While I am not sure if it is because I’m fully embedded within the runner culture, but Turkey Trot 5Ks and 10Ks have also become a vital part to many people’s Thanksgiving Day routine. Not only runners, but many non running family members will lace up whatever non-heeled shoes they have and enjoy in some free watered down Gatorade and a cotton T-Shirt with a turkey on the front. In fact, for 3 out of the last 4 years, I’ve done a turkey trot 10K. Race reports here here and here if you are interested (last year I was super sick so didn’t go). This year I’m not only planning on doing the same 10k, but am also planning on RACING it.
|Me after my current 10K PR of 39:44 two years ago|
Of course, if you’re just cruising around with the fam or easy running as part of a training run, just do that. This advice is mostly for people who are really going after it – regardless of how fast “going after it” might be.
Start out by warming up for 0.5 miles (less experienced runners) or a full mile (more experienced) before the race. Do this basically as close as you can to the start w/out missing it / not getting lined up right. Throw some 10 second bursts (3 is a good number) of nearly sprinting in there to get your legs fired up and reminded that they're about to move FAST. Don't be jerky with your pace, try to speed up in a smooth fashion over the course of 5 seconds and then hold it for another 5. If a 5K or a 10K is pushing as far as you’ve ever ran, just do some brisk walking for 5-10 min. The trick here is twofold. First, you are much less likely to injure yourself with warm muscles. Second, muscles burn LOTS more fuel (skittles) when they are cold so warming them up is going to preserve as much gas in the tank as possible.
Race strategy for 5Ks is interesting. You have to get past the fact that feeling out of breath by the mile mark is normal, only because you'll be done in 20 minutes or so after that. I find that splitting the race into 3 mile races is the way to go. The first mile is always a bit choppy, which is why I always like to start out a bit slower than normal (10ish sec/mile tops, but slightly more if you're inexperienced with racing 5ks). I use this mile to really focus in on my pace – comfortably hard or about 90% of all out sprinting. I try my best to not get frustrated by grandma in jeans that lined up in front of me.
The middle mile is usually the worst. You're already out of breath, but you're not half way done yet. For this mile, the strategy should be finding your "goal" pace and holding it. By now you should be running among people your speed so use them as pacers. I'm pretty focused in when I race, so I don't chit chat. But, if that helps you, now is the time to talk!
That last mile is great because you know that you only have X min left. Of course, great in the "if I go any faster I might cough blood" kind of a way. At this point it is all about tricking your brain. Get into a rhythm of counting your steps to 10, alternating between lengthening your stride slightly and shortening it slightly - basically anything to take your mind off of the hurt! Most people are really tentative this last mile. You should essentially feel like you're sprinting the last half a mile! If you're not completely gassed at the 2.5 mile mark, you're not running fast enough.
For 10ks, the strategy is the same, but think of the race in 2 mile chunks instead of 1. Don't start out TOO easy for too long, essentially try to be at "goal" pace by the start of mile 2, but still ease into goal pace like squeezing the toothpaste out of a tube. Instead of sprinting the last half mile of a 10k, really open it up for the full last mile. If you're used to racing half marathons or marathons, these races are SHORT, so the tendency is to not push as hard as you are able to at the end.
If your goal is to run the entire race without walking, really fight the urge to walk and instead dial back the pace slightly. With 5Ks and 10Ks, they are so short that any walk breaks will lower your overall pace quite a lot (vs a marathon where it is really easy to make up for walks through waterstops). But, if you know that running the entire thing will be a challenge, plan on having walk breaks a specific time. 5 seconds? 10 seconds? 30? Whatever it is, know beforehand because no matter what you're likely still going to be breathing hard when you start running again.
Find the closest person you can in spandex and spray them with the bottle of champagne that you've been carrying this entire time! Done!