How to train for a 5K in two weeks
December 15, 2009 6:44 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to improve my 5K with very little time to train?

I'm going to run a 5K on New Year's Day. I'm in pretty decent shape from playing ultimate regularly, but the season is at its nadir and I've never actually run a 5K race before. I tried running the 3.1 miles on a treadmill last night at a moderately difficult, though not excruciating pace. Result: 26:10 with an average heart rate of 176.

With only a couple weeks to train, how would my time be best spent? Like I said, I'm in decent shape, so I'm not too concerned about a moderately aggressive regimen.

Also, what are some suggestions for pacing strategies during the race? My plan is to find a heart rate that is sustainable and use my HRM to try to stick to that on race day. Also, it seems that going out reasonably quick, then taking the second mile somewhat easier before really pushing the last one is a decent way to get a good time without exhausting yourself too early. But maybe there are much better strategies. I'm all ears.
posted by Cogito to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Don't start hard -- it's very, very easy to go out waaaaaay fast, and then you're shot.
posted by kestrel251 at 7:01 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm terrible at being consistent at running, so here's my cramming plan. I think the best preparation you could have it to run 3.5 - 4 miles outside every other day. 5K on a treadmill is nothing like 5K on the ground. Use the heart rate monitor as a gauge and try to keep the 176 of your treadmill run. If you can hold 176 for the time it takes you to run 3.1 miles, try a little harder next time. Also take three days off training before the race.
posted by advicepig at 7:01 PM on December 15, 2009

Some interval training now, hard, then rest for the few days before the race.
posted by caddis at 7:19 PM on December 15, 2009

Just do 5km 3x per week will be the most efficient way to gain the most time.
posted by trialex at 7:21 PM on December 15, 2009

Is your race going to be somwehere it might be cold? If so you might consider running outside.

Otherwise, learning to pace yourself as well as race strategy takes a lot of practice and fine just put in some time running.
posted by mmascolino at 8:10 PM on December 15, 2009

Do you have an iPhone/iPod Touch? If so, you can download the excellent C25K app and interval train on the last two weeks (weeks 8 and 9) or use the alternate timed courses to find your pace (There's an Android version, too). You might also find specific training tips for your fitness level on the Couch to 5k site and forum.
posted by prinado at 8:33 PM on December 15, 2009

I second Interval Training. Be sure to allow yourself a few days to recover before race day.

Here are some examples.
posted by axismundi at 8:47 PM on December 15, 2009

Thirding interval training, and for pacing I would try and go for even splits, that is every miles would be run at the same pace.

Combining these two pieces of advice I would try and run the intervals at the pace you want to run for the race. This will make you faster and teach you what it fells like to run at the speed you want.

So say I want to run even splits of 6min miles. I would try to get 4 days of interval running at that pace, something like this:

6 x 800m, at 3 min per 800
12 x 400, at 1:30 per 800
2 x 1600m, at 6min per mile.

I wouldn't do more than 4 intervals days and less if I felt really beat after one of them. Besides that I would get a light 3 - 4 mile run between the interval training and take 2 days off every week. Before the race I would only run very light 2 -3 mile runs with sprints at the end of he run.
posted by afu at 10:48 PM on December 15, 2009

Nth-ing the interval training method for improving your speed but one of the other important pre-race needs is to determine your race pace. Nothing kills performance in a short race like going out too fast. Take your interval training to a track or a measured distance and run some intervals at the pace you think you can sustain for 3.1 miles. Determine your race pace from your interval training and convert that into target times for race checkpoints so you know you're on pace during the race. I wouldn't knock yourself out preparing for a race that is now only 2 weeks away. Adrenaline will carry you more than half way.
posted by birdwatcher at 3:57 AM on December 16, 2009

Get outside at least once to see how it feels on the ground. Run slower than you think you should*. On race day, find someone going at about the speed you are comfortable with and use him/her as a pace guide. If your "guide" speeds up or slows down, pick someone else to follow.

*When training, if you can't carry on a conversation with a person running next to you then you are going too fast.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:19 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just do 5km 3x per week will be the most efficient way to gain the most time.

Having run Cross Country 4 years in HS where we run 5Ks for meets, this is wrong. You need to expend yourself beyond a 5K to do better- hence interval training. For a normal long distance workout, JV would run 5-8 miles, and Varsity 8-15. And these are people who ran sub 17:00 5Ks regularly, some sub-15:00.

If the terrain's hilly, I also highly suggest hill workouts. Basically, find a long, not incredibly steep hill. Run up it, job down. Rinse and repeat. Your quads and calves should burn!
posted by jmd82 at 6:09 AM on December 16, 2009

Best answer: It's pretty late in the process to be doing any training that is going to effect your time. Physiologically, you are more or less where you will be on race day. I would work on pacing yourself not on the treadmill. Head to a track or measured course a couple days this week and work on running something like 3 x 1 mile intervals at your desired race pace with say 4 minutes rest in between. Pay attention to what it is like to run that pace. I would shoot for something like 24 minutes for the 5k (around 8 minute miles). When race day comes try to run even splits for your miles or at least try not to go out way too fast. It's easy to get worked up in the excitement of the race and run a 6 minute first mile and this might be problematic at the end.

I would take the last week easy and maybe do a mile at race pace two days before the race and take the last day off.
posted by jefeweiss at 8:52 AM on December 16, 2009

I dont think interval training will help you much with only 2 weeks to go if you already are in good shape from ultimate.

You say you have never run a 5k but are in good shape... what I would do is right away, asap, go out fresh and run a 10k! Not on the treadmill, screw that, just look up a course on some google map based mile tracking thing and go go go. Dont worry about the mileage exactly, just go for as long as you can, then go home and map your route. This will give you a mental advantage knowing that you CAN do the distance and all you have to do is to DO the distance. namsayin?

Then give yourself a couple of days rest, STRETCH STRETCH STRETCH.

After a few days go run your race course. Seriously, find the exact map of the course online and run it. Then rest a few days. Then go run it again. Repeat until a few days before your race, then go run the race. Knowing how far you have left to go the day of the event will make you run so much faster.

Time yourself each time... write everything down. If you have a GPS watch that shows your pace even better.

Give yourself 2-3 days of full rest before your event, good to go!
posted by outsider at 10:09 AM on December 16, 2009

Whenever I run in training, I skip a warmup - usually the first mile at a comfortable pace is sufficient. But for a short race 5K-10K, I slowly jog a mile and finish about 10-15 minutes before the race starts. If it's a crowded field, the first mile will be negotiating traffic. Expect that mile to be 15-30 seconds slower than goal pace. Second mile should be on goal pace, and last mile you can make up the 15-30 seconds. If it's a thin field, I would try to run the first two as even as possible based on a time goal and if I felt good for the final mile, I'd push harder. It's easier to start slow and make up time, and you'll feel better. Starting too fast sucks, and it's easy to do.

Do you know your max HR? You can run a 5K at a much higher HR than other distances. I think I raced mine at 92%, which crept up to 95% 2/3 of the way and sprinted across the finish at 97%.

8 minute miles might be a good goal. See how you feel running a 8:20-8:30 pace on terra firma.
posted by yeti at 11:53 AM on December 16, 2009

One other psychological bit of advice: Find somebody to run with. Don't have to say somebody, but if it looks like somebody's running right about your target pace, run right with them. If you want to speed up, find somebody in front of them to pace you. Trying to accurately pace yourself is quite difficult and it's easy to erratically speed up/slow down. Basically drifting off another runner can help a lot.
posted by jmd82 at 2:02 PM on December 16, 2009

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