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How Anyone Can Run A Faster 5K

BY: Andy Baddeley
29 April 2023

Whether you’re a seasoned runner or a beginner, running a faster 5K is an achievable goal with the right strategy and approach. As a former professional athlete and holder of the parkrun world record of 13:48, I’ve picked up some tips that have significantly improved my 5K times. Here are my top five tips, which are applicable to anyone, regardless of their current 5K time.

1. Warm-Up: Don’t Skimp

Before attempting to break your personal best, it’s essential to prepare your body adequately. A proper warm-up is non-negotiable if you’re going to push your body to its limit. Three warm-up exercises I recommend are dynamic leg swings, lateral lunges, and A skips. These exercises primarily target your glutes, hamstrings, and hips, preparing your body for the exertion ahead. After the exercises, a 10-minute jog will get your body temperature and heart rate up. Finish the warm-up with two 30-second efforts at a hard pace, a technique backed by strong science, known as VO2 kinetics.

2. Determine Your Race Pace

Before starting your 5K, it’s crucial to have a clear idea of your race pace. This pace should be challenging but sustainable. One method is to do a predictor workout at the beginning of your training or partway through to gauge your progress. Use your current 5K time as a starting point, set a realistic goal for improvement, and then adjust your race pace based on your training sessions’ outcomes.

3. Craft a Training Plan

Once you’ve established your race pace, create a balanced training plan that includes runs above and below your target pace. A well-rounded plan will improve your overall fitness and give you a feel for your race pace. Include long runs, easy runs, speed sessions, and threshold runs. Your longest run of the week should be more than 5K. This helps make the 5K distance feel more manageable.

4. Invest in the Right Kit

While there’s no magic equipment to knock five minutes off your 5K time, the right gear can help. Carbon-plated racing shoes can make a significant difference. They not only help you run faster but aid recovery from hard sessions too. If carbon-plated shoes aren’t your thing, focus on finding a pair that fits well and provides the right support.

5. Utilise Strides

Strides are a secret weapon in improving your 5K time. These are short bursts of fast-paced running (about 9 out of 10 effort) for around 100 meters, usually at the end of a run. Strides help you focus on good running form even when fatigued, making them an excellent tool for ‘stealth speed work’.

In conclusion, running a faster 5K isn’t about sudden drastic improvements; it’s a gradual process that involves meticulous planning, disciplined training, and the right mindset. Whether you’re looking to shave a few seconds or a few minutes off your 5K time, these tips can help you reach your goal.

What tips would you add? Let us know in the comments below.

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