Runners: How do you run a 5K?

Yes, I know, one foot in front of the other. Thank you very much. :rolleyes:

Seriously, I’ve run a handful of 5K’s (and other races) over the years, but I always feels like I’m lacking in the strategy department. So this is your chance to tell me in detail what you do on race day!

Eating: Do you get up extra early to eat? What do you eat - something light like a banana or a box of Crispy Creme donuts, hoping for some “jet propulsion” late in the race? What about dinner the night before?

Warm-up: How do you warm-up? A slow jog? I see some fellas running sprints - what’s up with that? Or do you do the inane group aerobics thing the “fun runs” like to put on?

Lining up: Do you move towards the front of the pack, hoping the faster runners will inspire you? Do you like to hang back, and enjoy the feeling of passing other runners later in the race (I traditionally do this, because I would hate to get in someone else’s way).

Actual running: Do you just hit the pedal from the get go and try to maintain a pace? How does that pace feel - is it ‘oh my god I’m gonna die’, or ‘ok I can keep this up for 3 miles’? Do you try to increase your pace during the race, or do you plan on fading away? Do you save a little for a sprint at the very end?

Give me all your 5K wisdom!

Chi-Dopers: I’m planning for the Bucktown 5K in September, so any course specific advice would be appreciated.

I don’t run 5Ks all that often now that I’m marathon training, but I have some general race things that I typically do.

The dinner the night before must NOT be anything too greasy or heavy. It doesn’t have to be anything special (please let me roll my eyes on carbo loading for a 5K), but it shouldn’t be anything that’s hard to digest or has potential to give me intestinal distress.

I eat the same thing for breakfast that I would if I’m in training. An energy bar more often than not.

I try to line up ACCORDING TO PACE! For God’s sake, if you’re not an elite runner you do not belong up at the front of the line. Some races have pace times marked to help you line up, but since most don’t, it’s really a guessing game. I basically try to make sure I’m in front of people with strollers and people who look like they are going to walk. I then try to find runners that have similar build to me - I’m not super fast, but I’m not super slow. This works…well enough, anyway.

I may or may not warm up. If I do, it’ll be a slow jog for a block or two, just to get the muscles moving.

For a 5K I try to keep my pace even - the pace I shoot for is the pace that I run when I’m doing speed training. I know what my breathing should be like at that pace, and I know I can keep it up for around 3 miles. Once I can see the finish line I’ll of course give as much of a sprint as I can, and maybe try to pass a few people who are close in front of me. Since I typically race longer distances, if I’m doing a 5K I just try to keep in mind “however much this hurts and however hard this feels, I only need to do it for 3.1 miles”. That tends to keep me from crapping out.

I have lots more race wisdom I follow for longer runs, but since my time on a 5K is in the neighborhood of 25 minutes or so, even if it’s going bad, it’s going to be over soon enough - no need to get too anal about it. I save my anal retentive ways for the races that last over an hour. :smiley:

I don’t know how much 5K wisdom I can provide here, but I have done my share of 5K races over the last 10+ years. This has been my race-day strategy, but the results depend ultimately on how much training I’ve done and how confident I feel on race day.

Eating: Absolutely, I like to eat at least 2 hours before the race so I don’t have to worry about getting stomach cramps. My pre-race meal of choice consists of a banana, bagel and coffee. Of course I drink lots of water the day before the race, as well as on race morning. As for dinner the night before, I usually like to have pasta & chicken, but I don’t know if it really makes much difference what you eat the night before.

Warm-Up: I don’t know what’s up with those sprinters either. I use this time to really focus on the race and imagine how I’m going to run. Before a 5K, I’ll do a slow jog of maybe one mile and stretch A LOT. It also helps me to listen to music while warming-up that inspires me to run fast. I tend to keep to myself so I don’t get distracted by talking to other runners. I save that for after the race.

Lining Up: This all depends on your pace. No matter what, the majority of runners will start off really fast - practically sprinting the first 200m or so - therefore, it’s important to get in position. You probably know all of this since you’ve done a lot of races. Several years ago, I could hold a 6 min. pace, so I would line up in front. Now I’m more of a 7-7:30 pacer, so I’ll hang a few rows back. I think 8 min. pacers should line-up in the middle, and 10 min+ towards the back. I wouldn’t worry about getting in someone else’s way, on the other hand, you don’t want to get stuck behind a pack of runners.

Actual Running: In my opinion, a 5K is an all-out run. Yep, I usually have the “oh my god, what the hell am I doing” thought in my head during the first mile because it’s natural to go out a little too fast in a 5K. Then I settle into my pace or “zone” and hold it for the rest of the race. I might pick up the pace a little towards the end, but I’m not a sprinter so I just go all out (if this makes sense).

I don’t know if this helps you at all, but I wish you the best of luck in your 5K! I’m doing a sprint triathlon this weekend that has a 5K run (after the swim & bike) and I hope to hold a 7:30 pace.

What scout said. Like him (her?), I usually run longer distances - half-marathons, marathons, but I sometimes run 5ks because, well, they’re fun and they’re a great way to break up the monotony of a marathon season. Plus, they’re more challenging for me as a runner sometimes than longer distances, because the idea is to run faster, not longer, which is something I often have trouble with.

As said earlier, you don’t need carb load the night before a 5K. Scientists are finding that, even for marathoning, carb loading may be unnecessary, so it’s definitely not necessary for a 5K. Also, try not to eat greasy food the night before. Just eat a normal, healthy dinner. If you eat too heavily or too much greasy food, it’ll probably give you the runner’s trots (code for the shits) on race day. Trust me, it’s not a pleasant feeling.

When you get up before the race, eat like you normally do before a training run if you run in the morning. If you have coffee, have a cup of coffee. There’s nothing worse than trying to make a personal record on a caffeine-withdrawal headache. I usually have a glass of water, a cup of coffee and a slice of toast. Whatever your routine, stick to it. Don’t try something new all of a sudden on race day morning - while you were training for the 5K, your body got used to a certain routine, so you know that’s what works, so you should stick to it.

Immediately before the race, you may want to warm up, even if you just jog a block or two. And if you don’t normally do sprints period, a pre-race warm up is not the time to start, so just do a slow, gentle workout 'cause you want to have plenty of steam to get you through three miles.

If this is your first race, get in the proper pace group, if you know your pace. Also, depending upon how fast you are and how long you’ve been running, you’ll probably finish within about a half hour or 40 minutes. And try not to go out too fast. If you start at a sprint, you’ll probably finish at a walk or crawl. Your pace should feel somewhat challenging, but you shouldn’t be killing yourself. A friend who does speedwork with me has me repeating “quick and smooth, quick and smooth” as I go 'round the track - that might be a useful mantra for you, too. I try to save a little bit of energy for a speed burst at the end of the race as well - even if it doesn’t particularly affect my time, it makes me feel good.

Good luck!


Actual Running: In my opinion, a 5K is an all-out run. Yep, I usually have the “oh my god, what the hell am I doing” thought in my head during the first mile because it’s natural to go out a little too fast in a 5K. Then I settle into my pace or “zone” and hold it for the rest of the race. I might pick up the pace a little towards the end, but I’m not a sprinter so I just go all out (if this makes sense).

My problem was/is (I think) I always raced with guys who were way better than me. On a real good day I could probably run a 5K in 22 minutes and change (real good days are getting few and far between :frowning: ). My running friends were stupidly fast, finishing in 16 to 18 minutes. So I think I always started way too fast and crapped out.

Also I probably sold myself a little short and lined up too far in back, and expended a lot of energy dodging around folks at the start.

I’m thinking I need to pick a reasonable pace and plan on sticking to it!

(her) :wink:

Sorry 'bout that!