The 5k is a great race that has lost clout due to more and more people focused on going long, but I LOVE THE 5K DISTANCE. For me, it is a perfect balance of speed and endurance that allows for relatively light training load (important when you have two small kids!) I am not a huge user of acronyms, but I do use one for this distance:
That is my three-pronged approach to the 5k distance. I tend to break the 5k down into chunks of 1000m; however, it is more typical to think of it as a 3 miler and break it into 1 mile segments. It is really all based on how individuals like to approach the race mentally. I’ll give you my typical breakdown for 1000m below.
- The first 1000m is all about managing and using adrenaline when the gun goes off. When you are running a competitive 5k, you are typically going to be moving at a pretty fast speed, which means it is really easy to “feel really good” and go out way too fast. So, the first priority is to manage that adrenaline early in the race. Hopefully, you’ve done some strides prior to the race, and the goal should be to lock into that race pace practiced during the strides (as an aside, do your strides at 5k race pace). On the flip side, it is good to use that adrenaline to a certain extent. Typically you have a nice 8-10 sec window to go out hard that will use only a short burst ATP-based energy system. Basically, this means that you have a free 8-10 sec window of high speed that shouldn’t impact the rest of your race. Often, you can use this to get in a good position or out of the crowd so you don’t have to waste energy moving around. HOWEVER, this energy system can only be tapped into 1x in a 5k, so some people like to save it for later in the race. BOTTOM LINE: Manage your adrenaline and don’t lose the race in the first 1000m …
- Knucklehead example of not managing the adrenaline =
- In high school, I was typically the 5th runner on our cross country team. At one of our early season meets, we went to a larger invitational with some of the better teams from the region in the race. I did not manage my adrenaline well and found myself leading the race … not just for the first 1k but for the first 1 mile. “I felt good” was what I said to my coach after I dropped from 1st to about 100th. Epic fail!
- For the next 2-3k, it is all about composure. By this time you should be settled into race pace and a comfortably hard speed. If you didn’t go overboard at the start, the 2nd 1000m should be pretty easy – in fact, you might have to resist the urge to push the pace a little bit. Usually though, by 3k you are starting to realize that you are running fast. Lactate is accumulating and being used for fuel, and your body’s oxygen cannot keep up with clearing out the “junk” from around cells. So, your body starts to feel it, and your brain starts to let you know that you might want to think about slowing down. If your training is up to speed, and you truly are running at a reasonable pace, this part of the race is all about composure. Mantras can work wonders in this period of the race. “Stay strong”, “Good form”, “Lock it in”, “Stay steady”, “One step at a time” are all great examples of mantras you could use to help keep you right where you need to be. I always encourage runners at this point in the race to be introspective and focus on yourself, not what is happening around you.
- In the last 1000m (or sometimes 1 mile), it is time to start to let go of the reins. With only 1k to go, it is more like a last rep in a speed session than a race. Sometimes recalling that into memory can be nice. Mantras can continue to be beneficial; however, I often would use more urgent ones such as “Reel them in (to another competitor in front)”, “Finish strong”, “Pick it up”, or “Time to fly”. Be aware that it is common to lose form a bit in the last 1-2k of the race, so make sure to stay in a good upright position with strong hip extension and good step lengths guiding you home (see prior post on form recommendations). If you come upon a competitor, it is often a good time to “gap” them in the race – basically, if you pass someone, the goal is to surge to put a gap between you and that competitor. This is where sometimes saving that quick ATP energy system could be beneficial (however, there is no guarantee your body will use that system). “Gapping” can provide a nice mental boost for you because you don’t have to struggle right beside or just barely in front of someone else. Instead, you can feel confident in the lead you’ve established and then return to your typical pace knowing it will be a struggle for that competitor to catch you. And finally when you are 400m or so out, it is time to really unleash the speed. In almost every case, your body and mind can handle a hard 400m to finish out strong (especially if you have managed your adrenaline and stayed composed during the middle portion). Lock into that finish line, and let it rip!
So manage your ADRENALINE, keep your COMPOSURE, and have the TENACITY to finish strong! Hope you have a great race!
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