by Alistair Munro

Riding the edge that gets you to the finish line in the shortest possible time without creating a lactic acid blowout is exquisitely difficult. The two biggest limiters are your mental toughness and pain tolerance, but the good news is that both can be mastered through practice in the workouts leading up to the race. 

Here are some tips to run your best race over the 5k distance:

Pacing and race plan

  • Start out conservatively but ON PACE. Resist the adrenaline urge that entices us all to run too hard in the first 500m. Fresh legs and the pull of the other runners should make the first kilometre feel relatively comfortable.
  • On the second kilometre, settle into the rhythm but don’t back off the pace. It should not feel easy, but neither should you be gasping for air. Find the line where you are pushing but still able to sustain your goal pace.
  • Bring your best mental game to kilometres three and four: stay in the moment, run strong and know that discomfort and tension is part of the process of running your best race. 
  • Put in a small surge as you pass the four kilometre mark and then settle back onto pace. Use the crowd, be tough and keep a razor sharp focus on pushing as you approach the finish line. 

Fluids, nutrition and running in the heat

  • The harder you work, the more heat you generate. This is why heat injury is more common in short races. On a warm day, precooling will help delay this effect. See Running in the Heat for tips.
  • Whilst you don’t need to drink in a 5km race, the effect of swallowing even a tiny quantity of fluid boosts performance compared to not drinking. Perception is important, and in hot conditions it is not unreasonable to spend a couple of seconds having a quick gulp of water at the aid station (likely just one in a 5km race). Pour the rest of the water over your head to cool yourself off.
  • You don’t need to eat. But if someone offers you chocolate? Well, who can resist that! 


  • A thorough warmup is essential.
  • You should do 15 to 20 minutes of easy running, followed by 3 to 6 strides or accelerations faster than race pace. 
  • If you typically incorporate drills into a workout, you should consider a few agility drills before the race.
  • In hot conditions, try to do a shorter workout in the shade and give yourself time to precool in the 10 to 15 minutes leading up to the race. 

Categories: Journal