Many many people often tackle a 5K race as their first running event. I know I did. I weighed 225 pounds and participated in a 5K with my local Weight Watchers in April, 2010. I loved it. It was hard, it was challenging, and I felt motivated and inspired to keep losing weight so I could get better, faster, stronger.
I continued to work hard, run, cycle, lift weights, and did my 2nd 5K in February, 2011. I trained for that race for 10 months. I loved running and really my running career peaked in November, 2011 with the Women’s 1/2 Marathon in St. Pete which I finished in 2:17.
During this time I really focused on race specific fitness. What does that mean exactly??
As the name implies, race-specific training means training to the specific physiological demands of your race distance. While this might sound simplistic, the difference between the physiological demands of commonly run race distances can be quite different. Certainly, there is some overlap between distances in close proximity, like the 5k and 10k, but there is a large difference between the specific demands of the marathon and half marathon. Understanding these differences and applying the correct workouts is the founding principle behind race-specific training.
We’re focusing on race specific fitness for a 5K.
Race-specific training should start anywhere from 4-8 weeks out from your goal race. And again, I’m looking at April, so there is plenty of time! The precise starting date will depend on your experience level, training load, and how quickly you generally respond to workouts (some runners respond and adapt to training quickly, i.e. they “get in shape quickly” while others need longer build-ups). I’m thinking I’m going to need the full 8 weeks because while I am in shape, I am more of a CrossFitter rather than a runner.
In a 5k specific training phase, your goal should be to improve your speed endurance – your ability to maintain a fast 5k pace for the entire race. You’re more than capable of running much faster than your current 5k pace for one mile already, so you need to work on holding that pace for 3.1 miles. My favorite starting workout is:
12 x 300 meters at 5k pace with 100 meter jog rest in 30-35 seconds (“jog” 100 meters in 30-35 seconds as your “rest”).
Once you get comfortable with this workout, you can run 12-16 x 400 or 600 meters at 5k pace with a 100m jog rest.
My current 5K pace is S.L.O.W. but that’s okay. That is the goal of the training. To get faster.