I Have No Idea How to Race (Need Tips!)

It’s Wednesday, hallelujah! This week at work has been kind of hectic and I am looking forward to the weekend and my 5K.

Last night I wanted to get a speed work session in but my legs were still feeling a little tired from Sunday’s 12-miler.  I  ended up just doing a moderately paced 3 miles instead. While I was trying to visualize what my 5K will look like, I realized I have no idea how to race.

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 10.56.28 PM

This will be my first 5K since last May…  back then I was just running 5Ks for fun and to reach the finish line. I’m obviously not racing to place or anything out of the realm of possibility, but I do want to push myself. Since I don’t want to risk injury before the Princess Half on the 23rd I won’t be going all out but I will be testing my limits to a point.

My running coach and I will be having a phone chat on Friday to discuss what I’m going to do…

In the mean time I started reading a couple of articles on 5K racing strategy.

One in Running World documents a study that shows you should go out FAST in mile 1. It says that even if you slow down later you’ll still end up with a faster finishing time than if you did not go out fast. The article basically says we often start slower than we really need to so pushing ourselves in mile 1 will help us reach our full potential.

On the flip size, an article on the Active website says that we should start out slow and build up:

  • Mile 1 – you should be able to talk
  • Mile 2 – you should hear your breath, but shouldn’t be gasping
  • Mile 3 – kick it up and try to catch runners ahead of you
  • .1 – go for it

The Active method is pretty much the one I use for all of my runs (with the exception of my long run) so it would be easy to use it for the 5K. However, the idea of taking it easy during one full mile of a 3 mile race seems like not the best idea?

The starting line is about 1 mile from my condo so I’m thinking about jogging there as a warmup so that I’m more primed to hit a strong pace in mile one.

On most long runs it takes me a good 2.5 miles to really get into it which obviously isn’t great in a 5K, so I think the warmup will help.

Maybe I should just stop stressing about it because it’s just a 5K and I should focus on having fun and running another event with Adam (even though he’ll probably finish 10+ minutes ahead of me)!

What do you think? What’s your best 5K racing tip?

Do you do a warmup jog before your 5Ks?



  1. February 12, 2014 / 7:54 am

    I think you should jog there and then try to negative split, like the second piece of advice you found. Finish Strong. But what do I know? Run like a champ and don’t worry too much about it!

    • February 12, 2014 / 11:06 pm

      You know so much, I really trust your running advice! I think negative splitting is probably the best strategy if for no other reason than I know there’s a 99% chance I’ll finish feeling strong. A mental win at the 5K will really carry over to the half the following weekend.

  2. February 12, 2014 / 8:47 am

    Personally I’ve always tried to start slower and then end speedy but it usually happens that my first mile is the fastest and it has helped my time but slowed me down at the end. Make it your goal to run the entire thing without any walk breaks, start small at first. I’ve gotten to the point that I like placing too much to slow down and practically kill myself at 5ks.

  3. cheryl
    February 12, 2014 / 9:30 am

    I would definitely jog there. I would start strong…If you know your mile times it’s easier, then focus on negative splits after that first mile. A 5K is one you want to be warmed up and ready to go, because if you wait for your body to ease in, it’s over. You will do great!

    • February 12, 2014 / 11:08 pm

      Thanks so much for the great advice. I think the warmup jog to the starting line will help a lot. I might as well take advantage of being able to get there on foot since I have to drive to most races!

  4. February 12, 2014 / 9:37 am

    I’m terrible at 5K’s because I am so used to doing mid-distance races. Usually, I just go as hard and as fast as I can and pray for a PR.

    If it takes you 2.5 miles to get into the groove – do close to that before the race. If you’re worried you’ll use up all your energy, maybe don’t. This is a tough one :(!

    Good luck on the race!!

    • February 12, 2014 / 11:09 pm

      I’m so with you, I’m trying to figure out why I signed up for a 5K since I definitely prefer longer distances!

  5. February 12, 2014 / 10:07 am

    All I run is 5K, and usually when your at the starting line the adrenalin starts up and when the gun sounds you usually run faster than you planned. I have to slow myself down in the first mile so I dont get gassed. I would say you definatly need to jog before if you need 2-3 miles to get warmed up. I usualy only need about a quarter mile to warm up so I just jog around the base camp. Good luck and remember to have fun!


    • February 12, 2014 / 11:11 pm

      I’ve definitely been on both sides of the spectrum in the past. I distinctly remember one 5K where I went out wayyyy too fast in mile 1 and completely blew up before I hit mile 3. That stunk a lot… but I’ve also taken it easy and ended knowing I left a lot out on the course. Hopefully this time, as a more experienced runner (though not a racer) I’ll be able to find a happy medium!

  6. February 12, 2014 / 2:04 pm

    For a 5K, I pretty much run hard the entire time. It sucks, but I know it’ll be over with in less than 30 minutes, so I just push really hard.

    • February 12, 2014 / 11:13 pm

      That’s the beauty and the scary part of a 5K – it’s over fast (hopefully)!

  7. February 12, 2014 / 3:30 pm

    I have only ever run one 5k but I did have a big goal for it, so I did the same thing you did- googled racing tips. I had no idea how to race a 5k!! This is what I did… NOTE: This is what ended up working for me, don’t know how it would work for others!

    1. I rested THREE FULL DAYS before the race. I know that sounds crazy, but when I do this, I can FLY. (Well, my version of fly!)
    2. I warmed up about a mile. Very easy.
    3. I positioned myself in the race pack where I needed to be. This was a very, very small 5k so I needed to be ON the start line. Then two kids got in front of me… but I couldn’t do anything about it because they were the great grandchildren of the man the race was named after haha! So I ended up having to run around them on the grass.
    4. I went for it the first mile. I read that this was the best strategy for a PR, so that’s what I did. Since I rested for 3 days, it was easy to get in a pretty fast first mile.
    5. I tried to keep just a little above my goal pace for the rest of the race, except whatever was sort of downhill because I figured I could pick up some time there.
    6. Last long stretch I kicked it into gear as much as I could, but I was honestly pushing myself hard the whole race that I just could not physically go much faster.

    Ahhh memories. I CAN’T WAIT TO FREAKING RUN AGAIN!!!!!

    • February 12, 2014 / 11:16 pm

      You are the best, thank you for sharing! You WILL be running again soon, you’re healing so fast (just like the way you run)!

  8. February 13, 2014 / 7:02 am

    Although I try to listen to the “start slow” advice, I find when I do a warmup pre-race (like running 1/2 mile) and then book it from the starting line, my times really do improve. So I guess I’m turning into a “start out fast” racer!

    You’re going to have a blast!!