If you are like many runners, after looking at the results of your race you feel an urge to get faster. Whether you want to move up a few spots in your age group, or maybe win the race next year, these tips can help you improve on your 5k time.
1. Run more miles. The 5k is almost completely aerobic, so running more miles at an aerobic pace will increase your aerobic capacity. As long as you are running less than 70 miles per week, you can benefit from increasing your weekly mileage. Be sure to increase your mileage gradually, or you increase the risk of injury. A common thought is that you should not increase your mileage more than 10% from week to week.
2. Get your legs moving. The 5k is a relatively short race, so you want to retain some speed in your legs. At least twice a week, do some strides after an easy run. These should be about 100m long, at around your mile pace. Stand around after each one until you feel completely recovered, then do the next one. Start out doing 4 of them twice a week, work up to doing 6-8 twice a week.
3. Do some tempo runs. You have probably felt that burning feeling when you run fast in a race, and shortly afterwards your legs seem to turn to lead. That point you crossed was your lactate threshold, and tempo runs can delay that fatigue by making that burning feeling come at a faster pace. Your tempo pace should be about the pace you would run for a 1 hour race. Whether that is a 10k or a 15k, this pace will be used for your tempo runs. Start by running 20 minutes at your tempo pace. You can also run cruise intervals, which are long intervals of 1000m to a mile at tempo pace with short rests in between.
4. Hit the hills. Running on hills strengthens all of the muscles used in running, so it is the most specific form of weight training you can do as a runner. There are a few different ways you can use hills to your benefit. Hill sprints can be run instead of a set of strides once a week. Find a hill that is steep, but only run up it for 8-10 seconds. Walk back down and repeat. Start out with 2-3, and increase by one each week until you are up to 10. Running longer hill repetitions or just including a lot of hills into some of your runs will also help you build strength.
5. Run at race pace. Include some workouts at your 5k pace so you learn what the pace should feel like. This will prevent you from going out too hard in the beginning of the race and paying for it in the end.
For more running tips, check out this article: 10 Ways to Run Faster from the Mile to the Marathon