You don’t race enough 5k’s
5k road races are not just for beginners. Of course 5k’s are a great entry point into racing — for most runners, it’s the first race distance they do. But I know too many runners that leave 5k races behind as they get more experienced.
5k road races serve some incredibly important purposes for experienced runners, too. So, if it’s been awhile since you’ve lined up for a 5k, it’s time to take advantage of these benefits (no matter what your experience level is).
Benefit #1: You learn how to hurt
Sounds pretty great, right?? Well, it may not be fun, but it sure is helpful.
Racing an all-out 5k is more intense than almost any speed workout you’ll be able to do on your own. The competitive atmosphere, the people helping push you, and the short distance means that you will be experiencing more pain and stress than you would in a workout.
makes your mind more willing to push hard
This experience can have big positives for your training. In addition to giving you a good workout, the exposure to that kind of intensity and pain will help your mind and body learn how to push harder in future workouts and races.
Your mind’s first instinct is always self-preservation. But experiencing intense situations teaches your mind what it can handle. That makes your mind more willing to let your body push hard in the future — allowing you to train and race harder!
Benefit #2: You can test new tactics
If you’re experienced racer, you probably have a set way that you like to race. But just because you’ve always done something doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t experiment.
Maybe you want to practice negative splitting, or you want to start harder and see if you can hang on. Or maybe you need practice on hills and knowing how hard to push them.
5k races are the ideal time to test new race tactics and see how your body responds. Unlike longer races, if your new tactic blows up big-time, it’s a relatively short recovery before your next workout or race.
And since you can race 5k’s more frequently than longer distances you have more chances to fine-tune things. There’s no better distance to take a chance and see what happens!
Benefit #3: You can gauge progress
Since there is usually at least one local 5k every weekend, it’s a great distance to gauge your progress as you work through your training plan. Again, the short distance is helpful here as you can include several in your training program without having to plan a large amount of recovery days afterwards before you get back to training.
Consistently running 5k’s throughout your training program will help you gauge strengths and weaknesses in your current training, and will also help you set appropriate training paces for your other training runs and workouts.
Scheduling one every 4-6 weeks will give you enough time to actually improve your fitness between races and get an accurate idea of your progress.
Benefit #4: You can use it as a workout
There are several ways that you can use a 5k as a workout in your training plan.
Since 5k road races are a controlled environment, they’re a great time to get a workout in. Running a 5k at tempo pace allows you to not have to worry about stopping for stop lights, and to have liquids and other support out on the course, as well.
If you need some motivation to get a hard workout in, doing a 5k can easily be a substitute for a hard repeat workout. Having people around will definitely make it more fun and should making get a hard effort in easier than running laps on the track by yourself.
Or, if you want to get creative, you can schedule a hard 5k at the end of a longer run. Doing a 6-10 mile run before the race and then running hard is great practice for teaching your body how to work hard when it’s tired and getting ready for your goal race.
About Coach Carl
Coach Carl is a USA Track & Field Level 2 endurance coach who works with runners of all ability levels to reach their goals. He has been featured in Runner’s World, Women’s Health, Men’s Fitness, and Competitor. For information on his coaching services, click here.