When I first started running, my pace was pretty similar at any race that I ran. From the 5K to the half marathon, my body knew how to run at that pace for any period of time. When I got to the point where I wanted to run faster, I learned about training at different paces. This helped, but I still had a hard time making the leap to really race FAST.
This past weekend I ran a new personal best time in a local 5K. My body tends to like the longer distances best, so it takes a lot of work for me to really get faster at the short distances. I can talk myself into running longer a lot easier than running harder.
Last weekend’s 5K wasn’t a race I had trained specifically for, but my training for the Barking Dog Duathlon translated nicely and I had a good day. It’s the first new record I set since I’ve lived in Colorado and I was pretty excited to finally break through. Not only did I set a new PR, but I ended with 7th in my age group (out of over 300) and a pretty big smile on my face. That’s a successful race in my eyes.
As I reflected on the race and how I finally broke the barrier, I started to put together a list of things that I’ve learned. I thought it would be more interesting to share these tips, than to share another race report with you. Hopefully you can use these tips to set your own PR soon!
4 Tips to Race a 5K
1. Practice your Goal Paces
Speedwork is hard. But it’s also one of the best ways to teach your body to run faster and handle being uncomfortable. , The more you practice running fast, the easier it is for your body to find that pace in a race. When I worked out the splits on last weekend’s race, I realized that I naturally ran the pace I’ve been running in my 5K intervals workouts.
2. Reduce the Pressure
I often put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well at certain races. The last few times I’ve set a new record, I didn’t decide if I would actually race until after I started running. I warmed up as I would any race, but decided to see how I felt before deciding if it would be a fun run or race effort. If I felt good, I’d go after that record. If not, I pulled back on the pace and enjoyed the experience instead.
3. Consider Running by Feel (instead of pace)
Although I recommend training with pace goals for most of your workouts, when it comes to short-distance races you can ditch the watch. It’s easy for me to get wrapped up in hitting a certain split and adjusting my pace too frequently. With only a few miles to cover, this means I get too wrapped up in the number and forget to just RUN! When my watch didn’t work last weekend and I focused on a barely sustainable effort, I went faster than I thought was possible. I plan to do this more often now!
4. Recruit a Pacer
Have a friend who’s faster than you? Ask them to pace you for your best race yet! Kirk is a great pacer and knows how to motivate me to get that little extra speed out of a race. He runs just a few steps in front of me – enough that I keep pushing to keep up, but not too much that I get frustrated. It’s best for this to be a person who know how you like to be motivated, so they don’t end up hurting your race performance.
Now it’s time to put these tips into practice and find a local race. Then come back and let me know if they worked for you!!
Questions for you:
- Do you enjoy racing? What is your favorite distance?
- What tips would you add for racing your best?