Eilish McColgan, the 5000m silver medal winner at the 2018 European Championships, shares her advice for running a respectable 5K – and ways to improve your time
What would you say to a beginner?
Enjoy it! Start off at a pace that is comfortable to you and really build into the race.
Parkrun is a 9am start every Saturday – should you eat or drink before the race?
I always like to eat before I run but a lot of people struggle to digest it in enough time. So it’s really trial and error to find out what suits you best. Keep it very simple – say, banana and toast.
What’s the best way to warm up – and cool down?
Go for a really easy 10-minute jog with some light stretching and the same for a cool-down, too. About five minutes before the race, do some 15 second strides to get the legs moving and warmed up.
How does a steady 28–29 min 5K runner improve their time? Doing some specific 5K sessions will really make a difference.
5 x 1000m with 90 seconds’ recovery or 12 x 400m with 60 seconds’ recovery.
What’s the best way not to run out of gas?
Just go off at a pace that feels comfortable. The more you practice in training the more you will become accustomed to running at a certain pace.
What’s the best way to breathe – mouth or nose?
I just breathe whatever way I find comfortable! I’m assuming I naturally would breathe through my mouth in order to get as much air in as possible.
What’s the best way to get faster?
Interval training. It’s important to really mix up your training speeds. Adding in an interval session every week can make a real difference. Start with something simple like 8 x 60 second efforts and then build up towards 3 min–2 min–1 min fartleks [periods of fast, alternating with slow, running].
How do you leave enough in the tank for a faster finish?
Learning to pace yourself at the start of the session. It’s something you can really work on and practise in training.
Is 5K a good way to burn calories/build lean muscle even if you do it only once a week?
Running is a brilliant way to do both of those things. Once is better than zero.
Any other tips for improving your time?
I run an online coaching business, Running Made Easy, which has a range of athletes from complete beginners to competitive club runners. I would certainly say finding a good coach is the first step. It allows you to be accountable to someone but will also be a great way to keep you motivated to hit your goals.
Also, get a GPS watch. It can help to keep you motivated and gives you some great information on your training which can be really useful when you go to run a certain pace in racing.