Run your first (or fastest) 5K

A5K is the perfect target for new runners to set their sights on. It doesn’t require months and months of hard training and the distance is manageable and not too daunting. The goal could be simply just to cross that finish line or to achieve a particular time goal. 

Even if you have earnt your first medal, many runners want to jump up in race distance too quickly. Why not become completely comfortable with the distance before trying to move up? It’ll increase your fitness and your confidence to progress.

Finish, then finish better

The primary goal for your first 5K is to finish – with a smile on your face. Begin with a good Couch to 5K programme, so many new runners will jump straight in, resulting in either injury or giving up. If you build up slowly, you’ll do it well – don’t be afraid of walking. Once you are able to run consistent easy runs of 20-30 minutes you will start to build a good base of stamina. This will be more than enough to get you over that 5k finish line. 

For a time goal, you will need to hone your 5K fitness. First, make one of your weekly runs longer. Train in minutes rather than by miles. Increasing by small increments minimises the injury risk. Build your ‘long run’ to 8-10km. This helps develop your aerobic system further and boost confidence about covering the distance. 

Secondly, add a challenge to one of your weekly runs – interval or hill training. Hills develop leg strength and cardiovascular system without adding too much musculoskeletal stress. High-intensity intervals improve speed endurance (ability to hold a fast pace over distance). 

Running well

Everyone has their own running style, but there is some common ground when it comes to good technique: strong posture (think tall, but relaxed), quick and light feet (a high ‘cadence’ or stride rate) and avoid over striding. Try performing high knee, fast feet and skipping drills to improve running form. Establishing the correct movement patterns helps them become second nature. So, you won’t be wasting energy on inefficient movement.

Good running technique reduces injury risk, but adding regular strength training will lower the chances further. Try variations of lunges, squats, dead lifts, planks and crunches.

Countdown to race day

As race day approaches, wind down your training to ensure you wake up feeling raring to go. But don’t stop altogether – a couple of short runs will keep you ticking over and help calm some of your nerves. Skip the prerace pasta overload. Five kilometres isn’t far enough to require carb-loading the night before. Eating too much may make you wake up feeling sluggish or full. Just eat your usual evening meal.

Lightening the load

Stick to the tried and tested and think lightweight. Many new runners are self-conscious and wear far too much. They’ll wear baggy gear to hide in, tie jackets around their waists, and carry phones and drinks bottles. It weighs them down physically and mentally. Flappy clothes will also increase wind resistance and may distract you. As for that bottle? You don’t need any fluid for a 5K – and certainly not a sports drink. You will not get dehydrated, provided you have drunk a normal amount of fluid in the day before the race. 

If you have any questions or would like more tips or advice feel free to get in touch. 

Alex Cann

AC Running and Fitness