Fitting a shorter distance race, like racing a 5km, into your training plan should be an easy thing to do no matter what your current training focus and goals are. There are several scenarios that you might find yourself in when trying to fit in a fast and fun 1 mile or 5km race. We see two scenarios that are most likely this time of year:

  1. You are treating a shorter distance race as a hard workout not unlike any other speed workout day or
  2. You are treating it as a goal race for which you’re really trying to optimize performance.

Here are some things to keep in mind to make sure you hit it right on the day:

Treating a shorter distance as a really hard workout

This is a good option for many if this race isn’t your main focus and just want to have some fun. You can add in a 1 mile or 5km race in your schedule in place of a regular speed workout or tempo run and get back into the swing of training again the next day because the distance isn’t long. There are still some things to keep in mind when doing this because this isn’t going to be easy, shorter distance races are really intense, like hands on knees dry-heaving at the finish line intense. Fun right?

What to keep in mind:

  1. Pre-race
    • In the week leading up to the race, keep overall volume the same but make sure your easy runs are very easy
    • Add an extra day of strides in the week prior. And make sure the strides are given some focus at the end of a run, as opposed to just being an afterthought. The added turnover will come in handy on race day.
  2. Post-Race
    If you’re going to jump right back into regular training after a hard short distance race you need to be diligent about post-race recovery. What you do in the minutes and hours following a race of high intensity can really impact your recovery and ability to jump back into regularly scheduled training.
    • Do a proper cooldown – a slow 10-20min jog to flush out all the ‘junk’ you accumulated during the race
    • Fuel well immediately following, hitting both the 20min window and the 2hr window for post-workout fuelling
    • Address any niggles immediately
    • Resume training as regularly scheduled

Treating a race as just that, a race

If you’re going to go hard and race all out you have to respect the race, even if it is one quarter or even one eighth the distance you usually compete at. Ideally, you would include a proper taper into your training for any goal race. The 5km is not different.

What you need to keep in mind:

  1. Pre-Race Taper
    • For a 5km, you should start to bring down the total running volume at least 5 days out from the race
    • Cut the volume of your long run the week prior to the race
    • Make your last speed workout 4-5 days prior to the race
    • Make the easy days extra easy
    • Add an extra day of strides to your training
  2. Post Race
    You won’t need to take the same amount of recovery time after a 5km race as you would a marathon or a half-marathon. Many high-level track athletes race distances between 1500m and 5000m on consecutive days or several times in the space of a week during their peak racing season. It’s possible to recover quickly. If it is a goal race, you’ll still want to do the following:
    • Be diligent about your recovery immediately after the race
    • Take 3-4 easy days before resuming proper training
    • Consider a rest day the day following the race. This could look like complete rest or some active recovery like swimming or pool running
    • Give your mind a bit of a rest too, like after any goal race