How to Pace a 5k

What’s Included?

  • The Warm-up
  • The Start Line
  • Mile 1 Strategy
  • Mile 2 Strategy
  • Mile 3 Strategy
  • The Finish Line

The Warm-up

Due to it’s short and intense nature, warming up is essential for the 5K. A proper warm-up will ensure that you don’t get injured & your legs are ready for top speed at the start line.

Warm up for at least 15 minutes with an easy run, some dynamic warm-ups, and a few strides or pickups. Strides and pick-ups are typically 50-100 meter accelerations – they are not all-out sprints but rather they mimic a race (starting at about 5 RPE and ending at 8-9 RPE). Incorporating some strides and pick-ups at the end of your dynamic warm-up will ensure that the race isn’t the first time your legs feel speed that day!

The Start Line

Without fail, the start of a 5k is super fast – it is, after all, a shorter and faster effort race. Make sure you don’t take off sprinting at the start line though – I promise that pace that you think you can hold in the first 400-800 meters won’t feel like the same in mile two. Start SMART at a 6-7 RPE & allow your body to naturally build up to it’s top speed later in the race. You have 3 miles to make the magic happen, don’t burn yourself out right away!

Mile 1

RUN SMART! It’s ideal to try and negative split (getting progressively faster throughout the race) or even split (staying a consistent speed) in a 5K race. With this in mind, it’s important to conserve a little energy for a final push at the end. So again… Don’t blow it in the first mile! The first mile should be done at a hard, but maintainable, effort – something you know you can hold the whole way through (or even go faster). Try to take mile 1 at a 6-7 RPE so you can build up during mile 2 and finish strong during mile 3!

Mile 2

TRUST YOUR TRAINING! Mile 2 is going to feel like no man’s land…Hold your pace and focus on your form & breathing – you can do this. If you feel your body getting tired, check your form. Chances are you’re letting your body lose its strong form. If you start to panic, focus on your breathing. Just take one step at a time and KEEP BREATHING.

Trust your training & let your LEGS do the work. Mile 2 should be done at a 7-8 RPE – you should be starting to pick-up the pace a bit throughout the second mile, but you’re still not going “all out” because you’ve still got another entire mile left! Visualize yourself at the end & get mentally ready for a final push!

Mile 3

GET IT! This is where you need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. The first half of mile 3 is going to be hard, no doubt. But try to remember that you’re ALMOST to that final push. Just make it to 2.5 with a focused and controlled pace. You should aim for a continued 7-8 RPE throughout the first half of the third mile. Once you get to 2.5… It’s time to start slowly kicking it up to an 8-9 RPE. You’ve GOT this.

Final Push

GO GO GO! Made it to 2.5? It’s time to LEAVE IT ALL OUT THERE. Use the second half of the third mile to gradually increase your pace & gain confidence. And use that final .1 to give your FINAL PUSH to the end. Remember – the faster you run, the faster it’s over!

Other Tips

  • Don’t skip the cool-down! Your body just ran at a HARD effort, and it’s important to keep moving afterwards so you don’t get too tight. Make sure to cool-down with an easy jog, some walking, and some stretching. If you’re up for it, yoga is another great way to unwind after a 5K effort!
  • Have FUN! A 5K can be a fun challenge & a great way to get started with running if you’re new – but don’t forget to actually ENJOY it!

Need help with how to structure your workouts to build speed? Check out our AIM 1:1 COACHING program to get specific runs tailored to your level & goals!

Amy Haas / Katie Desiere
Run with Aim, LLC
UESCA Certified Running Coach
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
NASM Certified Nutrition Coach