). Separate surges with at least a one-minute recovery jog.
Get Off Your Feet
You read that right. Do no hard running in the last three days before the race and nothing that might tire your legs the last 24 hours before a race. This is the only time when being a couch potato is beneficial! Savor it.
Run On Empty
Loading up on carbs is unnecessary before a 5K. Don’t eat or drink too much the night before and take in little or nothing on race morning. No more than a half banana and a glass of water at least an hour before the gun fires will do the trick. Don’t worry; you won’t starve.
Walk, Jog, Run, Race
A thorough warmup will prepare your mind and body for a better race. In the last half-hour before the race begins, walk for a few minutes, jog for a few minutes, then do a few “pickups” (accelerations at race pace).
Be Ready to Run Steady
New mantra? I think so. An even, consistent race pace yields the best results, which demands that you resist two temptations. First, don’t position yourself too far back from the start banner or you’ll waste precious time slogging along with slower runners in the first mile. Second, don’t position yourself too close to the start banner or you’ll succumb to jetting off too fast with faster runners in the first mile—inevitably leading to a crash-and-burn scenario later on. No good.
Take a Deep Breath
You may breathe mostly through your nose on easy runs, but the oxygen demands of running faster require that you breathe primarily through your mouth at race pace. Practice this during race-pace training so it’s automatic on race day. And exhale vigorously through your open mouth when you sprint to the finish.
What are your go-to ways to run a faster 5k?
Author bio: Bob Cooper is a former executive editor of Running Times and a former contributing editor to Runner’s World. The finisher of 45 marathons and ultramarathons currently runs, bikes and kayaks in San Anselmo, California.
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