Welcome to the final installment in the breaking down a 5k 4 part series. This section is just as important as the others, but with one exception. This is the part that everyone has trained for, the main event… Race day! All of your training is about to pay off. As long as you’re smart about how you run and if you can manage to get past being extremely nervous (which always happens to me before every race) you’ll do just fine. With out further interruption, let’s get started. Runners, on your mark…
Breaking Down the 5k
I sometimes compare running a 5k with reading a book; it has a beginning, middle, and an end. If you were to examine each part of the 5k, you’ll notice that each part or mile plays a different role. Yes, each mile becomes more difficult, but each one can move you up or down the leaderboard depending on how you run it. If you go into the race with a plan of attack, you’ll find yourself in a position that may surprise you. Here’s how I break down a 5k race.
Mile 1: Placement and Pacing
I should start this segment by saying that you’d be a fool to start the race sprinting full speed. You’ll probably have soo much adrenaline pumping through your system that you feel like you can fly. This is a huge mistake as you’ll be gassed before you hit the first mile, or if you manage to make it past that part, you won’t make it much further. My take on this is to go out at 75% of your race pace and find out where your competition is. Your competition is not only everyone your racing with, but that one person or group that you’re looking to be alongside and potentially beat in the last 100 meters. Generally this is someone who runs the same pace as you, if not a little faster. This is key because you’ll want to stick with this group (or person) as they’ll be your gauge during the race. Save your speed for later and stay calm as there’s no need to make a move here. This is also the part where it’ll be the most crowded, so be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your competition. Your placement within the first mile will determine where you stand for most of the race so make sure you dodge whomever you need to in order to get to where you need to be. Let the front of the pack go because chances are if they are already 400 meters ahead of you, you won’t catch them. Keep a steady pace and keep breathing.
Mile 2: Make Your Move
If you’re feeling great after the first mile, excellent! This is the mile that you want to make your move. This is where you test your competition to see if they’ll take off with you. If you’re lucky they’ll go with you and continue to challenge you, which is what you want. You want to be able to test them this mile because if they fall back during this time then the rest of the race is yours, but that works both ways. If your competition notices you’re gasping for air or that your form is off, they may push the pace a little harder than you can handle. Start this mile by shaking your arms out, taking a few deep breaths, slowly increasing the pace, and opening up that stride. It’s very important to get into a rhythm with breathing because this will help keep you calm. Try to pick out runners ahead of you and use them as markers. Treat this mile as a fartlek workout where you’re running at a faster pace to get to a certain point, then slowing for a few seconds and taking off to the next marker. Save a little bit of energy for the next part.
Mile 3 and Point 1: Hang On
This is the part you’ve been waiting patiently for and that you’ve trainined for. The last mile is where you give everything you’ve got in the tank and just hang on to your position. When others are struggling from the first 2 miles, this is where you can shine. Start with a slow build from mile 2, take a deep breath, open up your stride more, and pump your arms. You may start to lose some steam, but try to keep the pace. Remember, this is your last mile… and a little bit more. Most races are won by the last mile. Use the support and cheers from the crowd to your advantage. This should give you just enough of a boost to finish strong and perhaps pass a few runners close to the finish line. The last mile may seem like an eternity, but you can make it. Be sure to take a look around for your competition closer to the finish line. If they’re right beside you, throw in one final kick and sprint to the finish. In the event they are in front of you, try to step on the gas to catch up because you may surprise yourself and end up catching them. Do what you can to finish strong and know that you’ve just got your PR.
I hope that this series helps you get your PR as I love to see people accomplish something they set their minds to. Running a race isn’t always about winning or losing, it’s about having fun and growing stronger every time we approach the starting line. Good luck to anyone setting out to crush your times. If there’s anything you would like to add, feel free to comment below.