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Strategy for a Fast 5k

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, April 30, 2014
in Road Races

Before the Good Times 5k last night I once again tried to figure out a strategy to run a faster time. You would think after running the Good Times course over 50x I would have a solid game plan. Every week I say I will start with a controlled  pace and then hold that effort for the entire race. That seems like a reasonable game plan.

The problem with the 5k is that it is such a short event there really is no time to "run easy". In order to have a great time you have to hurt the whole way with close to maximum effort. Let's be honest....that is not fun. Don't get me wrong. I love racing and the pain required to push yourself to the max. When competing in a ten week series some weeks you just don't "feel" like killing yourself and look for a way out. You will hear things like...I am tired this week, I will just take it easy...or Don't expect much from me this week. Unfortunately I do not operate this way. Regardless of what I say before the race as soon as the race starts I give 100% effort. I might not be at the top of my game each week but the effort will always be there.

What is my official 5k strategy? 

Mile 1-Close to 100% (but controlled) effort. Depending on the day you will know what kind of "zip" you have in your legs by the mile 1 mark.

Mile 2- Sustain a pace as close to mile 1 as you can...speed will probably slip but try to hold on.

Mile 3-Stay steady until half way through mile 3 and then try to push to the finish. Always sprint to the finish.

Seems pretty simple doesn't it? The biggest problem I see with 5k runners is people running too slow on the first mile. There is no time to settle into a pace. Once the race starts you got to go! Now obviously you do not want to burn out in the first mile but I have found it is better to be close to burn out and try to hold on than to willingly give up 30 seconds on the first mile. More often than not you will never get that time back.

The best way to master your 5k race strategy is to experiment. Enter a ton of 5k's and see what works for you. If you try to avoid pain in a 5k you will never have a good time. You have to train your body to tolerate maximum effort for the entire 3.1 miles. This distance is not for everyone but I like it because in 20 minutes or less the race is done and you can try it again next week.

Good Times 5k Series Week 4 Results

Time: 20:14    11th overall 3rd age group

Really crazy but ended up with the exact same time as last week. The race felt harder and the weather conditions were totally different but the end result was the same.


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