How to race a 5K

How to race a 5K

Let’s talk 5K race strategy. The easiest way to take command of your race is to have a plan. These top tips come from our new book and work for both “real” races with thousands of humans swirling around you, but also for a virtual race like U&R Worldwide 5K (two days to go!). Practice your tactics on Sunday, it’s a great opportunity to experiment!

Don’t forget to take a pic of your race and post it to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #upandrunning5k.

At the starting line

  • Do a ten minute warm up shortly before lining up. Try a fast walk, total body stretch and even a few skips to get your feet activated. Running for a few minutes might help relieve some of the pre-race tension.
  • Most 5K races have a mass start. If you’re running, many first-time racers underestimate themselves and line up at the very back. Choose a spot somewhere in the middle. If you’re in the front with the pro runners you risk getting mowed over, or swept away in the excitement and going out to fast. If you line up at the back of the pack you’ll find yourself fighting through the crowds of walkers, strollers and groups.

#1  Tip – Whatever you do, START SLOW!

You’re ready to go, the music is blasting over the speakers and you feel the adrenaline running through your veins. This is the trickiest part of the race because when they fire that starting gun you need to be in total control and begin by… running slow. Going out too fast is the number one mistake that runners make, whether running a 5km or a marathon. It will be tempting to rush. Everybody around you will be going wild, running as fast as they can to get ahead of the crowd. You could be tricked into feeling like this is your special day to be super fast!

Choose your strategy

  • If you’re a walker – check out our 5K tactics for walkers in this post.
  • If you’re an experienced runner who normally runs longer races – we shared our tactics for making the most of a 5K this post.
  • If you’re in the middle of the UP AND RUNNING book‘s 8 week plan – Free Form Run it! Have fun and listen to your body. Run whenever you feel like running and slow down or switch back into walking whenever you want. Anything goes!
  • If you’ve finished the 5k training plan or generally run at the 5K level here are two options:
    • Run the whole race. Take a look at your average 1km times over the past few weeks of training and decide your 5km target time. The most important element is to not go under your average time in the first kilometre of the race. Once the crowds have thinned out and you have more space to run, get your breathing under control. At that point decide if you want to speed up a little or simply cruise along to the finish. Remember: you’re always in time to speed up during that last kilometre, but only if you start out at a manageable speed.
    • Mix walking and running. There is no shame in walking, especially when it’s a part of your plan. The key is to decide ahead of time how often and how long your walking breaks will be. For a 5K we suggest a one minute walk for every 1km, starting with the walk. If you have the first minute to get settled into the race you’ll be running through the finish line. During your walk segments concentrate on getting control of your breath and keeping a nice pace. You can also stretch your arms above your head to relieve any tension in shoulders and arms.

During the race

  • Use other runners to help you get to the finish line. Pick someone out ahead of you (bright coloured shirts are the easiest) and concentrate on slowly gaining on them… then pass. It not only helps pass the time but it can be a great psychological boost.
  • Whether you decide to walk or run up hills, the approach is the same: slow down slightly, shorten your stride length, get into a rhythm and use your arms to push up to the top.
  • Finish the race strong, even if it’s the last 100 metres. It’s always a positive feeling to give your best at the end of the race and you’ll take that with you in the weeks after your event.

Up & Running Worldwide 5KAfter your race

  • Celebrate like crazy! No coulda, shoulda, woulda; just happiness and joy about accomplishing what you set out to do. Training for, then running a race is a huge achievement and you deserve to feel good about that.
  • Now’s the time to get something to drink and if you feel like treating yourself to something special, go ahead. Just remember there’s no need to “refuel” for the 5k distance. Don’t go overboard!
  • Find your bag with your fresh change of clothes and get out of your sweaty race gear as soon as you can. You’ll feel better and have less of a chance of getting cold when you stop moving around.

Best of luck and enjoy your 5K!

The Up & Running Worldwide 5K is on Sunday 8 February, in celebration of the publication of UP AND RUNNING, our beginners running book. Click here to find out more about how this virtual race works and the great prizes you can win!