There are so many local 5k races that take place across the world every weekend.
How do you maximize the most out of your mental and physical characteristics to get the level of results that you want?
Well, my expertise is more in the longer events and still consider my 5K personal record as, by far, my weakest at 15:19, I can still share some insights on how you can make improvements.
I am aiming to better that time at the upcoming Anthem 5K here in Louisville in March.
Everyone has different viewpoints of what an expert is.
I don’t qualify myself as an expert but have learned from some people in our running community who I consider to be world-class experts in the field of middle to long distance running.
My goal is to share in this post a few key points these people have shared with me over the years, as well as some of the gold nuggets I have learned that helped me to PR in other events.
1. Stronger emphasis on aerobic capacity training
The shorter the race the more anaerobic training is required.
Your local 5k races are going to ask a lot out of you but the great thing is they are short.
3.1 miles is over with before you know it but you also have less time to make mistakes.
It isn’t like a marathon where you can ease into the pace and strategize for a longer period of time.
The 5K involves getting your pace plan in check quickly.
If you go out too fast the first mile you will pay for it in the last 2.1 miles
The only way to get used to racing at the 5K distance is to focus on training at very high heart rates and training at your lactate threshold.
The key to maintaining paces regardless of distance is training the body to convert lactic acid back to energy and this cannot be taught by running easy.
2. Implement short to long fartlek sessions into your routine
The 5K demands efficiency at very high speeds so you have to train in such a way to not let lactic acid get the best of your physiological capability.
What do I mean?
The hydrogen ion, a component of lactic acid, is the real culprit for why we slow in races by filling our muscle fibers with excess protons which shut down our capability to maintain pace.
How do we get around this?
Training at very high intensities at varying paces.
Fartlek training is one of the best ways to create the buffering capability that we are looking for.
We want to train in such a way that we can finish the last mile of a 5K race faster then the first mile.
The only way to do this is high intensity training that will produce the ability for our hearts to not have to pump as much blood and recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers.
This, in turn, produces a more efficient oxygen carrying capacity within the body.
People do not slow in races because they are missing the capability to continue on at the same pace.
We, as athletes, can maintain pace longer by training a little longer at paces that exceed the pace we wish to hold in the race.
For example, if I am wishing to run 14:58 for 5K I know that I need to maintain a 4:49 per mile pace.
My current best for the distance (15:19) is 4:56 per mile pace so I know doing mile repeats on the track at 5:15 pace isn’t going to cut the cake.
A great workout which would train the anaerobic system properly would be 12 laps sprinting all out the straight aways and jogging the corners.
Sprinting is running at speeds that far exceed the pace we are aiming for at our local 5k races.
6x1mile on the track at 5:00 or faster per rep will create massive, positive changes.
If you do double the distance of the 5K race distance at 5 to 10 seconds per mile slower than goal race pace, you are going to create some massive physiological adaptations to get you closer to your goal.
Double the race distance at near goal race pace will make goal 5K race pace feel much more manageable.
3. Increase long run pace
Racing faster at local 5k races or any other distance can be dramatically enhanced by increasing the pace you conduct your long runs.
Lisa Rainsberger, the last American female to win the Boston Marathon, coached me for 3 years and one of the biggest reasons I got under the 2:20 marathon barrier was something she preached,
Nate, you ran 2:19 not on account of speed work but due to other factors such as hill sprints, faster long runs and speed sessions. It was a combination of them all that made the difference.
You can’t help but raise your level of commitment and dedication when you are around successful people.
4. Monitor your associations
How does the people we surround ourselves with make us run faster?
It can be the difference between average and extraordinary, winning and losing.
You are the average of the 5 people you associate with – Jim Rohn, entrepreneur
While I was a member of the Army World Class Athlete Program there was no time for average.
The expectations to excel were constantly present and there were athletes I trained with who were much better than I.
We all can get comfortable depending on the environment we choose to reside in.
Are your family or friends inspiring you to compete at a higher level or are they taking you away from the dreams and goals you have?
Ensure to surround yourselves with athletes that are better than you, not just those that you can outrun.
If you are a 19 minute 5k runner, how is a 25-minute 5K performer going to push you to the brink in track sessions?
It is important to train with all calibers of athletes as everyone has a story and can help better us, regardless how fast they run.
My purpose in writing this particular tip is to get used running with athletes that are training at a level that you aspire to.
Find out what they do and emulate it, tweak your training so that you get results.
If you are 19 minute 5K runner and you know of someone who has run 17 minutes ask that individual how they train.
What works best for them and then adjust your training at the paces you have as goals.
See what results you get.
If you fail, good, remember the most successful are not afraid of it and realize that failure is a part of the process and all too often, the best believe in delayed gratification.
The best don’t quit when they run into roadblocks.
If you want to succeed, fail faster – Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers
We live in a culture, at least here in the United States, where failure is frowned upon.
We’re taught in our school system that an F means you don’t measure up to standards.
We re-train, study harder and pass but most often times, forget what we were taught shortly after.
School is important but Jim Rohn said it beautifully,
Formalized education will make you a living, self-education will make you a fortune
How many of the world’s most successful people never finished high school?
Have you ever heard of Henry Ford?
The man never finished 6th grade but he followed principles that the A students did not and changed the world.
Working smarter is often overlooked by its big brother, working harder.
Do not get me wrong, aspire to get good grades and get a high school or college education, but also keep in mind sometimes the biggest prerequisites for true success are sometimes not taught.
Associations, people and groups that push us past our self-imposed limitations, will help us all compete at a higher level at our local 5k races.
What Happens If I Don’t Have Runners To Push Me?
You rely on yourself and your own God-given capability.
I ran my fastest marathon ever training alone.
I was the lone male marathoner in the Army WCAP program when I ran 2:19.
There was no one at the track other than myself and a Boston Marathon Champion timing me when I was preparing to go after my goal of breaking the 2008 USA Olympic Marathon Trials “B” standard time of 2:22:00.
I was a 2:40:02 marathoner at that time and was asking of myself to cut over 22 minutes off my time to achieve my goal.
You will bring out the best in yourself at local 5k races or any other race distance when you make it your mission to succeed.
Your mindset is everything and is the healthier choices you make.
You have to train aggressively for the 5k distance because it is such a short race that requires a higher oxygen demand on the body.
In addition, you also have to monitor your recovery to ensure you are adapting to the stresses you are placing on your body.
Running hard every day because you are specializing in a shorter, faster race will not produce results unless you are just as disciplined at knowing when to slow down to recover.
Everyone knows how to work hard.
It is what we have been taught.
We work hard for money but don’t know that money can be attracted to us whether we work or not.
This isn’t what we have been taught by parents, school or those we associate with.
The truth is reserved for the searchers -Jim Rohn
Are you seeking the truth with your racing and lifestyle?
The truth will set you free – Christ
We can run faster by training in a specific way.
Train sporadically with no plan, plan on getting sporadic average results.
It takes having a plan and relying on yourself, ultimately, that will carry you across your local 5k races finish line in a quality time.
5. Have fun
You produce better results when you are relaxed and enjoy what you are doing.
I have been working on this website for over 3 years and been competing as an athlete for over 23.
The enjoyment I get out of pushing my physiological and mental limits, as well as producing value for my readers propels me forward.
You absolutely have to love what you do because any sane person will quit – Steve Jobs
If you are going to run faster in local 5k races you have to not take things too seriously.
There is a time for focus and that is on the track or roads, after the workout, stop worrying about if you are doing enough.
Have faith in your plan of action.
There is so much power in this.
You have to act as if what you want is a reality in your life already.
Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours – Christ
In Delphi, Greece there is an ancient monument with the inscription on it that states
The power for us to achieve our dreams and goals begins internally.
Have you ever heard that our inner world creates our outer world?
Your thoughts, what you read, listen to and the people you associate yourself with make the difference.
I was coached by a Boston Marathon champion and repeat Chicago Marathon champion(1988-1989).
We worked well together but we also knew how to laugh about things.
Surround and learn from professionals, people that do not think and perform at the average level and you will get above average results.
Have fun with what you do, don’t let the process of getting the results become too labor intensive
Far too many of us, myself included over the years, self-sabotage our performances because we are too caught up in results and worrying.
We second guess our capability and lose the joy of the journey.
Never lose the joy in the process and you will compete more efficiently in your future local 5k races.