Run Your First 5K: Race Plan

From warm-up to the finish line, attack your 5k with this step by step race plan

The team at RunnersConnect lays out everything you need to know about successfully racing your first 5K.

Warm-Up for a 5k
You should arrive at the race about 60 minutes (or more) prior to the start time. This will allow you to settle down, find the bathrooms and get in a good warm-up.

Run for a very easy 15 minutes, just like you do before all your hard runs, 10 minutes of easy stretching and then 3 x 30-seccond strides starting about 35 to 45 minutes before the race.

Overall Strategy
You should focus on running a patient and conservative race over the first mile and then attacking the course for the last mile.

Interestingly, every world record from the 1500 meters to the marathon has been set running negative splits — running the first half of the race slightly slower than the second half. This means that if you want to ensure that you run the fastest time possible, you don’t want to run the 800 or mile too fast.

With the adrenaline and competition, this can be difficult and will require focus. Luckily, you’ve had lots of practice with the pacing, so use your internal clock and your effort to measure.

First Mile (First 1-2 KM)
You should target a pace around 5 to 10 seconds per mile slower than your goal race pace the first mile. Use the pace calculator below to determine the exact pace.

Remember that it will feel “slow” and you might be getting passed by people you want to beat. While it is mentally difficult, this is by far the most effective way to run a race and you’ll tear by those people during the last mile.

Second Mile (KM 2-4)
After the first mile, begin to increase your pace and effort into the goal pace range. Be aware that you need to increase your effort to maintain the same pace or run faster as the race goes on. As you get more tired, it gets more difficult to keep running faster, so you have to try harder.

Also, start looking around and engage the competitors around you. Find a group that is running your pace or a little faster and latch on. Try to relax and keep your focus on staying with the group, not your splits. Use the group and the people around you to help you relax and take your mind of the distance ahead.

At 1.5 miles the pace is going to start getting hard; it’s part of racing the 5k, so prepare for it mentally. Keep your mind and body relaxed. Look within yourself and focus on you. Think confident thoughts and repeat confident mantras to yourself; “I am fast, this feels good” or “I am strong”. Every time you feel tired or feel the pace slip, repeat to yourself that you need to refocus and concentrate and get back on pace.

Final Mile (Final KM)
With one mile to go, keep your head up and start to try and catch people in front of you. Pick one person and focus solely on reeling them in, nothing else. As you pass them, surge and put your eyes on the next person and repeat. Imagine tying a fishing line to their back and reeling them in. Kick hard the last 800 meters and finish fast!

Click here to see your target race splits by entering your goal time in the RunnersConnect race split calculator.

For more training advice, check out the RunnersConnect 5K training resources page.

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