How To Race a 5K

5Ks kick my distance runner butt. It is the dreaded, personally less than successful distance of my high school cross country years. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being on the team but I never trained properly prior to the season and, thus, never performed up to my full potential during the season.

I think my personal best was somewhere in the 22 minute range. Just to give you perspective, I run about 7:40-7:55 miles for 7 miles now. When I race 5Ks, I run 6:45-7:00 without actually training for the shorter distance. My thirty-i@nr*tsld#kh year-old self runs faster than my 16 year-old self. Yeah, but I feel like I want to vomit the entire time.

This is probably the last time I raced a 5K. I was a little excited. To be fair, it was in Yankee Stadium.

That’s how those shorter distances go.

You run your guts out for 20-something minutes (or less) and then it’s over. Shorter distances are a completely different beast and racing them requires a strategy all its own.

#1.  Warm up

For most of us, the first several miles of a marathon/half marathon serve as warm-up enough and it’s usually too crowded to run fast at the start of any race. However, in order to reach your full speed during a short distance, you have to warm-up for at least a mile. Why? It’s gets your heart rate going, your muscle fibers twitching and responding, and allows for you to race right out of the gate.

Middle miles racing on the Warning Track of Yankee Stadium. Not bad.

#2.  Strategize

  • Run your first mile at a comfortably fast pace that you practiced during your tempo runs. No faster, no slower.
  • The second mile is where you push a little harder, find that next gear. Don’t kill it just yet, but get those legs moving a tiny bit faster. You want to negative split your miles, but they don’t have to be drastic changes in order to make a big difference.
  • The third mile is where you lay the hammer down. You use your arms to make your legs go faster and increase the speed of your foot turnover. Start picking off people in front of you.
  • When you are a half-mile out, rock it. Get to that place where you are pushing as hard as you can and leave it all out on the course.

Arms up! Big finish! (not really the finish, but it's a fun picture)

#3.  Cool down

You’ve just run really hard and your heart rate and blood pressure are sky-high. You MUST at least walk around, but preferably jog around, after you’ve caught your breath. This will help to loosen your legs and guide your heart rate to a safer place. If you stop, lie down, stand still or otherwise cease moving immediately following high-intensity exercise, you run the risk of having your blood pool and passing out.

Are any of you running shorter distances in the near future? What’s your game plan for these races versus the longer distances? Does your training schedule change at all? Tell me all about it!

Now go out and run.

Better Than The Alternative Tuesdays (On A Wednesday…oops): Fall

I thought yesterday was Wednesday. All day. I didn’t miss class or work or anything, but having Chemistry class on Mondays and Wednesdays all year last year really screwed me up for this Tuesday/Thursday Physics schedule. I should have known. I saw my Tuesday clients but, alas, I asked each and every one of them, “Is today Wednesday?” and promptly blogged as if it were. Thus, Better Than The Alternative Tuesdays is on Wednesday this week. *sigh*

Upward and onward.

Marine Corps Marathon finish line is Arlington Cemetery. A beautiful, peaceful place to be in October.

I love Fall. It’s almost Fall here in the city. Apparently, after it rains tomorrow, it will be Fall. Well, except for those two weeks in October when it’s 85° again and people start asking each other, “Can we wear flip-flops in October?!” My response is yes to wearing sandals all year-round if the weather calls for it. I hate when my feet get hot.

I digress.

Fall means my favorite things: boots, light jackets/blazers, marathon season, less sweating while <insert any activity here>, pie, perfect running days, foliage, cozy nights, warm food, open apartment windows (finally!), sweaters, bzzzzzzzzz hot cocoa, new school classes, holiday season, my husband in cute sweaters, baseball playoffs, the GOOD movies finally come out, soup, new marathon shoes, some of my favorite people have birthdays, crisp mornings, long-sleeved running tops, turkey dinner, less bronzer, more snuggling, and it’s almost Christmastime!

Go Yankees!!!

These are just a few of the things I LOVE about Fall. I suppose I could have just said: food, clothes, marathons and the weather. But that’s boring. I like my little list 🙂

I like the other seasons just fine but as a true midwestern gal-turned New Yorker, I love Fall most of all. I just do. Fall and early Spring represent such an amazing change in the seasons and a fresh start at life for me. I suppose that’s why I am in awe when I run through Central Park at those times of year. I’m reminded of the beauty and simplicity in the world and I actually stop to take it in. Thanks for the reminder, Mother Nature.

Central Park in the Springtime is bursting with beauty!

And that’s just another reason why it’s better to be here than there. Fall.

Now go out and run, friends!

What do you LOVE about Fall?