So you’ve already done a 5K and now you’ve got a goal for your next one: Beat your finishing time! Many beginner runners run faster 5Ks after their initial one because they feel a lot more confident. Here are some tips to make sure you do run a faster 5K:
When it comes to your training, consistency is key. I know plenty of runners who sign up for a 5K, forget about it, and then run like mad in the two weeks leading up to the race. You can’t cram for a 5K. It’s important that you start to prepare at least four weeks ahead of time; eight weeks is even better. And you need to stick to the training and make sure you’re running at least 3 days a week.
Run faster for some runs.
For your first 5K, you may have done all your training runs at the same speed but, to run faster in your race, it helps to incorporate faster running into your training. A good way to do that is with tempo runs. To do a run, start your run with 5 to 10 minutes of easy running, then continue with 15 to 20 minutes of running near your 10K pace. Finish with 5 to 10 minutes of cooling down. If you’re not sure what your 10K pace is, run at a pace that feels “comfortably hard.”
Do some hill training.
Even if you’re not planning on running your 5K on a hilly course, you can still benefit from running some hills during training. Doing hill repeats will make you stronger, as well as improve your running efficiency and confidence.
To get started with hill repeats, start with a 10 to 15 minute warm-up of easy running. Find a hill with a decent slope – but not too steep. Start with 30 seconds of hard running up the hill, and then walk or jog slowly down to recover. Start out with five repeats (a complete repeat is an uphill and downhill) and try to work your way up to 10. Finish with a 15- minute cooldown of easy running. You’ll see big improvements in your strength and endurance by doing a hill workout once a week.
Also see: How to Run Hills Like a Pro
Knowing what to expect on the course can help you run the race smarter and more confidently. Take a look at the course map online so you know if there are any hills or other challenges. If it’s a local race, do some of your runs on the course so it becomes familiar. Make sure you check the weather forecast so you can plan your race outfit ahead of time and you’re not over- or under-dressed for the conditions. And remember the golden rule of racing: Nothing new on race day!
Have a pre-race routine.
Before you head to the starting line, make sure you hit the porta-potty so you don’t have to waste time stopping to use one during the race. You can also do a little warm-up (an easy jog for a few minutes and some dynamic stretching) to get the blood flowing and your muscles warmed-up. Take a few sips of water so you’re hydrated. That should allow you to skip the first water stop, which will save you time.
Having pre-race rituals will not only help you save time during the race, but the familiar routine can also help you ease your pre-race anxiety.
Race smart and finish strong.
It’s possible to shave some seconds or maybe even minutes off your finishing time with smart racing strategies, such as making sure you don’t go out too fast. Many 5K racers start out at a pace that they can’t hold for 3.1 miles and end up fading in the final mile. To avoid that, begin the race at a pace that you feel you can comfortably hold.
As you get closer to the finish line, there’s no holding back — if you feel good, go for it. Keep pumping your arms and looking up. Try to focus on runners in front of you and see if you can pass them before the finish line. You may feel some discomfort, but crossing that finish line and seeing that you beat your time will make it all worth it.
Get even more tips to take your running to the next level: