Back in the day, I used to be into all that crazy track and field stuff. High jump, shot put, long jump, relay, and sprints. Short distance sprints were always my favourite event. I loved the intense, breathless pace and the thrill of not knowing who would cross the finish line first. Sometimes I won, sometimes I got left in the dust. It was always anyone’s race! I still remember the nerves I felt before the gun went off. I had to be so careful not to go too soon and have a false start!
I know, it’s a bit strange to enjoy breathless agony. But the breathless agony leads to this high euphoric feeling when it’s over.
Another example of two extremes is hot yoga. I get hot and sweaty during class but then feel cool as a cucumber (mentally and physically) after class. This contrast of feeling, intensity, and mood is what really makes me fall in love with a certain activity over another.
Over the past month, I’ve been running 3-4 mile distances about 2-3 times per week. While I do enjoy long distance races like half-marathons, I have to admit that they take a toll on my body! I’m injury prone and when I get up to the 10, 11, 12, and 13 mile training runs, I often have to deal with pesky aches and pains. After my three half marathons, I had to take 1-3 weeks off running to recover. Not ideal. I go stir crazy when I can’t move my body. Of course, that isn’t to say that you can’t get injured training for or running a 5k- you certainly can- but, I think it’s cool to switch it up.
5ks also require less time to train, which is good for me this summer as I’m working on a couple new writing projects and spending a lot of time working on our yard and gardens.
Yesterday, I ran 3 miles and pretended like I was running a race. I set a goal of running 3 miles in 24 minutes. I totally didn’t think I could do it. I had to really boot it hard, especially in the last couple minutes.
When I finished, I realized I hadn’t even lost my breath or broke a sweat.
Here are the strategies I use for running speedy short distances:
1. Set challenging, but realistic goals: Before starting your run, set a time and distance goal. I base my goals on previous runs for the most accurate prediction. I recently ran 3 miles in 25 minutes, so I thought 24 minutes would be a tough challenge!
2. Bring a stop watch. if you don’t have a Garmin or other distance tracking watch, you can figure out where your mile splits are along your route and then time each mile with a basic stop watch.
3. Set mile split goals if you wish. For each of the 3 miles, I set a time goal for each. If my overall average goal pace is an 8 min/mile and my first mile was 8:34, I know that I need to step up the pace in my second mile. I might set a goal for the second mile to be 7:45 pace to make up for lost time. I’m not very specific, but it keeps me on target.
4. Don’t underestimate hydration needs. I often catch myself thinking that I don’t need to hydrate properly for shorter runs, but this is a mistake! The body needs water every 10-15 minutes, especially in hot weather. I made this mistake today by not bringing my Camelbak and my throat was dry the entire run. Not cool!
5. Boot it: Expect to haul majah booty during the last few minutes! No matter how fast I try to run during the first 90% of the run, I always have to make up for lost time during the last few minutes. And anyways, it’s fun to sprint hard the last bit! I often have negative splits when running short distances with tough goals…it literally forces you to run faster at the end.
6. Blast some fast beats. Fast music = faster running. For me, anyways! Oh and I totally need a new music mix…I’m still rocking the same mix from last summer! It’s driving me INSANE.
7. Have Confidence! Believe that you can achieve your time goal. I can’t tell you how many times I catch myself saying that I cant do it. When you believe you can, you start to run with confidence and power. I strongly believe in the mind-body connection!
8. Stay Loose. I tend to tighten up and raise my shoulders and arms when I run fast. Be mindful of your body as much as you can and shake your arms out when necessary. I often do this several times during a race because I get SUPER tight during races!
9. Visualize you’re running a RACE before, during, and even crossing an imaginary finish line. This will help increase motivation and hopefully, energy. My imaginary finish line is my mailbox. Occasionally, I like to shoot my arms up in the air and cheer. It sounds a bit embarrassing when I type it out like that. Just forget that last part. I would never do such a thing.
10. Streeeeetch. I used to be horrible for stretching after runs, but now I try to stretch, even if it’s just for a minute! It really does help with recovery. When I don’t stretch after a tough run, I pay for it the next day.
11. Dump everything you can find into a blender and slam a Green Monster. Much better.
Keep in mind that everyone’s definition of a ‘speedy run’ will be different. The same is true for how you define a ‘short distance’. When I first started running, 3 miles was very, very long for me to run (still is some days!) and I could barely run a 12 minute mile. It’s important to do what is right for you at your current ability level and not get discouraged. Running isn’t easy and you should pat yourself on the back for any run that you accomplish whether it be 1/4 mile or 10 miles.
By the way, I’ve heard so many great things about the Couch to 5k program for new runners, so if you are thinking about trying out a 5k race, be sure to check it out!
I’m currently scoping out a 5k race in Oakville this weekend or a later race in June. I’m already shaking in my sneakers!
Have you ever run a 5k race before? Are you training for one now or have any tips to share?
Do you have any summer races planned?