The 5K is one of the most common road races in the United States. Part of its lure is its length, which allows novice runners to compete at a short distance among a large community of runners. The 5K is also the most common racing distance for high school cross-country runners--particularly boys. As with any running distance, practice and preparation is the key to performing well in a race. However, even while running, there are several things you can do to strengthen various aspects of your run and turn in a strong time.
Position Yourself Early
Where you start in the race can determine where you finish. Starting too fast can put you in oxygen debt for the rest of the race and hurt your overall time and place, while starting too slow can put you far back in the pack and make catching other runners more difficult. HealthyAndFitMag.com advises novice runners to start slowly to avoid setting a pace that they can't hold -- this lets the novice runner get comfortable in the race. Experienced runners, on the other hand, tend to have a better handle on their own pacing and benefit more from getting in front of the pack of runners, eliminating the obstacles ahead of them. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to breathe out of your nose for the first half mile -- if you have to breathe through your mouth, you've started too fast for your fitness level. You should be able to talk when running at the start of your race, but it shouldn't be comfortable -- if you feel capable of rattling off several sentences, you might want to increase your pace.
Burst into Hills and Turns
When you run up a hill or take a sharp turn in a race, you are moving against gravity and your own momentum. This can slow many runners down. The best way to overcome these challenges and avoid getting bogged down is by inserting a speed burst as you enter into the hills and turns. When you come out on the other side, you'll be farther ahead and moving faster than you would have been otherwise.
Kick into the Finish
Don't crawl across the line -- explode into the finish. Whether it's the last 50 meters or 500 meters, increasing your pace at the end of the race can cut valuable seconds from your time and improve your finish several places. Most runners also benefit from the adrenaline of nearing the finish and find it easier to increase their pace near the end. Within the last 50 meters of your race, you should be running as hard as possible.