10 Steps to 5K Success (Preview)

10 can't-fail ways to master 5K (non-subscriber preview)


Posted: 2 July 2007
by Nick Morgan

The 5K is a perfect distance for the beginner looking to run their first race. But, given that it’s halfway between middle and long distance, it’s also a notoriously difficult distance for the experienced runner to master. Whichever camp you fall into, the following tips should prove invaluable.

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For Beginners

Have patience
A 2003 study by the University of Houston in the USA found that the top three reasons for quitting exercise programs are lack of time, lack of motivation and lack of progress. The key to beating all three is patience: don’t try and run too fast or too far too soon. It’s a common mistake to believe you should feel exhausted after every training session – this isn’t true and will only cause you to give up your schedule. Start by alternating walking and running and only go as far as feels comfortable, then stop. That way you won’t dread your next outing and knowing that you could push yourself harder will keep you motivated.

Plan and monitor your progress
An experiment by the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, USA, revealed that turning your training program into a formal contract, either with yourself or a third party, significantly increases the likelihood of you sticking to it. So, enter your 5K well in advance and mark the date clearly on your calendar. Commit yourself to the event and to a regular training schedule by making a pact with yourself or, preferably, another person. Research from Berlin University in Germany looking at recovering heart-attack patients found that those who kept an exercise diary increased their levels of physical activity by about 16 per cent. So monitor your progress, because seeing all the sessions you’ve done can be great for building confidence and keeping you going.

For Improvers

Personalise your training program
Remember that training schedules are designed as a guide for the ‘average’ runner. But each of us has our own particular running strengths and weakness, so it’s vitally important to work out what sort of runner you are and therefore what to emphasise in your training. A good way to do this is to note your personal best times from 1500m to marathon and compare them with equivalent times for different races using this race time calculator. If your PBs are comparatively better over the longer distances, then your training for the 5K needs to emphasise speedwork, whereas if it’s the other way round then a slower, aerobic base will be more important for you.

Conquer the fourth kilometre
Once you hit 4K the end is in sight, but maintaining pace between 3K and 4K is notoriously hard. Even Craig Mottram, Australia’s 2005 World 5,000m Bronze Medallist, admits he struggled with it early in his career. So how do you go about conquering this tricky phase? There are certain training sessions that’ll help, but a little visualisation may work too. First calculate what pace that fourth kilometre needs to be run in. Then, towards the end of longer runs or interval work throw in a 1K rep at exactly that pace and each time visualise it being the fourth kilometre of your race. By the time the race comes around you’ll feel like you’ve done the difficult part umpteen times before.


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5K schedule, training general, 5k
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