So, you want to your fastest 5K yet? Well, I'm Jesse Funk and here, Toby as well on this episode of Runners High. I'm going to share with you five strategies you can use to optimize your 5K and set that new PR.
My first tip for you is to pick a pace before your race and practice it. Knowledge is power. So, when you have a race plan in terms of your times, and you say, I want to run this specific time, it helps keep you on track during the race. There's going to be certain checkpoints during the race, typically, there's mile markers. Some races will have half-mile markers and even some very few will have quarter-mile markers.
Now, you can use these markers to figure out am I on my own pace to hit my goal? It's a good kind of self-check if you're not really it with it in terms of your pacing yet and you don't know how to internalize you all your times, use that time at certain intervals to figure out do I need to speed up? Do I need to slow down? Am I right on pace, just keep going? But more importantly, you need to practice beforehand.
My favorite 5K practice is really a five key set. So, five times 1,000 meters. And you can do a varying kind of rest but a short rest interval maybe say 90 seconds walking or two minutes of jogging in between. Whatever pace you can hit for that kind of set, say that thousand-meter times five, that's going to be the upper end of your 5K pace and give you a realistic or somewhat realistic idea of what that goal 5K should be for you.
If you're running 25 minute pace for your thousands, don't try to go out at 20-minute pace at the race. Obviously, not a great idea.
And that's really my second tip, don't go out too hard. The best races are actually run as a negative split, meaning that the first half is slower than the second half, or you're speeding up into the race. And this is actually for a few reasons. The biggest one is that when you go out too hard, you haven't allowed your body systems to warm up.
Your joints need to be lubricated, your muscles need to be kind of, I call it open up but it's getting all of your-- recruiting all your muscle fibers to be used at the maximum capacity that you're capable at the moment. You need all these things to kind of come online before you can actually get to your full speed and optimal energy burn. If you go out too hard too soon, then you're more liable to burn all your glycogen stores early on, instead of being able to conserve them throughout the race.
My third tip, and this should be done for anybody who's been racing for a long time. But if you don't do this right now, you are missing out. And that study the course map, know your racecourse. A negative split, like I just said is the perfect way to run a new PR. But a negative split is not always a negative split. Okay.
Before you think I've lost my mind, subscribe to the channel, stay tuned what I'm talking about. But what I mean is if you study the course map, and you realize that, as an extreme example, say the first half of your 5K's downhill in the second half is uphill, then a negative split isn't necessarily a negative split.
It's kind of like my college swim coach said, if a swimmer swims the exact same time for the first half of the race to the second half of the race, they actually negative split. Because in the first half the race they get to start on the blocks. So they don't have that speed in the second half.
Much like in my example, with a downhill/uphill split, if you ran the exact same time, but you were going downhill the first half and uphill the second, your effort increased in the second half of the race. That means you actually negative split, even though the clock doesn't reflect a faster time for the second half of the course.
Along with studying the course map, it makes you more familiar with my fourth point. And that's take the tangents. Now, I won't get all matty on you, we can do that some other time. I love math, but what I mean is, what's the shortest distance between two points? A straight line.
We all know that it's very, very common saying. But people don't actually practice it when they get out on the racecourse. Even seasoned runners I see make this mistake and you're adding time you're 5K, for no reason.
Take a look at this map next to me. Which do you think is shorter? This one or this one? It kind of illustrates my point graphically that you need to take the shortest point between two turns. So, like in my example, with that s turn, you're going to go straight through and hit the tangents, which means this the peak of each turn, instead of going the longest way possible or only taking one side, it's really polite when you're out on the trail to stay to the right side, at least here in the US and not be in people's way. But it isn't the shortest distance traveled.
So on race day, you have to take the tangents. Otherwise, you're handicapping yourself. You're adding useless time that you could be cutting off just by taking the shorter distance. It's another thing kind of psychological game that gets played where other people around you will probably be taking these longer lines. They're not paying attention and trying to optimize their time.
So, you have to kind of get into your own little world, get in your own little bubble and think I'm going to take the shortest lines no matter what anybody else is doing because that's going to help me have my best day.
Along those same lines, my fifth and final tip is don't be lulled into a faster pace by other runners. On the same note, don't be lulled into a slower pace by other runners. There's a psychological game at play when it comes to running. And because we are pack animals, in some sense, we want to stay with the herd.
Or if you're trying to run a faster time, sometimes you say oh, I'm going to stay with this person, no matter what. Really, you should be sticking to your game plan. And that means sometimes letting those people go. And if they went out too hard or of the similar fitness level of you, often, you'll reel them in as the race goes along.
You want to avoid as much of the psychological game as possible in not allowing yourself to go out too slow or go too fast. And that's why with like tip number one, you practice that pace. So you're familiar with how fast you need to run. And you can stick to your own game plan so that you're not lulled off course, by another runner, by somebody you always see at every event that you always run next to or even your best friend.
You have your game plan, you've got to stick to it the best you can. If you go out too fast and you’re lulled off by another runner, well, that's going to throw a wrench in the works. And your game plan is going to be out the window and you're gonna have to make adjustments on the fly. That's the last thing you want to do. It does happen sometimes, but you want to try to avoid it the best you can.
So, those are my five tips for a faster 5K. Subscribe to the channel. Stay tuned for more tips on how to optimize your running speed and enjoy it for the rest of your life. I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runners High.