How To Race Your Fastest 5km Event

Triathlon Training Centre

The 5km is one of the most popular, yet most excruciating running race distances there is. It is relatively short for the experienced long-distance runner, but it is uniquely fast paced and full of risks that can turn your race on its head in mere seconds.

For most of us, running 5km race is usually a very simple activity. It is when you take this race distance to the next level, however, that it becomes a race of planning, strategy and delicate execution. The event itself, at the higher levels, is generally geared towards those athletes who are strong, smart and willing to hurt. To race a 5km event at your absolute peak performance, you will need strong legs, a clear strategy and a calm mind get the best result out of yourself on race day.

Being the shortest of the so called endurance events, the 5km race tends to be seen as just showing up and running as fast as possible. This, however, could not be further from the truth. The fastest 5km race requires a very well planned and perfectly executed strategy to make sure you will be able to perform at your best over every single kilometre without letting fatigue take you out before the finish line. Davey Black Triathlon Club in Melbourne is now mid-way through a strong pre-season run preparation phase. In your next 5km run event, you may wish to adopt this strategy from Coach Nestor Rivera to help push yourself towards your fastest 5km time.

A simple place to start to deliver your fastest possible race is to divide the race in 4 stages;

1st kilometre

To start your race, you ideally aim to go slightly slower than your objective average pace. This will allow your body to naturally rise to the required physiological state without peaking, or ‘popping’ your legs. In this first kilometre, focus on your breathing and staying relaxed. You should be feeling fast, but your breathing should be going at a rate at which you feel that you can still control it.

2nd Kilometre

As you enter the second kilometre, your pace should pick up to just a few seconds below your target pace. Your body now knows what is going on and what your expectation of it is. Your breathing, heart rate and body mechanics now fall into place and you should have found a smooth rhythm. By the end of this kilometre, you should be ready to hit your peak pace.

3rd and 4th Kilometre

At this stage you are going at the highest possible pace that your body can sustain. The game here is to keep your pace steady, avoiding surges that can spike you over the red line. Be sure to focus your energy on efficient objectives. This means keeping check on your arms, hands and neck to see if there is any unnecessary tension going on there and consciously relaxing if you feel any tightness.

5th Kilometre

In the last kilometre you just need to dig deep, stay relaxed and think of prize at the finish line. You may be chasing a medal, an ice cream, a massage or just the respect and admiration of your family or friends. Whatever your goal is, now is the time to turn the spotlight on it and chase it. Try to divide the last kilometre into 3-4  zones, with the objective of each zone being to bring the speed up more and more to the point that you arrive at the finish line with absolutely nothing left to give.

As in any race, there are calculated risks that must be taken if you want to perform at your absolute peak. To reduce these risks, there are a few mistakes that it is essential to avoid.

Nothing New on Race Day

It’s a golden rule that so many people fail to adhere to. Just because it is race day, do not go out and use a new pair of runners. Do not try wear a new pair of underwear. Do try a new exotic cuisine the night before. Stick to what you have used before, and you know it tried and tested.

Going Out Too Hard

A 5km race is, in its basic sense, is about maintaining your highest sustainable pace for as long as possible. If you get a rush of adrenaline through the first kilometre and go out too hard, it will leave you with nothing for the final 4 kilometres. Listen to your body and follow your plan. Avoid falling into the temptation of racing everyone around you. The other athletes may be making the same mistake, and if so, you will pass then as sure as not just a few minutes up the road.

Warm Up

If you don’t warm up, you will be warming up during the race. This means wasting precious minutes just trying to get your body to its required homeostasis. Failing to do a proper warm up will also increase the chance of injury. An efficient and meaningful warm up requires 30 minutes of general activation and dynamic stretching, allow your body to be at its peak readiness on the start line.

Start Line Placement

Athletes normally stand in the start line crowd based on their expected pace. People who are still getting used to running will stand at the back, to avoid the pressure and have a good time. Those aiming to get the top spots will stand at the front. Be sure to stand depending on your objective. Standing too far in the front will push you to run much faster than expected at first. Standing too far back will end with you struggling to pass endless groups of joggers/walkers.

Other elements to consider on race day are related to the course and weather conditions. By knowing the course in advance, you will know what to expect and a small hill, a sharp turn or a downhill won’t catch you by surprise. Knowing the weather conditions will also give you the time and space to properly suit for the race, not only in terms of what to wear, but how concerned you should be around hydration and nutrition before and after the race.

This event is short, but tough. It is one that presents you with the real nature of the sport of running. Strong legs, calm mind and a clear plan will take you to the finish line with a personal best and a smile on your face.

If you want to know more about how to train for or plan a race day strategy, you can contact the Davey Black Sports Performance team for a free, no obligation chat about your goals and objectives.

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