A 5K 101: How to go Faster?

Today I ran a 5k with the intention of getting a personal best. My fastest time is 21:49 minutes and unfortunately it still stands. My training has been pretty consistent these past 6 weeks so I thought it might be an achievable goal to get a new PB. Josh agreed to pace me and so we set off to Maidstone Park run. The course is fairly flat with just one hill on the finishing stretch so was a safe bet for running fast and I was aiming to maintain a pace of 4:20 min/km. Now, what I didn’t quite take into consideration is that I have actually been training for a half-marathon, so my running has mainly been focused on increasing distance and improving endurance rather than on pushing myself across the 5k distance. It was hard to say the least, 5k hurts and by midway I could feel my legs getting heavier and heavier. With the overload of progressive training I just don’t think I had it in me today, I still managed a time of 22:27 and was the first woman round the course, however, honestly, I was left feeling pretty disappointed.

 Although I may not have run faster today, I have however managed to improve my time by almost 8 minutes since 2017. If you’re pondering on how to improve your time then read on, I may not be an expert but from my own personal experience these are things that have helped me become a faster runner. What we need to remember about getting a faster 5k time is that it is all relative to your own running experience and fitness. Someone who is a beginner is going to see quicker improvements and probably able to knock off bigger chunks of time than say a professional runner. Elite runners for example are working on shaving seconds of their times over many hours of training. However, whatever your ability or experience as a runner there is always room to shake up your training and try some new techniques to get faster.

Speed

Now it goes without saying that if you want to run faster you need to train faster. You need to teach your body to hit the required pace of your target goal time. An easy way to do this is by incorporating speed work into your weekly routine. But what exactly does this mean? Well speed work is referring to a workout in which you are running intervals at near or faster than your target pace. Research suggests that speed work increases the production of myoglobin which helps to make your body more efficient at transport oxygen to your muscles as well as developing your fast twitch muscle fibres. This all sounds rather complicated, but your sessions definitely don’t need to be. An easy session I have started doing is 6x1km reps at slightly faster than 5k pace with 90secs rest in between

Hills

Similar to speed work, doing hill repeats is a great session to make you faster. In short, running on an incline requires more effort than flat and therefore your muscles have to work harder, which will help you build strength and power, all of which will make you a faster runner. You will be forced to adapt your running form by lifting your knees higher and driving your arms, as well as this running up hills has less impact on your joints so less risk of injury.

Pacing strategy

Pacing is almost as important as putting the hours into training, I’m particularly bad at this but I know that it definitely helps to have a strategy when you go into a race, running is just as mental as it is physical. Like most things having a plan is always a good idea, start off too fast and you’re bound to burn out. I have a Garmin watch which makes pacing easier as I can see if I’m running on target, however this isn’t 100% necessary. There are many other strategies that I utilise when running to make sure I’m pushing myself in the most effective way.

  • Start the run relaxed and don’t get to over excited at the start- I find this often leads to running at a pace I’m unable to uphold.
  • Try to maintain your form, even when it’s getting tough you will be more efficient if you are moving your body in the right way.
  • Running requires mental strength – remind yourself of how powerful and strong you are, that you can do this! My mind is often my biggest obstacle but by trying to tell myself that I’m capable of running fast means I’m more likely to.

Obviously, there are many other ways of improving your 5k time, but these are just some things that I have implemented and work pretty well for me. Just remember that progress doesn’t happen over night and getting a personal best isn’t the ultimate goal, it is important that once in a while we remember to run just because we enjoy it.

So well done for running this week PB or not!

Anna xx

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