Because summer can be so hot and humid, you see a lot of 5k races on the calendar during June, July, and August. The 5k is also a great distance for all different levels of running. Many beginner runners that started out with Couch to 5k will culminate their training by finished a 5k race.
Although the 5k is a relatively short race (3.1 miles), don’t let it be deceiving! I once hear the 5k described in the following manner: the first mile you are flying, the second mile you start to struggle, and you pretty much want to die by mile three! This may be a little melodramatic, but at the end of most 5ks, I do feel like I could hurl. It’s how I know that I have left it all on the course.
After completing a 5k, many runners want to know how they can lower their time. Here are a few tactics you can use alone or together to help run a faster 5k:
- Long runs: Include a long run every week. It may seem counterintuitive to run long as a means of getting faster. However, the purpose of the long run is to increase your aerobic capacity, which will in turn help you run at a faster speed for a longer period of time. Long runs are also great for honing your mental toughness and giving you self confidence in your running.
- Hill repeats: Try adding in some hill repeats into one of your weekly runs. Hill repeats are great for making you faster. Make sure you warm up before doing your repeats. Pick a hill that is about 100 to 200 meters and charge up at your 5k paces, jog back down, and repeat. try starting with a few repeats and build up by one each week.
- Tempo runs: Tempo runs are another tool in your arsenal. Tempo runs help to train your body to work more efficiently at a faster pace. During a tempo run, you want to run at a “comfortably” hard pace—NOT at your lactate threshold. Warm up for a mile, then do your tempo (you can try starting at 20 minutes) and then do a cool down.
- Strides: Striders are an easy way of adding a little speed work on to the end of your easy runs. Run at almost maximum effort for about 20 seconds and recover. Repeat a few times. Each week you can try adding on another stride. Striders are also great to do before a 5k—to get your fast twitch muscles going and to increase your leg turnover.
- Good Old Fashioned Speed Work: Whether you do speed work on the track or on the road, try to include it once a week. You can choose to do 400m repeats, with recovery in between (recovery can be slow jog or walk). Alternatively, you may want to run hard for a minute or two, then do recovery (this way is much easier if you do your speed work on the roads). Always remember to start with a few and build up to more repeats or intervals.