Thanks to longer days and sweltering temps, summertime 5Ks are especially appealing to runners. In fact, there are short course racing opportunities practically every weekend, giving beginners and elites alike plenty of chances to tune their speed before the fall racing season.
If you've got your eye on a 5K PR this summer, read on for our tips.
Choose the Right Race
Even if the calendar still technically says spring, now is the time to scope out local race options. Look for early morning or nighttime races to avoid the heat of the day.
You may also want to check out the course profile. Flat terrain with few turns usually results in the fastest times, but if you love hills, choose a course that plays to your strengths.
And consider zeroing in on a few races, instead of just one—the great thing about the 5K is that you can race the distance frequently. Plus, if you wake up with a stomach bug or a heat wave descends on race day, having a back-up plan will take the pressure off.
Start Training Now
If you're looking to PR, you'll want to register for a race at least a few weeks (preferably months) in advance. There's nothing like a race on the calendar when it comes to your training motivation.
Once you've been running consistently, you can start varying your workouts, adding in strength and cross training to improve your overall athleticism. And just because you're only racing 3.1 miles, doesn't mean you should skip a weekly long run. Try to start at four miles and work your way up. The longer runs will help you build endurance for race day.
For new runners, the Couch to 5K® mobile app is a great place to start for training advice. You can download it here.
Add Speed Workouts
Part of your training plan should also include speedwork, specifically strides, a few times a week. Strides are accelerations of about 100 meters in which you start slowly, run close to your maximum speed for the middle portion and then gradually decelerate. Strides should take you about 20 to 40 seconds, depending on your fitness level.
If you're new to speedwork, try adding four to six strides at the end of one or two runs each week.
When you’re ready for more advanced workouts, some classics include:
- 12 x 400 meters at 5K pace with a 200 meter recovery jog in between
- 3 x 1 mile repeats at 5K pace with 400 meter recovery jog in between
These are also perfect to do on the track.