"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Friday, October 22, 2010

5K: The first step

As I start to write this, I quickly run into the problem that someone trying to break 30 minutes in a 5K has almost nothing in common with someone trying to break 13.

I'm going to break the 5K into parts, using some subtle physical cues of stride rate and breathing rhythms, things most runners never consider, as they're important mostly for the final 10 minutes of a race. Marathoners (excepting world class) need not worry about cutting a minute from the end of their race, but the final 10 minutes of a 5K is much of the race.

The first thing to consider in a 5K is the start. Most runners get into the habit of easing into their runs, using the first mile or two to warm up. They then do the same thing for long races. However, if one takes 10 minutes to warm up in a 5K, much of the race gets wasted; it's important to get to the start line ready to run hard as soon as the gun goes off. One can cut 10% from one's finish time just by warming up first.

For the first few steps of the race, one is accelerating to race pace. A 15 minute 5K runner may take as much as 100 meters to get there, but slower runners only have a few steps to do it - it's what's known as a "bang" start. It takes the heart and lungs a few seconds to catch up to the body's sudden increase in speed and in these seconds, one is running completely anaerobically, using energy stored as adenosine triphosphate and creatine phosphate. Training can extend the length of time one can run this way from about 4 seconds to about 15 (20, if training to race world class sprints) - I'm going to write about this as "phosphate training."

Phosphate training also allows one to make a sudden move in tactical races (for those racing for trophies) and is used in the final seconds of a race, as one can regenerate one's stores of creatine phosphate rather quickly.  When one's running as hard as one can as one approaches the finish line, sometimes seeing the clock read a few seconds under one's goal or having someone try to pass right at the finish will cause a surge of adrenaline and one can speed up even as one feels completely drained; phosphate training can teach one to rely on this for the few last seconds of a race.

Sixth paragraph and I haven't reached the subject yet! Next up, I'm going to try to explain how to divide the race into stages. Training then becomes specific to improving each of those stages individually.


SteveQ said...

First! (Had to beat G.)

I'm expecting a Tristram Shandy comment abut how I'll never finish the subject.

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

I'd never write something abut that.

What I will write is:


What did I win? Because I was the first ONE to correctly add up all the "one"s in this post. The correct answer is 17 if you don't count the "one"s in the "someone"s, but I counted them. I did NOT count the "one" in "Marathoners" though, because that's Kanadian math and it's foreign and just wrong.

I would also like to point out the Shandian irony implicit in this passage:

The first thing to consider in a 5K is the start. ... if one takes 10 minutes to warm up in a 5K, much of the race gets wasted; it's important to get to the start line ready to run hard as soon as the gun goes off. One can cut 10% from one's finish time just by warming up first.

It is Shandily ironic that in a post so fraught with ones you say the first thing one should consider is the start and then you go back and say that you should consider warming up before that. So the warm-up is the negative-one thing one should consider, I guess.

So much for trying to anticipate what I'm going to say.

In related news, did you know sea legs girl bought a dildo the other day?

Anonymous said...

I always seem to come within a few seconds of the 20 minute mark at 5k's. I almost always end up with slightly negative splits. I've never actually trained for 5k, only marathons. Finish the dam article (please)! Thanks.

sea legs girl said...

I'm sorry, I know you briefly mentioned warming up. But exactly how much and how to warm up seems so critical if you want to run the fastest possible 5k - so could you rewind a second and give your thoughts on that? :)

wildknits said...

Yes please, more on warming up. Looking forward to the rest of the series as I am trying to combine running ultras with also running a faster 5K.

Warming up has seemed to help - at least I posted some PR's this season once I incorporated some pre-race running. But how much, what kind???

PiccolaPineCone said...

I'm running a 5 km tomorrow (ok, I have said that for the past two week-ends and it hasn't happened) but this time I REALLY am (maybe) so could you finish the article today?
no seriously I am psyched to read it whenever you get to it. I won't be thmad (word verification) if it isn't today.

shannon said...

I'm relatively new to running, and as such, have only recently learned the benefits of a warm-up prior to a race.

Intuitively, it seems like "one" should conserve all "one's" energy for the race. However, after observing many of the runners that finished before me, I noticed that they did a short warm-up before the race. As a result, they were able to hit race pace much faster than myself.

I now include a warm-up run before all my races. I think this is a crucial factor in the significant decrease in times for several of my races this year.

What costume are you sporting at the Monster Dash? I know there will be a lot of runners at the race, but if you are ostentatiously dressed I may be able to pick you out! :)

SteveQ said...

Yikes. This is going to be a LONG series, even without diversions such as the requested warmup post.

@Shannon: I decided I'll be wearing a blaze orange prison jumpsuit. Haven't decided if spectating or just watching, yet.

SteveQ said...

@G: Nic was the first to comment on my overuse of the word "one," almost two years ago.

We may switch to the royal pronoun.

Deb said...

You pretty much need to finish this post, as I've just one last real chance to PR this season.
Get writing, you! (Although if Glaven's dildo comment distracts you for a day or two I guess I'd understand.)