The 5k, what a great race. You can find one almost every weekend. I love to race all distances and could go on and on about it, but this blog is about the 5k distance. There is a certain camaraderie you find between the participants of a 5k that you dont get at some longer distances. So many abilities and people from all walks of life. So many different reasons for running the race but one thing seems common. everyone is there to make a positive difference in their life.
I am not an elite runner but can hold my own as an age grouper. With times in the lower 19:00's I'm usually in the top 10 percent of finishers. Even if I am familiar with the other racers, I still only focus on my race and finishing the best that I can. If I do that, run my own race, I know I have done my very best. I will sometimes fall in line with a group of runners if its windy, but I in my mind I am still running my own race. I wont hang long with them if I know I cant keep up and I will pass them when I feel I am holding back. If they happen to be running at the same pace I am, I will stick with them and try to give it everything I have on the last half mile.
Again, if they finish before me, that's fine, if i run out of gas and fade, that's fine too. my main goal is to give it my all.
The appeal of the 5k for me starts as soon as I get to the race. Runners of all ability levels, all going out to push themselves. A ton of positive energy. I feed off that. What other activity would get hundreds of people out of bed, usually very early in the morning, rain or shine and ready to push themselves to the limit. I cant think of any. have you ever seen 200 people waiting to at 6am for a baseball or football field to open so they could play a pick up game? i haven't
I love standing at the starting line, recently in smaller races I have been lining up in front to keep out of traffic a little bit, but no matter where I start its awesome. The feeling of the surge forward as the gun goes off is not something you can fully recreate in your mind, you have to be part of it. There are a lot of fast starters in a 5k which is cool. Its a factor you have to consider when running a 5k. I dont mind running through traffic, but it does take some extra energy. It gives me a sense of urgency. It does take some energy away from me, but I want to be out in front and then fall into my comfortable pace.
My first mile is generally too fast I would say, but that goes along with my personality. go all out and see what happens.
First mile time for me is usually right at 6:00 and by now things have usually thinned out. I can see the leaders or in some smaller races I am running with the lead pack. Now I know I am going to fade a little, although its been less and less recently. Depending on the size of the race now is about the time where the top overall runners start to pull aaway. I did just recently finish 2nd overall in a race with a time of 19:10 but I would say the chances of that happening again with that time are slim.
At this point in the race, I am usually running alone or with a small group. Time to concentrate on breathing, and gathering myself from my first mile that was an adrenaline filled sprint. and get to the 1.55 mark, being halfway done is a good feeling. 1.55 to 2.1 is probably my most relaxed time during a 5k, my sense of urgency is gone, running seems to flow at this point. time to look around a little bit, distract myself and just run. If i do ever smile during a 5k this is the time. If I am having bad race this is also the time I tell myself to just keep going and do my best. Be happy and thankful that I am capable of running.
2.1 miles down and 1 mile to go. time to test myself and see if i can reasonably pick up my pace. 2.1 to 2.6 is a good time for me to see really how I am feeling. this also seems to be the point on the course where i either start passing people or other people are surging and passing me. I can either hang or I cant. I sometimes try to catch people because I feel that helps push my limits. I still don't feel like I am racing the people I am trying to catch. I look at it a little different. I look far ahead. I think of it as picking up my pace enough to pass AND maintain that speed. I not going sprint and pass someone just to have them pass me back. I'm running my own race, not theirs.
now mile 2.6 and I feel i can really push it, i know i am going finish. less than 4 minutes to go, I've run a half mile countless times, why should this be different. Sometimes I can pick it up, sometimes I cant. My mind says go, but legs sometimes don't. If other runners pass me at this point, i have to give them credit. I have to think they are running their best today.
3.0 to 3.1 time to sprint or do something that feels like sprinting. If I dig deep I can usually muster up a little speed. if i cant, I'm happy, i know i have given it my all and not left anything out on the course.
ahhh the finish, i get to stop now. regroup and be happy. The only time I felt like i left something on the course was after my first 5k, I had no idea what I was doing and I could have pushed it a lot more, but I was still happy, that's not something you really think about at your first 5k. I was just thrilled to be part of it. I had never even been to a distance race before that. My advice to first time 5k runner would be to live in the moment and try to remember some things from the race because you will never have another "first 5k" again.
that's my take on a 5k, I don't know if I use good strategy and i may start out too fast, but i am still learning and trying to improve my times. I read as many 5k tips as I can but there comes a point where I start to over think things.
Out of everything I read two things really stuck and worked for me when it comes to getting faster.
1. Miles, miles, miles..... get your miles and in and run light and free and happy and the speed will come.
2. speed work specifically for 5ks-- i lack in this department but to me its been proven over and over that one speed work session per week will help you improve you times.