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How to Run a Faster 5k

…oh, I don’t know the answer to that!  Wait! Maybe I DO…

Tip Number One:  Be not afraid to look very, very scary.


Wowzers.  Okay, so that’s a start. Besides the the basic running things like faster foot turnover, better running form and get yourself fitted for running shoes… what is the best advice for a faster 5k?

Well… I think it’s just this:  you must be prepared to suffer.

And that might make you pout.


So the Swim Bike Family set out early Saturday morning for a Cupid Chase 5k sponsored by PT Solutions in Roswell.  I hadn’t run a 5k in a long while and thought it would be a good chance to get out there and cross a finish line, even if it was 30 degrees.   The kiddos were going to run the 1k Cherub Chase–which was going to be a distance PR for them.

At the start, the Swim Bike Boy Child looked thrilled as usual.


I headed to the start line and readied myself for a course that was described as:  “Zooming fast for 2.3 miles, and then uphill to the finish.”  Since hills and I are the best of friends (no), I was looking forward to it (no).


The “go” happened, and I trotted off… only to realize about 100 yards in that I hadn’t tied the drawstring on my pants… and they were falling down. Trying to tie a drawstring, while running AND wearing bike gloves isn’t the easiest feat. I managed to tie a knot and move along.

I was pacing great for the first mile (around 8:45-9:00 min/mile), and had my eyes set on a sub-30 minute race–which, for me, is a fast run.  I knew if I could pace around 9 minutes, then I would have some leeway for that last mile or so uphill.

I saw Coach Brett and Mountain Goat zoom pass–they had reached the turnaround and were heading back to the finish.  Mountain Goat was the first place girl.



Tip Number Two:  Be not afraid to suffer… immensely.

Young kids were passing me left and right, but I trying not to think about that.  Started to suffer pretty righteously at the turnaround. Then the uphill began.

To run a 5k the fastest you are able–you cannot be afraid to hurt. Running as fast as you are able on any given day? Well, it just hurts.


Understand that your heart will not explode.  Really, it won’t. I hadn’t worn my heartrate monitor, which was stupid, because this would have definitely been maximum HR data.

5k races are so much different than longer distance training. Totally different approach and cardio engine. And pacing is tough! Sometimes it’s hard to know how to pace a 5k race.  There are a zillion different theories and methods. For me, I like to run hard (but sustainably) for the first mile, crank it up the next mile, and then really kill myself on the final 1.1.  This was hard on this particular course, because the last portion was uphill and that added a special suffering in itself.

Tip Number Three:  Leave every last bit of your effort on the course.

I was freight-training (sucking wind and sounding like a train) like crazy by the last half mile… then, I looked at my watch… I had a little under two minutes, and about 0.3 of a mile to go.  Yikes.  I put down the suffer throttle and eeked in under 30 minutes.

So no, I’m not a “fast” runner.  But for my size and my self-proclaimed crappy running form, a sub-30 5k is a feat of wonderment.  I’m a fast runner for me.

The secret to running a faster 5k is just being able to tolerate the suffering. To swallow it, and push through to the finish. If you can mentally dig in, suffer and keep suffering–that’s a huge key to a faster 5k.  I’m looking forward to running some more 5ks this season and ticking off some more time.

Today’s race landed me an 8th place AG finish (out of 44)… which is probably my best running race finish ever. Progress!  (And yes, with a time of 29:58… that is truly “eeking” out a sub-30). 🙂

Oh, and the kiddos had a great 1k run!

That’s a long distance for little legs!

For the boy who didn’t seem to interested, he did amazing with a third or fourth place finish in the Cherub Chase. And check out the amazing run form (which he does NOT get from his mother).

I was proud of the girl child as well, who, when she stopped running she said, “I am so fast and I ran so far.” She has awesome confidence. Also, not onbtained from her mother.


I love taking the kids to races and I am even more thrilled when they have an amazing time.



Have a great week, friends!


  • Jennifer

    February 8, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    I walked and did a little bit of running today. I have my first 5K on February 21, 2015 and I plan on walking and running most of it. Right now I am at one hour walking the 3.1 miles.

    One bite out of the elephant at a time.

  • amy

    February 8, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    Can’t believe it is warmer in South Dakota than Georgia. I ran our annual February Freeze 5k today & it was 60…SIX ZERO degrees at 12…the first two years I ran it it was in the negatives, hence the freeze. Even though today was beautiful I still ran it in 32:30 but I’m okay with that because I haven’t been running or anything for that matter BUUUUTTTT….gotta start somewhere and i’m looking forward to getting into the swing of things. We’re moving to an area with more races so i’m looking forward to getting into it. I would love to break 30 minutes for a 5k good to know that yes I do have to actually hurt a little and it’s okay!! 😉

  • Anna Stedman

    February 8, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Love you Meredith!! Good job. and to Jennifer, i am just below you on the 5k, right now I am walk/running it in 52 minutes….and thats after 2 years of Tri training…..we will get there….Anna

  • Alison @ racingtales

    February 8, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    Sounds like a sufferfest of a course. I hate pants with drawstrings – one more thing to have to adjust. Are those HOKA’s your wearing? Do you like them? Congrats to the kiddos. Isn’t it incredible what great form kids have?! I guess it all goes to pot once we hit our 20s…

  • Nadia

    February 9, 2015 at 10:40 am

    I usually do longer distance races, so when I do a 5k which is not often, it is very uncomfortable. i thought this 5k was particular was hilly. I enjoyed the way down but coming back was really painful… I wonder what i am looking like on the pictures. It is probably scary! ha! Too bad I missed you out there, would love to meet you!

  • Colleen

    February 9, 2015 at 11:20 am

    5K’s hurt a lot. The last one I did at the beach in July, I was dying at the end… and i finished and vomitted a little in my mouth, and then peed a little… then literally had to hold myself together so nothing else involuntarily came out. Yes, this is gross, but that’s what it took to PR in 90 deg heat.

  • charissa

    February 10, 2015 at 11:26 am

    Great job! I have one sub 30 5k and it happened in a training run and I did suffer for it! I am in a strange running slump right now. I am training for a 25k this spring and after a recent 10k PR in January I am having trouble running more than 4 miles without walking! I am unsure what is happening. I am also attempting to drop some winter weight for spring races, so this could be playing a part in my fatigue. Keep going you are an inspiration!!

  • Lisa

    February 11, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    I wish I had your son’s form and your daughters ability to pose perfectly for the race pic. 5k’s make you suffer every time – so hard! Congratulations on the awesome time!

  • Lisa K

    February 16, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    I just found your blog from AMR. I can so relate to this post! I have been working on improving my speed and have come to the same bottom line: speed training and racing just plain hurts. I also did a 5K in Atlanta on Feb. 7 and it also had an uphill finish. It hurt like heck!

  • Stefanie

    February 24, 2015 at 10:14 am

    You just rock!! I guess I’ll have to learn the suffering lesson from you. Will go suffer a little bit in the pool tonight in honor of you! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your awesome adventures and motivating me on Instagram!

    Stefanie (exilrheinlaenderin)

  • Amanda Kliegl

    April 13, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Okay, so this post comes at a really funny/monumental time for me. I’ve hated running, always have, but know it’s not only the fastest/best/most efficient way to lose weight; but I’m officially in my second triathlon season. I kill the run and bike, then, the run…Oh the run. Yesterday I did my season opener. When I saw the results, it hadn’t calculated my run in yet and I was 4th in my AG!! Then, it did. And I plummeted to 13th. This post is great for me because when my husband says, “I know you can run faster…” and I know I can, and people ask why I don’t and it’s simple: I don’t like the sufferfest!! The heavy, gaspy breathing…That general unpleasant feeling. I don’t mind it on the swim and bike, but for some reason it’s the run that bothers me. One of my friends said, “Have you ever pushed yourself to that point of really being maxed out?” (No, I haven’t — I’m scared to). But, you are right. It’s about throwing it all on the table, and I’m going to do just that. Thanks for posting this because it’s about as honest as it gets!!


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