In Chicago I will be at least this pumped, guaranteed.

In Chicago I will be at least this pumped, guaranteed.

When my random skill of running fast and talking to people results in a unique travel opportunity to a city I’ve always wanted to visit, I’m PUMPED! Chicago is that city, and the Magnificent Mile Women’s Half Marathon and 5k is what’s bringing me there next weekend, August 29-Sept 1.

In my dream world I would pace a half marathon group open to anyone at around 1:45 pace. OH WAIT I AM. And then I would go back in time to 7am and race the 5k because it’s my favorite event, and I hear the course is flat and fast and runs along the Mag Mile which nobody ever gets to race on. But time travel isn’t a thing, so I’ll have to leave the 5k to the local experts. Since I can’t help the 5k racers on the day, I want to offer a few tips here on the blog to running the perfect 5k.

5k 101

I recently wrote an article for my column in Runner’s World about the 10 reasons the 5k is freaking awesome, mostly because it gets less respect than it deserves. 5k races are clutch. You don’t have to train a ton to do them, and they are short enough that you can surprise yourself by summoning guts and toughness or take advantage of Venus being in the right quadrant of the universe or whatever. To reach your potential in a 5k, you have to train like crazy just like for any half or full marathon, but unlike the longer races, you can also pull a good one out of your butt.

Regardless of how much you’ve prepared, if there is a 5k coming up in your city that you want to jump in, you might be able to make use of my tips for running the perfect 5k for where you’re at. Running “the perfect 5k” is less about time or running a PR, but more about the approach. It’s about doing three simple things to set yourself up for a great race experience you can be pumped about: proper warm up, setting expectations, and race strategy.


Warm Up:

5k’s hit you hard and fast. It’s important for your body to feel prepared before the gun goes off or your perception of pain will be all skewed and the race will come as a shock. I do this mobility exercise routine about 45 minutes before a 5k, which has a similar effect to when the tin man gets some oil on his joints. Then jog for 10 minutes slowly into 2-3 minutes at a slightly brisk pace to get the heart pounding. 2-4 10 second stride outs about 5-10 minutes before the start are the last key piece to preparing your body for the perfect 5k.


Setting Expectations:

This is less about running the perfect time, and more about setting an acceptable “range” for your performance that you’ll be pleased with. I like to set A, B, and C goals for time. C is “meh, but acceptable, and I’m not going to let it kill my buzz.” B is “Yeah baby! That was solid! I knew I could do it!” And A is “That was out of this world insane! I thought on the perfect day it might be possible if everything went right.” Setting expectations can also be created around helping someone else achieve something. That’s what I’m doing in the half. Just always remember that the recipe for frustration is when expectations do not line up with reality. It’s ok to dream, but a range helps keep some reality in there. The point of running is not to be frustrated all the time.


Race Strategy:

Most runners I meet who hate the 5k, after a little digging, tell me that after the first mile they feel like they are dying. Part of this could come back to a proper warmup, but for most people it’s because they suck at race strategy (no offense). They get all excited and freaked out about how short the race is and think they need to sprint off the line!

Try this next time: Run the first mile with your head, the second mile with your focus, and the third mile with your heart. In the first mile, you can’t let any emotion or excitement in at all. Start with a pace you are confident you can maintain and then relax a little bit more. Until you see that one mile marker, all you are allowed to think about is running smart. From 1-2 miles, focus on maintaining your form and start to look around you, taking a survey of which runners around you probably went out too hard, and which ones you should make your prey in the third mile. You are taking some time to strategize for the big battle, and you aren’t allowed to draw your sword until you pass the 2mile marker! The last mile, start to pick off your victims, and allow your mind to feel gratitude for how powerful and strong your body is. As soon as you can see that finish line, pretend you are Meb running down Boylston St in front of all of America and run with passion, tall and proud!

Let’s Do This!

This Mag Mile 5k course is flat, fast, and brand new, an ideal place to run the perfect 5k. If you are running it, I hope some of these tips help you out! Stay tuned on twitter for more info about upcoming shenanigans, but for now put these events on your calendar and/or let your Chicago runner friends know!


Saturday 8/30 at 9:15amShake Out Run followed by light breakfast and yoga.

Where: Fleet Feet Sports South Loop. Please RSVP!

Saturday 8/30 at 4pm: Q and A and Photo Opps at the Fitness Market!

Packet Pickup at Fleet Feet Sports South Loop!

Sunday 8/31 at 7am: Pacing a bunch of women in the Magnificent Mile Women’s Half Marathon at 1:45 pace!

Sunday after that….PARTY!!!


How to keep up with the info for next weekend.

Race Date: Sunday, August 31st

Registration/Race Website:

Race Twitter Handle: @magmilehalf

Store Twitter Handle: @fleetfeetchgo




Shake out run