On The Run · Race Recap

Five Reasons Endurance Runners Should Do 5K Races

On the 21st September 2019, I ran the Botswana Independence 5K race. One thing which really surprised me was how shocked people seemed when I said I was running the 5K, “Why not the Half? Or the 10k at the very least?!” Initially I was taken aback, momentarily embarrassed that I wasn’t doing anything longer and I quickly chimed in with a “Well, I’m running a 10k trail tomorrow so that’s why”. But once my race was done, my first thought was “This was really fun! I need to sign up for more 5K races!” We often think 5K races are for beginners or for the Mo Farahs of the world. But 5K races can also really benefit endurance runners.

Here Are My Five Reasons

1/ They’re Easier On the Pocket: 5K races are usually cheaper than the longer distances and many I’ve seen still come with a free t-shirt, a medal and even a drink or fruit at the end. You also still get to experience the brilliant race atmosphere and a beautiful morning with other excited runners. But for a shorter distance. One of my goals this year is to run 20 races so I’ll have to be a lot more mindful of my budget and doing a few 5Ks will certainly help.

2/ You Can Up Your Style Game: A big consideration when running longer distances is what to wear, what to carry and how to carry it. I usually have to take my hydration pack, a couple of gels, my phone and some pain killers. I also have to be really careful about the clothing I choose – is this sports bra okay for longer distances? Will I chafe? Will my tights be comfortable for the full distance? I found for the 5K race I could focus on style. It was Botswana’s Independence Race so I wanted to wear something patriotic. As our national animal is the zebra, I chose my black and white striped tights. They are not comfortable for long distances but I thought they would definitely work for a 5K and they did. I felt awesome!

3/ You Can Run Like The Wind! I love running long distances – starting out slow, calculating paces along the way, getting to breaking point and fearing disaster, and then digging deep for that last burst of energy to finish the last 4 or 5 km of the race. There is nothing like that feeling of achievement and pride. But on this day, I discovered another joy – as I lined up at the start, I made the impromtu decision to really race it. For longer distances, there is always the danger of going out to fast and then suffering at the end. But for this 5K, I felt I had enough stamina in me to really push it the whole way. So I decided to compete against myself, the clock and even the young athletic runners! Of course, they were long gone by the time I realised the gun had gone off, but I was determined to run down my personal best which I think at that point was around 32 minutes. My first km was done in 06:26 min, my second in 06:18, my third was even faster, 06:05, and just when I thought I couldn’t step it up even further, I ran my 4th in 06:02. The last section was on the stadium track but I quickly realised the course was going to be short. So when I got to the Finish, I grabbed my medal from the startled marshal and headed out of the Stadium for another 400m or so! When my watched beeped, there I saw it – my last km was done in 05:42, meaning a new personal best of 30:34 minutes! What a race – I felt strong and fast and realised a sub-30min 5K was in sight.

4/ And Just Like That You’re Done: My favourite distance is the Half Marathon. But boy does it take time! Not just the actual race but the time to recover afterwards. The best part of this 5K race was that it was over in 30 minutes, not 2.5 hours, LOL! It felt good to get to 3km and realise I was soon done with the race. When I finished, I had time to catch up with friends as I waited for others to finish the longer distances.

After the race, I got so much done. Usually when I’ve run a Half the rest of my day is a lazy one! But after my 5K I was still bouncing with energy and excitement.

5/ It Can Boost Your Confidence: I’ve always said I love endurance running because I can take my body far at a slow and consistent pace. When I run 5K or even 10K races, I feel the race is over just as I’ve warmed up and come into my stride. But this race showed me that with a bit more speed training and effort, I can pick up my pace. It felt really good. I was so confident after this race that I set a 5K time trial for the 15th December where my goal was to go under 30 minutes! And I did – my PB is now 29:52. Without this 5K race, I doubt I would have attempted a sub-30 time in 2019. Knowing I had more speed in me also helped to get me to a 2:17 Half Marathon time just before New Year’s.

As endurance runners, it’s easy to scoff at 5K races as was evidenced on that race morning when people were surprised at my choice of distance – 5K races are for beginners we say or for parents with strollers. But this race really opened my eyes to the power of 5K races and how they can help to improve 10K, Half Marathon or even Marathon performances. When properly used and scheduled in a training cycle, a 5K race can add so much value, be it assessing your health, giving you an extra gear to use in a race or just letting loose and having fun.

If you’re an endurance runner, how often do you do 5K races? What do you enjoy about 5K races? What’s your preferred race distance? Let me know in the comments!

I’m joining two fabulous runners, Kim from Running on the Fly and Deborah from Confessions from a Mother Runner for their link up, the “Weekly Run Down”. Hop on over to their blogs and others, and be inspired!

30 thoughts on “Five Reasons Endurance Runners Should Do 5K Races

  1. I love 5ks for all of the reasons that you say. There is so much freedom in “just” running 5k though ha ha when I say “3.1 miles” that feels a bit shorter. I feel like the 5k is the only race that I have a good strategy for (don’t go too fast in the first mile, speed up in the second, go all out in the third). I race all distances from 5k to half, and I’m not sure what my favorite distance is besides “all of them”. Someday I’d like to run a 1 mile race because I feel like I perform better in races, and I would be interested to see what my time would be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 3.1 miles sounds even better, LOL! I race all distances too – even though I prefer the Half distance, I actually tend to agree with your “all of them” comment as they each offer something different! I definitely perform better in races too and have tried mile time trials, but all of them on my own. I suspect like you, doing it as a race, may bring out a better time!

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  2. I love those zebra tights!
    Yes, I like to run 5ks as well. My last 5k was the Turkey Trot in Naples, Florida. It was my first race after a long injury and it really helped to boost my confidence.
    My next race will be a 10k trail race in Spier near Stellenbosch. It will be my first race experience in South Africa and I’m so excited!

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  3. Great work and love those tights. TWENTY RACES, though?! Man! But then I don’t like racing.

    I really don’t enjoy racing 5k as I can’t get the speed in (and never seem to be out of a holding pattern or mara training to get that going). I will have a year between the last marathon of this year and the one for next year however, so maybe that’s the time to do it! Of course we have parkrun here, which gives you a 5k run (not race!) with timing every Saturday, but I’m more likely to be found including it in a long run or volunteering! But this is a great post with good points!

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    1. Haha Liz – only because #20in20 sounds so good, I couldn’t resist!! My big problem though is we don’t even have that many races in Gaborone in a year, so I’ll have to do some travelling to South Africa to get some done.

      I hear you completely about 5Ks – I avoided them for so long (or only did them when I was accompanying the kids) for that very reason… by the time I’m warm and ready to go, the race is over! But I would say definitely go for it in between those marathons. I’ve seen some plans online on 5 weeks to your fastest 5k or something along those lines, so maybe in that gap you could focus on that. I suspect you’ll be very surprised by how fast you can actually go. I know this one took me by complete surprise.

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  4. I totally agree with all of the reasons you listed! For me, sometimes a 5K race can feel harder than a longer distance race – it’s shorter but I feel like I push myself for the whole 3 miles!

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  5. When I trained for marathons, my coach had me do 3 mile repeats–so I turned them into 5k repeats. That really taught me how to pace myself for the distance! It’s been a while since I’ve done any kind of repeats, but I need to get back to it. I plan on racing a few 5ks this year. Great post!

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    1. LOL! And before this particular race, I must admit I was in your camp. I’d written them off because I just took too long to get going in the race. And by the time I felt ready, the race was done. But this race showed me their value especially for speedwork as you say.

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  6. Total agreement with everything you highlighted 🙂 The 5K was my first race (all those years ago LOL), and at that time it was a long distance for me. After I moved on to longer distances (like the 13.1), I did go through a phase of shunning the 5K because I could run much farther. It’s only in recent years that I have a new respect for the 3.1 distance…it’s a real beast of a distance to race! I still struggle with figuring out how fast to do that first mile, but at least the race is over and done quickly if I do bonk from going out too fast LOL

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    1. That’s exactly it Kim, you’ve said it perfectly – If you go out too fast at least the race is over before you really feel the repercussions! But for longer distances it could even mean not finishing. It’s funny how 5Ks are shunned when you start to go further! (That was me!. “Let me leave the 5Ks to when I race with my kids”). BUT what a new found respect I have for them now. And that short 30min time is nothing short of INTENSE.

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