5K Race Strategy - How to race 5000 meters (3.1 miles) smarter and faster
Do you need a 5K race strategy to make your next race a better experience? Racing 5000 meters requires endurance, intelligence, and a whole lot of guts. Here are some simple tips that hopefully can help you the next time you to the line for 3.1 miles of fun.
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Let's get to the good stuff. Here are my top five 5K Race Strategy Tips.
1. Know your pace. If want to run the 5K in 20:00, don't go out at 5 minute per mile pace. You won't be able to hold on, and later in the race, you'll end up crawling towards the finish line. It's not bad to be a little faster than your race pace goal, but it has to be within reason.
My old track coach had a saying that for every second you are out too fast, you will lose three seconds in the later parts of the race. Use your energy wisely so you can finish how you started. Here's another quick example. If your goal time is 22:00 for the 5k, that breaks down to an average pace just over seven minutes per mile. That means you should try and run your first mile somewhere between 6:45 to 7:05.
2. Run your own race. It is tempting to run with someone else who has their own race style, but you need to run to your strengths. I recall one 5K race where there were two very good competitors in the field. They both didn't want to push the pace early, but the rest of the field was scared to take the lead. Needless to say, after 2 miles of basically jogging, the two talented runners pushed the pace tremendously. The runners who followed picked up the pace, but couldn't hang on. The end result was everyone's time was slow. If you know your pace, use that to run your own race regardless of who else is in the field. The best 5k race strategy is the one that fits your style of running.
3. Race relaxed and fast. It sounds like two opposite things, but being relaxed actually helps you conserve energy so you can run faster. Running is a fluid motion and when you tense up your muscles, particularly in your face, neck and shoulders, you slow down.
4. Pick it up. After the mile mark, you should try and pick up the pace. After the two mile mark, do the same thing. If you don't feel like you have pushed the pace, you will actually be slowing down. Running the first mile quick is pretty easy because you have a lot of energy. Once you pass the mile mark you need to consciously increase your effort level to guarantee a good time.
5. Kick Early. This is probably the hardest thing to do, but if you want to win a race, it is deadly to your competitors. At UW-Oshkosh, I was teammates with Matt Thull. He was the guttiest runner I ever knew. With 600 meters to go in the 5K, he would put in a huge surge which we called "the shotgun." The other competitors wouldn't be ready to shift gears yet, so he would pull away and win. You have to have a lot of courage to kick it in early, but if you can separate from your competition early, you won't have to kick down the homestretch.
Those are my top five 5K Race Strategy Tips. I hope one or more of them are useful to you in your next 5000 meter adventure. Knowledge is power. Be mentally and physically ready come race day. Good luck!