Running a PR (personal record) in the 5k scares me more than any half marathon or marathon that I have ever trained for. Why? Because it happens in the blink of an eye! When you’re running a 5K with the intention of crushing a PR, there’s no wiggle room for a quick water break or a stop when you find your adoring fans (Hi Mom!) because every moment counts. As we gear up for race season, I thought I’d share 10 tips for anyone hoping to achieve a personal record on their next 5K.
1. Have a goal and a plan of attack.
What is your PR right now? The longer the race, the more dramatic a PR could be, but in the 5k, a 30 second PR means you have to run 10 seconds per mile faster than your previous PR! That’s a significant amount of time to chop off! I like having 3 goals/plans of attack on race day because I’ve found that if you settle on just one, it takes the joy out of the race itself.
- Plan 1. A “perfect day” PR.
- Plan 2. An “I should hit this” PR.
- Plan 3. An “I would be happy with this time” PB (personal best) in a range I should have no problems hitting.
2. Break your goal down mile by mile.
Once you choose your PR goal, break it down into bite size race day chunks. Instead of focusing only on crossing the finish line, break the race into 3 splits and then the final .1 KM push at the end. Planning your race day splits doesn’t just ensure that you run smart (I think everyone is familiar with the story of the tortoise and the hare), it helps you compartmentalize discomfort and push through doubt on race day.
3. Speed Work.
There’s no secret to speed work, if you want to run faster, you just have to run faster. Speed work is imperative if you’re working towards a PR time. I used to run by feel and I’d push myself whenever I felt like it but one day, I realized that I wasn’t seeing what I was really capable of because my plan wasn’t specific. Incorporating speed work on a track or during my training runs pushed me to go faster in practice which then helped me feel confident on race day.
4. Build your training gradually.
Whatever you are accustomed to running, start there before you start the gradual building process. If you’re running 2-3 times a week, try adding some cross training! Building endurance is no joke and the further you can go, the less daunting 3 miles will be. Granted, there’s no need for 10 milers when you’re training for a 5K, but incorporating runs that are longer than 3 miles will help you both mentally and physically.
5. Vary your speed work.
When you’re running down a PR, you can’t just run your training runs at goal pace. Add variety by incorporating workouts at your 1 mile goal pace, 5k goal pace, and 10k goal pace. Not sure what your different paces are? Head out to a track and try running a timed mile or hit the road for a 5K or a 10K. By practicing different paces, you’ll feel less intimidated on race day because you’ll know what to expect.
6. Run faster than goal pace in training.
FASTER? WHAT? Why? Well, assuming you’re not a robot, it’s probable that your pace is going to vary at different stages of the race. By training a little faster than your goal pace, you’ll not only flex your mental muscle and build confidence, but you’ll be able to be able to kick at the finish line which could shave a few important seconds off of your PR.
7. Stretching and rolling out.
I sometimes come home from my run with about ten minutes to spare before I have to head back out to work. Then I spend the rest of my day sitting at a desk which leads to sore muscles and muscle tightness. Recovery is crucial if you want to stay injury free. Just a few minutes a day on a foam roller can make a huge difference. (Check out these foam rolling exercises that you can do in front of a TV!)
8. Positive self talk.
Running is just as much of a mental game than it is a physical one. Try to visualize the race itself and tell yourself, “I can do this”. Getting yourself to believe that you are a runner and you are more than capable is, in reality, half of the battle. You can do this! Find a running mantra that motivates you to dig deep and work on positive self talk to push you towards the finish line.
9. Dress the part.
It’s actual science that dressing like a runner makes you feel more like a runner. (Personally, I am extremely superstitious and wear the same pair of underwear, socks, and bracelet to every race. I swear it works #science.) Don’t be afraid to dress the part!
10. Get excited
Whether this is your first or fiftieth 5K, the Global 5K is an awesome way to connect with the entire global running community! Snap a pic, recruit some friends, or a blind date (from experience, not a bad move), and get out with thousands of other people across the WORLD!