How to Improve Your 5K Finishing Pace

By Rick Morris

When you are running at 5K race pace you are usually moving at a lung searing pace of around 95% of your VO2 max. After 4000 meters at that blistering pace, finishing the final 1000 meters of your race at a strong pace can present a significant challenge. Like all things, practice makes perfect. If you practice your finishing ability in training you will improve your 5K finishing pace. How do you do that? I would suggest that you do four separate but closely related things:

Practice Negative Splits

Running negative splits, or running the last half of your race faster than the first half,  is the most widely accepted pacing method for the 5K. Negative splitting doesn’t come naturally; you need to practice it. Try to include dedicated negative split workouts at least once every 10 to 14 days during your training schedule. Also try to finish each training workout with a strong finishing kick.

Practice Positive Splits

While negative splitting is the more commonly recommended race strategy, practicing positive splits will also improve your ability to finish a 5K at a strong pace. It will prepare your body and mind to hold a strong pace when highly fatigued.  In fact, there have been several recent studies that suggest positive splitting is a more successful race pacing method. Try to include a positive split workouts once every one or two weeks on a year round basis.

Improve Your Mental Toughness

There’s just no getting around it. You are going to be running into high levels of fatigue during the final 800 to 1200 meters of your 5K race. Physical training will help you power through those final meters, but you also need to become a mentally tougher runner. Using visualization techniques will help, but running hard at the end of your training runs will also help make you a mentally tougher runner.

Become a More Efficient Runner at 5K Race Pace

Higher levels of efficiency at race pace will translate to higher levels of strength and stamina towards the end of your race. You can become more efficient at 5K race pace by including more goal pace running in your training program.

5K Finishing Pace Workouts

Do you need some specific workouts to improve your 5K finishing ability? There are a nearly unlimited number of workouts you could design. Here are a few to get you started.

5K Negative Splits

  • Description: 5 x 1000 meter repeats at increasing pace.
  • Pace: Run the first 800 meters of each repeat at 5K race pace, then speed up to sprint pace for the final 200 meters.
  • Recovery: Recover between each repeat with 2 minutes of passive rest.

5K Positive Splits

  • Description: 10 x 500 meter repeats at decreasing pace.
  • Pace: Run the first 200 meters of each repeat at sprint pace and then slow to 5K race pace for the final 300 meters.
  • Recovery: Recover between each repeat with 2 minutes of passive rest.

5K Toughness Tempo

  • Description: 45 minute tempo run with fast finish
  • Pace: Run the first 40 minutes at tempo pace and then speed up to 5K race pace for the final 5 minutes.
  • Recovery: None

5K Goal Pace Workout

  • Description: 2 x 2500 meter repeats.
  • Pace: Run each repeat at 5K race pace.
  • Recovery: Recover between the repeats with 3 minutes of passive rest.