After three miles of running, you turn the corner and lift your head to see the finish area just ahead. The cheer of the crowd urges you to sprint down the final stretch. Your legs feel like lead, your chest heaves with effort and your breathing is labored, but you're focused on one thing: finishing strong.
You cross the finish line with arms raised and a smile on your face, and you finally understand just how fun racing can be.
It's not long before you decide to race again.
Only this time, you want to be faster—maybe set a new personal record or try for a coveted place on the podium. You decide to train a little harder and race a little smarter.
Here are five ways to make your next 5K race the best one yet.
Adding a weekly long run can really improve your fitness. Not only will it give you more confidence to tackle the 5K distance, but it will also improve your cardiovascular system and strengthen your running-specific muscles and connective tissues.
Long runs should be done at an easy, conversational pace. Try to work your way up to six or seven miles in preparation for your race.
If you want to run faster in the race, you have to run faster while you're training. Some runners like to run repeats at the local track, and others like fartlek workouts. Whatever method you choose, these workouts will help you improve your speed.
All it takes is one day a week, focused solely on speed, to see your average pace improve.
Warm Up Before the Race
Many new runners skip the warm-up process, but it is crucial for a faster 5K, since your body needs to be loose before it can operate at full capacity. It usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes of easy running to warm up sufficiently for a 5K race. Look around at your next race, and you'll see that the top runners all arrive at the starting line glistening with perspiration.
Determine your goal race pace and try to stick to it consistently. Going out too fast or even too slow are rookie mistakes. You can learn the feel of your 5K race pace by running shorter distances at that same pace on your fast training days. Try to hit your pacing goal for the first and second mile, and then give the last mile everything you've got.
You can learn a lot by listening to the sound of your breathing. If you find yourself gasping or running fewer than four strides per breath (two strides as you breathe in, two strides as you breathe out), you're in trouble. That's okay if you're in the last mile of the race, but try to stay under control before that. Focus on filling your lungs completely and breathing out fully.
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Find your next race.