How to get a parkrun PB – Top *100* Tips for your best 5k time PB PR
This article focuses on ways to improve your parkrun 5K time within a week or so, allowing you to make the most out of the fitness you already have. If you’re aiming for a longer timeframe and a specific 5K goal time, you’ll need to follow a 5K plan like this, which caters to runners aiming for between 25mins/5k and 17mins/5k.
I developed this post over 15+ years, adding new tips and tricks, and it has now snowballed into a top 100 list. The intended audience is casual-yet-serious runners who want to improve. There are some pro-science-based tips here, as well as some frivolous ones, some contradictory ones, and some seemingly crazy ones that may not be as crazy as you think, and some that ARE as crazy as you think.
Of course, ‘tricks’ only work for a while. Serious runners who come to this page will probably not find anything new. However, if you’re a regular parkrunner, you may discover something new to add to your running kit bag. Ultimately, you have to train extensively to see significant improvements. But not for this coming weekend you don’t…you have to maximise the training you already have done.
All the suggestions are starred:
- ⭐⭐⭐3x stars. IMHO it will work
- ⭐⭐ 2x stars. It might work
- ⭐1x star. Can’t hurt
- ❌ 1x cross. It CAN hurt if done wrong.
If you want to know How to Run a 5K in under 20 minutes then follow a proper Sub-20 minute 5k training plan for 6-12 weeks and use all the ⭐ starred tips below for race day.
Table of Contents (Click to Expand)
Normal Nutrition & Extra Supplementation
I assume you eat properly all the time. If so, then there’s not much you need to do with your normal ‘food’ for the week before your race. ‘Carb-loading’ will make just about zero difference to you as you have all the energy you need for a short 5k race. So the benefits here come from damage limitation from what you eat and then special things which could boost your physiology in some way.
Q: Is this snake oil?
A: Some of it probably is.
You will find people, like me, who swear by beetroot juice to make me faster on race day. But how do I know that it is the beetroot juice or tapering that has made me faster on race day than I am in training? There is a lot of science but a general problem with the whole food and supplement industry is that some science is paid for by the manufacturer and, surprise, surprise it finds the ‘right’ result.
Luckily enough, most of this can’t hurt. In the sense that it can’t hurt your performance but might hurt your wallet 😉
- ⭐⭐⭐ Drink coffee (caffeine). It is a legal sporting stimulant that used to be banned for serious competition. Go figure! If you weigh 68 kg you require 2-5 mg caffeine per kg body weight for a 2-hour event (sorry not 5k). You take 136-300 mg once, an hour before competing. One espresso is about 100mg IF you are lucky ie it’s DEFINITELY NOT enough. Caffeine has as many PROVEN benefits as all the illegal stimulants you may or may not have heard of BUT the effects and side-effects of caffeine are known, understood and legal. Other caffeine-taking protocols will have you taking, say, 200mg of caffeine 5 mins before a race – ignore them and do what I say. Also, bear in mind that TOO MUCH caffeine has no positive benefit and MAY be negative and stop lactate from being flushed from the system...you don’t want that, follow the guidelines exactly as above. Caffeine has a ‘half-life’ and wears off after a couple of hours, so for longer races, you will need topping up BUT ONLY for longer events. Personally, I would take 300mg 1 hour before the event and I weigh 70kg, I would take that with 6 tablets of a supermarket’s own-brand version of PROPLUS. I have 1-3 coffees a day and I would not change that consumption pattern at all leading up to a race. To be clear: I have taken specific advice on caffeine from a world expert in caffeine in sports…the advice here IS correct (on caffeine!).
- ⭐⭐ Beetroot juice (source of nitrates). Take 0.5l of beetroot juice containing approx 6.2 mmol of nitrate 2.5 hours before you start. Bike tests show this boosts power by nearly 3%. That’s rather a lot, but is it true? 😉 Pros definitely use this although the effect in them is minimal (but still there), if you don’t like the liquid form try this capsule from https://sur.co/altred/ (I’ve not tried the latter and it’s backed by Lance Armstrong). I tend to have beetroot juice the day before an important race and it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a loading benefit from taking it daily for a week leading up to the race. Advice: I take one Beet-It two to three hours before a race, you might get away with taking it 90 minutes before and 2 Beet-Its might be a bit better than one.
- ⭐⭐ CurraNZ Concentrated blackcurrant tablets. If Beet-it works for you then these are complementary. Take 2 a day all week before the race otherwise once a day at all other times during training.
- ⭐⭐⭐Use creatine monohydrate, especially if you generally also consume whey protein. If you get ‘burning legs’, this might be a way to get a bit more energy in those all-important muscles. Definitely test this before race day. I have a couple of scoops 30 minutes before the race.
- ⭐❌ Also, try Coenzyme Q10, branched-chain amino acids and glutamine. These are all legal and apparently harmless. Do some research as they can have side effects.
- ⭐Rhodiola extract may help lower lactate levels. I’ve not tried this. You can buy it in Holland & Barret – let me know your experience below if you have tried it, please.
- ⭐Try Ginger. It helps reduce the stomach distress you may have caused yourself by taking too many supplements 😉
- ⭐⭐ Properly go to the toilet the night before and especially in the morning. Get it all out. Coffee and routine will help.
- ⭐⭐ Have a light evening meal at least 12 hours before the race.
- ⭐⭐ Don’t eat (too much) protein the day before – it’s hard to digest (eggs are not so bad). Basically, you want to consume digestible things that replenish your muscles and hydrate you AND that you are able to fully pass out of your body before the race.
- ⭐⭐⭐ Eat a minimal, comfort-breakfast as long as you can before the race. You have enough energy for a 5k in your body as carbs when you wake up. Big breakfast = discomfort + weight + blood moving to your digestive tract rather than your muscles. Counter that by eating what you know you need to eat to avoid feeling/being sick.
- ⭐⭐❌❌ Drink as little excess fluid as you can on race day (assuming an early race). You are PROPERLY hydrated from yesterday and from the week prior to that, right? Drink a max of 500ml if you need something. Although if you feel thirsty you should DEFINITELY have something. To be clear: the point here is that you must be sufficiently hydrated but you don’t want litres of excess liquid in your stomach. 2% dehydration WILL impair your performance, and 1 litre of excess fluid will also impair performance.
- ⭐⭐❌❌ Carbs or take about 25 minutes to have an effect in your bloodstream however you already have sufficient stores in your muscles and liver. Glucose (sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar) are digested through separate pathways and it is beneficial to consume both. Different kinds of carbs will peak and metabolise at different rates so there is no hard and fast rule but I might have a Lucozade Sport &/or a banana for breakfast about 30-120 minutes before a race. That’s mainly for comfort rather than performance.
- ⭐⭐❌❌ ‘Special’ carb drinks are from Maurten and SiS with their Rocket/Beta Fuel which looks at minimising GID and maximising carb absorption….again, this shouldn’t be an issue for you for a 5K (Maurten uses pectin and sodium alginate to create a gel IN your stomach that passes into your intestines where it is digested as a solid..ie less GID, this method allows you to get more cabs in your intestines but I don’t think the amount absorbed will be increased)
- ⭐Caffeine chewing gum is apparently chewed by Premier League footballers at halftime during matches. This is because caffeine is more readily absorbed in the mouth in a matter of minutes…think about cowboys’ chewing tobacco as an analogy to how that gets in the bloodstream and you’ll know why it sounds sensible.
- ⭐ The smell of peppermint might help. don’t ask!! Just have a polo mint or two, it can’t hurt!
- ⭐⭐ Ensuring you are stocked up on these essential supplements/vitamins might help; magnesium, iron, vitamin B and B12. They are all involved in energy production. You might find that athletes need more than the RDA of many vitamins, I generally take multivitamins on a just-in-case basis. However some vitamins, like VitA, I believe can accumulate in the liver if you take too much of them and you do NOT want that to happen.
- ⭐⭐ Following on from the previous point if you get cramps then it could be due to deficiencies. You might want to try MAGNESIUM OIL SPRAY. It’s cheap. *IF* that stops your cramps then that is a sign that you are magnesium deficient. Whilst that directly shouldn’t impact your 5K times it implies something is amiss in the energy production going on in your muscles so take Mg supplements. FWIW I do this but mostly for longer races. Race cramps are probably more an indication of insufficient training for the distance and effort you are racing.
- ⭐❌ Minor pain relief on the day. If you have a niggling minor injury that might put you off trying as hard as you might. A mild painkiller might help. You should use paracetamol and not aspirin and not ibuprofen (honest!).
- ⭐⭐❌❌ Apparently, Sodium Phosphate and Bicarbonate of soda help as their alkalinity offsets lactate acidity enabling you to push harder for longer. Individually I think they work for me and I have not tried them together. The Hammer Race Day Boost product recommends a 5-day loading strategy whereas simple kitchen baking powder (sodium bicarbonate) can be taken a couple of hours before the race. These can play havoc with your digestion.
- ⭐❌Interestingly many pros use a sodium bicarbonate lotion, apparently to reduce soreness and to reduce lactic acid buildup try www.amphuman.com
- ⭐⭐1.5g of beta-alanine and 1.5g of L-carnitine might help high-intensity efforts like a 5k. SiS Turbo+ gels can be an easy, measured and one-off way to see if this works for you (I’ve tried beta-alanine in a mix of various legal stuff all of which seemed to do something, I’ve not tried the SiS product). Buy Link, or try Cellulor C4 Original
- ⭐⭐ Hydrate properly the week prior to the race to increase blood plasma volumes. Why? More blood=better temp regulation=faster. How? Just drinking water, as you hopefully already do, will NOT be as good as using electrolyte/isotonic drinks which INCREASE absorption AND increase blood plasma volumes. This takes a day or so to achieve rather than a few hours. So plan ahead. Many suppliers of electrolytes offer these salt-based supplements: eg H2PRO (Review Link), High5, OSMO Nutrition and others. Milk is good at rehydration (and protein provision). Alternatively, just put a bit of salt in your orange squash – it doesn’t taste too bad.
- ⭐❌ Lose 100g in weight. That 100g should gain you just over 1 second over the whole 5k 😉 – although if you try to lose too much weight in less than a week you will probably lose either water or muscle so I’m not sure it would help really!! But the rule of thumb holds for every 0.5kg you lose in weight you will save at least 6 seconds on your 5k time. Going back to hydration: 1 litre of excess fluid will cost you 12 secs on your 5k as it weighs 1kg!
- ⭐⭐ HVMN Ketone (Review Link) supplementation is a newly available endurance fuel. It’s an FDA ‘Generally Regarded as Safe‘ product that is naturally occurring and is WADA approved. Essentially Ketone supplementation gives you easier to access energy when you metabolise fat as you race. You WILL still be using a large proportion of fat for your 5K so this might help. However, the manufacturers are targeting it for > 1-hour races. It will NOT make you slower for sure. From my experience, it DEFINITELY does something positive. [Edit: April 2023 – HVMN now have a product that will very soon be available in the UK…watch this space]
- ⭐ Note there are ONLY 4 types of Ketone boosters which work and these are Ketone Esters (e.g. HVMN, KE4), MCT Oils (e.g. C8 MCT), 1,3 Butanediol, Ketone Salts (e.g. KetoCaNa, GoBHB),
- ⭐⭐ KETONES AVAILABLE IN THE UK: Look for the powder and bars containing C8 MCT at the Ketostore.
- ⭐ A similar product to HVMN Ketone is KE4, again not yet available in the EU. (Buy Link)
- ❌ Maybe try Raspberry Ketones (hmmm, maybe not) they are some sort of fat-burning diet thing – although my understanding is that the science says “Nah” for this product for endurance athletes. These might be called KETONES but they just aren’t one of the 4 categories of ketone mentioned in the previous points (Buy Link)
- ❌❌❌ Drink alcohol the night before, have no water and have lots of red meat. Go on…waste all those hours of training.
Kit for a 5K PB / PR
If this were a section on cycling then it would be a book. But it’s for running so, other than a decent pair of shoes, there’s not too much you can buy to make you faster.
- ⭐⭐⭐❌ I’m very tempted to say get a new pair of race shoes if you only have ‘regular trainers’. These should make a noticeable difference. The downside is that you will not necessarily have had the chance to get used to them and may injure you. Then again you are only running 5k and not a marathon. How do you know if your existing trainers are any good? Answer: they’re not. If they were ‘racing flats’ then you would already know exactly what they were and why they made you faster. Read this to understand why it makes a BIG difference.
- ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ With the 2-hour marathon achieved then maybe a pair of Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite wouldn’t hurt? Treat yourself, they return more energy after your footstrike with a combination of carbon plates and responsive foam. “In a 2017 study published in Sports Medicine, every one of 18 runners tested at the University of Colorado had a better running economy in the Vaporflys – the forerunner to the latest model – than wearing two other types of popular racing shoes. The average improvement was about 4%.” Go figure. Then in 2019, the top 10 Chicago marathon finishers all wore these Nike shoes, just like the men’s and women’s marathon record holders. I’ve used Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%2 shoes as shown below they are undoubtedly faster and you will be AT LEAST 5 seconds per km faster ie they will knock 30 seconds off your PB other things being equal. Yes, really even for you.
- ⭐ Other kit is probably not going to make any positive difference. I would say that I’m assuming that you have broadly the right kit in the sense that what you wear does not make you either too hot or does not help keep you warm enough. If, for example, you are too hot you will certainly run slower. Maybe ditch that cotton T-Shirt.
- ⭐ Compression gear might help. Either full-length leggings or calf guards. The argument is that they stop your muscles from wobbling and so you either waste less energy or use your muscles better. They have other benefits too and might aid slightly higher levels of muscle oxygen. Then again how many Olympic gold medallists wear such kit?
- ⭐ Wear compression gear. Boosts blood flow to muscles and reduces the risk of injury.
- ⭐ Don’t wear compression gear. It adds extra resistance and tires you more quickly. Choose which to believe! 🙂
- ⭐❌ I bought a pair of Nike XC (Cross Country) lightweight spikes for £10 from Sweatshop who were selling off loads of these last season’s models. I hadn’t planned on using them for a parkrun and still haven’t. However, in post-purchase hindsight, it strikes me that 2km of my parkrun is grass and the other 3km could be run just off the ‘path’ or on the path on a soft underfoot day. Spikes or a good tread pattern should help your time on less ideal days and on less-than-ideal surfaces but those conditions aren’t PB-conducive.
- ⭐⭐⭐ Use a running track and spikes rather than a parkrun and trainers. A running track, other things being equal, will give you a PB perhaps 20 seconds faster than a parkrun. Quite possibly more. This is the way to go for a PB !!! ie NOT a parkrun
- ⭐❌ Insoles. Many of us have one leg longer than the other for a variety of muscular/skeletal reasons. You can’t change that by the weekend. BUT if one leg is a few mm shorter than the other an extra insole will balance your legs and might give you a bit more power. Or it might distract you from the balance you have already gotten used to. But you should find out if your leg lengths are different as this may also eventually lead to injuries. You should also check for pronation.
- ⭐❌ Insoles. I use custom insoles in super-light shoes and the insoles correct my slight pronation. Custom orthotics are expensive, as a first step perhaps try a sports insole that supports your arch, this could well help quite a bit if you pronate and/or have flat feet. Typically I find that arch-supports support too centrally on the arch and should have a maximal support point to the rear of the centre…this will better free up your forefoot for toe-off.
Gadgets for a 5K PB / PR
‘Sports gadgets for running’ just really means GPS running watches, heart rate monitors and footpods (Top 10: Best Running Watches). They are of some general use even to good runners but also provide other abilities with a sanity check or provide some reassurance that you are performing as you planned.
- ⭐⭐ Unless you are a good runner you will not know the exact speed at which you are running. A GPS gadget will give you feedback on your race pace and let you know whether or not to speed up or conserve energy. I use one.
- ⭐⭐But GPS gadgets will show you the wrong pace if you are near buildings or trees, so you could instead get a footpod like Stryd which will give a meaningful pace if correctly calibrated
- ⭐⭐You can use running power devices like STRYD to give you a measure of your current effort (power). This will help you to maintain effort rather than speed when running uphill (broadly you want constant effort levels or perhaps 5% more effort uphill at most). STRYD will also give you a very accurate running pace. I use one.
- ⭐You could run with a metronome to get your cadence right but that would annoy people and you should really have already trained with your ideal cadence and then you will probably just naturally run at that cadence.
- ⭐⭐More advanced sports watches can alert you if you are running too fast or too slow.
- ⭐A basic watch or an advanced watch can each be used in different ways to check if you are on track for that PB. You might use that to speed up if you are behind schedule.
- ⭐⭐More advanced sports watches let you run against a virtual partner who is running at a pre-determined pace. You can then visually see how far ahead or behind that person you are and react accordingly
- ⭐⭐On hillier courses then you will not be running at a constant pace so the previous gadget feature will not work. Instead, you perhaps load up your efforts on the course last month and race against that effort which, hopefully, will have taken into account hills.
- ⭐ Most people need to run 5K above their lactate threshold heart rate (LT2, AnT, LTHR). After 1km or so, your heart rate should be up to and above your threshold heart rate. You can use a gadget to monitor your HR. eg Garmin HRM-DUAL should work with just about any app or sports watch. You have to know what heart rate your threshold corresponds to on race day taking into account the effect of supplementation like caffeine. It is EASILY possible that caffeine will raise your LT2 by 5 bpm or more.
- ⭐ Heart rate is affected by many factors that alter its reliability. Another approach is to use a muscle oxygen sensor like Train.Red to determine if you are running at your race limit. I’ve not tried Hex for racing but I HAVE used it before a race to ensure I was properly warmed up (I got a 5k age-grade PB as it happened…first for a long time)
Training, Tapering & Warmup for a 5K PB / PR
This section is probably the most important. If you train hard for 6 days and race on the 7th day I reckon many of you will be over a minute slower than you would be had you instead followed a good taper. Tapering is the art of maintaining fitness whilst reducing fatigue.
- ⭐⭐⭐ Sleep. Your body does all the repair and improvement overnight. Sleep LOTS. Want some Human Growth Hormone? You could take it illegally…or just sleep for a similar effect.
- ⭐❌ I’m guessing but do not know, I think that sleeping tablets interrupt how your body repairs at night (it affects my HRV for sure), so sleeping tablets might not be a good idea
- ⭐❌ sleeping tablets are muscle relaxants. I’m really not so sure that you want to have these the night before a race. (IDK for sure. See this science, which says otherwise)
- ⭐⭐❌ Don’t train AT ALL!! A 3-day abstention (taper) should suffice for many levels of runner i.e. Wed/Thur/Fri – do nothing. More serious runners will benefit from activity during a taper, even the day before a race (see later) and there is no one fixed and correct taper rule that suits all runners.
- ⭐⭐❌ Warm up properly on the day as if you pull something you won’t get a PB. Get a few race-pace strides in that warm-up. Personally, I jog a mile to get there…or I cycle or drive. The consensus views these days that any stretching you do before a race should be ‘dynamic’. Look at track cyclists between races. They stay ‘warm’ by using stationary trainers for a reason – simplistically the muscles are pumped full of more oxygenated blood right from the start and are ‘ready to go’ and you have also kickstarted your energy production from fat stores. Jogging to the start might actually be a good idea. If you ever get the chance to use a MOXY or Humon Hex to prove to yourself that you are warmed up. You might even see a similar effect with PERFORMANCE CONDITION metrics in Garmin’s higher-end watches but I wouldn’t trust that for a race.
- ⭐❌ So you plan to do the 3-day do-nothing taper mentioned earlier? If you’re not so supple then on the first of those days set aside 30-45 minutes for an intense stretch session, stretching everything on your legs and core as much and as far as you can without doing yourself an injury. Be aware of how far you stretch and this should feel like a workout in itself. 2 days to recover. On Saturday do a quicker, easier stretch and not so deep. If you are more flexible on Saturday there is less resistance to overcome within your body and you might go faster. I’ve taken this suggestion on from someone else, not sure if it will work so quickly and I haven’t tried it.
- ⭐⭐⭐❌ Look at ‘proper’ tapers if you are of a reasonable standard (included in my 6-week 5k plan). Short bits of speed work leading up to the big day BUT AT THE RIGHT TIME AND FOR THE RIGHT DURATION/INTENSITY will help you stay fresh but don’t get it wrong. Scientists say that a proper one-week taper will make you go 22% faster than a 1-week total abstinence taper. That’s a lot but is it true? Although note that in ‘proper’ tapers not much is done in the last 3 days so the 3-day abstinence taper is easiest to follow for very minimal performance opportunity loss.
- ⭐⭐⭐ Do a proper taper. are a few more thoughts and plans on that.
- ⭐⭐⭐ Do a proper taper appropriate to your CURRENT level of fitness/fatigue. A generic taper might not be best for you RIGHT NOW. Look at TSB (CTL and ATL) on numerous products eg the most accessible is ELEVATE for STRAVA. Aim to get your TSB to about 20.
- ⭐⭐❌ Light, race day sports massages are supposed to help. I’ve no personal experience. Personally, I would NOT do a race day sports massage unless very light for warming-up purposes.
- ⭐⭐Have a sports massage 2-3 days prior to the event, this might free up knotted muscle tissue and hence reduces internal tension/friction and also increases your range of movement slightly. But remember lots of “slightly” is what we are looking for to see that PB tumble. Personally, I would have a sports massage on the Monday or Tuesday prior to a Saturday race.
- ⭐⭐ Look at readiness-to-train software like the Elite HRV, HRV4Training, Athlytic (iOS) or Bioforce apps. Use that to limit what you do on the days leading up to your race but don’t worry about what it tells you on the morning of the race as ‘nervous stress’ might make the readiness readings poorer.
- ⭐ Have a nice warm race-day shower. Get the blood flowing, especially if you are not a ‘morning person’.
- ⭐⭐ It takes your body about 10 minutes to start the process of converting fat to energy.
- ⭐⭐ Finish your warm-up at least 10 minutes before you start.
- ⭐⭐ If you try the 3-day abstinence taper before a race, see if that works. But then next time try a gentle 30 min easy jog the day before your race that includes 60 seconds at 10% SLOWER than your race pace.
- ⭐ Get to the course early to start stress-free and warm up.
Running the Race for a 5K PB / PR
- ⭐⭐⭐ “Aim to broadly run at an even pace. Know that you are fresh enough and able enough to do that pace. Believe that you will do it. Then just run at that pace. When it hurts a lot keep running AT THAT PACE. When it hurts more, again KEEP RUNNING at that pace. You’ve done your training and everything is right enough for today’s run. Really, you can do it. It’s not easy, but you can do it. If you slack you won’t do it. There are always plenty of excuses, don’t get yourself in a position where you have to make them.” That’s basically what my mindset is on the days when I perform well. Once I, and probably you, lose that belief or determination or concentration then it is very difficult to run a maximal effort. Even if you lose it for the 4th Km it is hard to gain it all back on the 5th and the sprint (you sprinted last PB, remember?). You get to the end and suddenly you are >30 secs off your PB when you could have done much better.
- ⭐⭐⭐ On that point. Just running as hard as you can do it! But of course, if it were only that simple you could do that week after week and continue to improve.
- ⭐ Get someone to pace you who you can rely on to run at the desired speed. Try and stay in front of them.
- ⭐⭐ On a windy day run behind someone in the bits that are against the wind. Don’t worry if they get annoyed. But a PB on a windy day? Maybe not.
- ⭐⭐⭐ Run at an even effort/pace, use cumulative pace for the Km on your GPS device.
- ⭐❌❌ Run ‘correctly’, with the ‘correct technique’. This will be difficult to change by the weekend. Try leaning forward a little from your ankles NOT HIPS. Many of you with Achilles problems might benefit from running more UPright whilst keeping your body relatively straight. Breathe through your mouth. Running on your toes (fore-foot strike) or ‘flat-footed’ (mid-foot strike) is argued to be faster by many. Really you need to have trained for this but note that, whichever way your foot hits the ground, your heel MUST at some point touch the ground each time in 5K.
- ⭐⭐⭐ Sprint the last minute – that will only make a few seconds’ difference. No, I mean faster than last time! And those seconds do count. Try and sprint with 2 minutes to go and when you feel your legs going just hold off (slow down slightly) for 5-10 seconds and then sprint again all the way to the finish.
- ⭐⭐⭐ Run in straight lines. ie run 5k not 5050m from wandering all over the place – EVERYONE does this to some degree. That extra 50m (and it really can be 50m) will take you probably at least 10 seconds to run. Running ‘straight’ requires great focus throughout the race and usually involves NOT following the person in front of you! Think about it if you don’t at first get what I am saying. Also if you are using GPS pacing remember you run further and so need to pace slightly yourself slightly quicker than the pace shown on your GPS to take the extra distance into account.
- ⭐⭐ If you can’t run an even split. My understanding is that for most people, the best tactic is to run the first 1 or 2 Kms slightly faster than the 3rd and 4th (you sprint the end of the 5th which is faster, invariably meaning you weren’t trying hard enough earlier)
- ⭐⭐ Pacing on hills is tricky. For very gentle undulations, I would suggest aiming to run at an even level of EFFORT. Something like STRYD could help you do that. However, when it gets a little steeper the best strategy may well be to increase effort by about 5% when going uphill and do the best you can on the steeper downhills. To be clear: you would still run at a slower pace up the hills. I’m talking effort (power) and not pace.
- ⭐⭐⭐❌ Running cadence. Aim for about 90-95 strides a minute (180-190 footfalls). If this is quite different from your current natural cadence then changing it for the weekend is unlikely to make a difference – other than a NEGATIVE difference. If your cadence is a lot lower than that then a longer-term strategy to get it progressively above 85/170 is a good idea. If you have time you can experiment with STRYD on a treadmill – keep the belt speed the same but vary your cadence, the cadence requiring the lowest power might be the most efficient 5k cadence for you to target NOW.
- ⭐⭐ If you are doing a parkrun then starting at the front can save you many 5’s of seconds especially at busy parkruns like Bushy.
- ⭐⭐⭐ Start near the front in busy races. With a field of 1500 at Bushy Park parkrun, you will take 30 seconds (yep 30) to cross the start line if you cross at the back – I timed it once whilst running with some family members!.
- ⭐ Don’t start too near to the front if you are smaller and slower (kids) you may get knocked over by faster runners.
- ⭐ Smile every 1km, it will relax you. Can’t hurt?
- ⭐ Pinch yourself hard before that final sprint. (I don’t think this will work but causing a bit of pain might give you a quick adrenaline rush) Only use this for the sprint, apparently extreme amounts of pain prior to competing in other events can give boosts because of raised blood pressure from the pain. One pinch can’t hurt tho, right? And I’m not sure how a higher BP will help anyway.
- ⭐ Slow down at the start, you are going too fast. When you get going you are burning the super easy-to-obtain energy from within your muscles. It only lasts a few 10s of seconds. That’s why after 2 minutes you pass all the kids who have ground to a halt after their initial sprint. STICK TO AN EVEN EFFORT THROUGHOUT, all middle-distance and long-distance world records are set at an even pace.
- ⭐⭐ If you’ve heard people talking about ‘digging deep’ and learning how to do that in a running/racing sense, you might have thought was a “load of tosh“. Well, it wasn’t! If you’ve dug deep and held on then you will know what I mean. You have to learn to do this to keep those PBs rolling and it requires significant motivation and dedication.
- ⭐⭐Music has been shown to improve 5k performance. Read this study.
- ⭐⭐Breathing – When running comfortably hard but not at the extremes of your exertion, breathe in twice and exhale in one longer breath more slowly. This better regulates your HRV. See Dr Huberman
Choose a Course for a 5K PB / PR
- ⭐⭐ Know the course. The ups and downs, the windy bits on the day, then plan accordingly.
- ⭐⭐⭐ Race at an ambient temperature of no more than 16 Celsius. For each degree above that, you will lose 3 seconds over 5k. Strange but true.
- ⭐⭐ Familiarise yourself with the course and with your pre-race routine. If you are unfamiliar with any aspect you MAY worry about it. I could go on about this but lack of preparation and familiarisation might affect your race psychology and/or warm-up.
- ⭐⭐⭐Choose a flat, firm, smooth and dry course (it’s called a running track). This might help 😉
- ⭐ Shave. Especially for men: shave or clip your torso hair (both sides if applicably hairy). On a sunny and warm June-to-September PB morning, this might make your core stay cool just that little bit longer. Then there’s always the legs…then you can go cycling too and not feel out of place ;-). Shaved legs save cyclists about 5watts of drag but they travel faster so it makes more of a difference, it will be something like 0.25w for runners (a guess)
- ⭐⭐ Positive mental attitude. You ARE going to do it. People underestimate the psychological side of getting a PB. I reckon even Sub17 runners will see over 20 seconds difference if they are not sufficiently focussed.
- ⭐ Lucky charm. Hmmm.
- ⭐Train at altitude or buy your own oxygen tent. About 7,000ft above sea level!! Ideally, you will be **living** at altitude but training at a lower altitude beforehand!
- ⭐Just try a few of these tips at a time. Maybe just one. Not all of them! How do you really know if it was one specific thing that you changed that helped or was it several things?
- ⭐ Write a key message on the back of your hand. Read it and stick to it, even when you feel awful towards the end of the race.
- ⭐⭐⭐. I produce a TAILORED 5k, 6-week taper plan for a nominal fee…can’t hurt and you help support this site. People have got below 17 minutes with this plan but it’s geared for people already running at under 25 minutes.
If you use these tips and get a PB, ask questions or use this site we would very much appreciate your support – the easiest way is to buy me a coffee from the links below or if you want something in return how about a personalised a detailed 5k training plan with lots of supporting notes and tips.
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