Most people start out running in order to try to lose weight or because they want to improve their cardiovascular fitness. Over time many of these fitness runners become interested in racing competitively, even if their main competition is simply trying to beat their own prior performance. One of the most popular race distances for beginning runners is 5 Kilometers or 3.1 miles.

This is a distance most people can train for in a relatively short period of time and a distance that can be raced pretty frequently without overdoing it. In addition, there are literally dozens of 5K races going on every weekend in most metropolitan areas.

Here are some tips for improving your 5K race time.

Tip Number 1: Increase the distance of your weekly long run

Although 3.1 miles is not that far, increasing your long run to an easy 8 to 10 miles can significantly improve your ability to run 3.1 miles as fast as possible. Greater endurance improves your ability to deliver oxygen to your working muscles and also to remove metabolic waste products from your system while you are running. This will improve your ability to run fast.

The key is to make sure that you run much more slowly on your long runs than you intend to run in your 5K race. In fact, don’t hesitate to take walking breaks and cover the much longer distance in as much as 3 to 4 minutes per mile slower in terms of total time. The key is to spend that time on your feet and moving in order to get the cardiovascular benefits.

Tip Number 2: Work in some hill training.

Running up hills is the equivalent of very specific weight training for running. You don’t have to go faster up the hills at first in order to become stronger over time and therefore faster when you get to your 5K race. The easiest way to get started with hill training is just to train on a hilly course on some days. Another method is to do hill repeats. Find a hill that is tough but not too steep. After warming up at a gentle pace, run up the hill at your 5K race pace and then gently jog back down. Work up to repeating this up to 12 times. Be sure to recover completely in between trips up the hill. You are trying to build strength. Unlike interval workouts on a track where you don’t necessarily want to completely recover in between fast laps, you need to be at maximum strength each time you head up the hill. Be careful not to overdo. Work up to it over time and you will be amazed at how much it improves your 5K results.

Tip Number 3: Incorporate interval workouts

After you have built up some strength with your hill workouts, you will want to incorporate some pure speed work. Do not overdo this. Once a week is enough to get the benefits. Don’t let your interval workout take up more than 10-15% of your total weekly mileage. Go to your local track or, if you have to, measure out a quarter mile on a flat section of a road or trail. Start by warming up and then running a fast 400 meters at a pace just a little faster than you want to run your 5K race. Take a slow recovery lap in between. Walk that lap if you need to in order to recover. Start with 4 fast laps and work up to 12-14 fast laps. You may be amazed at how much this improves your 5K time.

Added by: Craig Payne