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 heard 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:
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.
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.
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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 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.
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.