How To Run A 5K or 10K: Dominate Your Turkey Trot

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This week, hundreds of thousands of Americans will take to the streets for a Thanksgiving day 5K or 10K. And before halfway through the run, over 75% of these folks will be doubled over with side stitches, upset stomach, leg cramps or premature fatigue. So in this article, you'll learn how to run a 5K or 10K, and six nutrition and pacing strategies that will allow you to dominate your local turkey trot, happily grab your finisher's medal and go find the nearest plate of mashed potatoes.

Turkey Trot Tip #1) Eat Right the Night Before.

The foods that you eat the night before the race are the foods that your gastrointestinal system will be chipping away at in the morning when you're getting ready to run. For this reason, you should avoid having an evening meal that is loaded with fats and proteins (you'll have enough of these for Thanksgiving dinner anyways).

Instead, you should consume an easily digested dinner that is comprised of a carbohydrate like sweet potato, yam or quinoa, a iron-rich dark leafy green or cruciferous vegetable like steamed spinach or broccoli, and if you'd like, a moderate amount of a basic protein, like a small piece of baked salmon.

Turkey Trot Tip #2) Eat Right on Race Morning.

When you get up in the morning, try to time your breakfast to be over with approximately 2 hours before the event begins. So for a 9am event, you would set your alarm for 6:30, and eat breakfast by 7. Breakfast does not need to be fancy – leftover carbohydrates from the night before are perfect.

For example, you can simply have about 300-500 calories of a salted sweet potato or yam, which is easy to digest and won't cause any stomach issues during your run. Also, include about 20-25 ounces of water, and then, between breakfast and the time the race starts, try to consume another 20-25 ounces of water.

Ultimately, if you don't like the prospect of waking up in the wee hours to eat breakfast on a holiday, you really don't need to eat anything at all as long as you had a decent dinner the night before. If you do have the munchies, gulp down half a banana 5-10 minutes before the event starts and you'll be fine.

Turkey Trot Tip #3) Warm-up Well.

The perfect warm-up should include about 5-10 minutes of easy aerobic jogging, 2-4 hard 30 second efforts that get you breathing hard, and finally, a series of arm swings and leg swings in all directions as you wait for the event to begin. This will allow you to begin the run at a better pace, and avoid the notorious side stitch.

Plus, let's face it: some of these events are just darn cold, and this extra activity will help keep your muscles warm and supple.

Turkey Trot Tip #4) Don't Start Too Hard.

For the first half of the run, push yourself at about a 7 on a 1-10 scale. This means that you are breathing deeply, but your legs only have a slight burn. You shouldn't be “sucking air” or getting rubbery leg muscles. Focus more on leg turnover and many small steps than on big, powerful strides. Your body will thank you later.

Turkey Trot Tip #5) Finish Hard.

For the second half of the run, begin to build to your maximum sustainable pace. Do this by maintaining leg turnover, but begin to take longer strides and push off the ground harder. If it is helpful, to break things up into smaller, intermediate goals and if this is your first 5K or 10K, to ensure that you can maintain a more intense pace, you can take a 30-60 second brisk walk break at the 2.5K mark, 5K mark and 7.5K mark.

Turkey Trot Tip #6) Fuel.

Although your body has adequate energy stores to last about two hours, and you don't need to eat or drink anything during a 5K or 10K, it can help you feel more confident and give you a mental boost if you have a small snack to consume about halfway through – such as one sports gel or half a banana. If there are aid stations, you can also take small 2-4 ounce sips of water at each one, although this isn't really necessary unless you're starting the race dehydrated (perhaps too much homemade eggnog the night before?)

Marathon DominatorIf you like this type of running advice, and you're planning on stepping up to a longer event, then you should check out the Marathon Dominator program, which I co-wrote with a running coach from Seattle.

Just today, several hours before I wrote this post, I received this e-mail from Chad:

Hi Ben and Jill,

I hope that this message finds both of you doing well.  I wanted to personally thank both of you for the amazing Marathon Dominator program that you have created.  This program is rock-solid and guaranteed to transform your marathon performance!  As the name states, the Marathon Dominator program helped me to dominate a tough ING NYC Marathon route with a PR time of 3:19:40!  My goal for this marathon was to qualify for Boston, which I just missed out by 4 minutes and 20 seconds, but this PR finish was nonetheless a rewarding triumph.  Moreover, it was a huge improvement over my performance at last year's Columbus Marathon where I ran a 3:56:26, which is a 36 minute and 20 second improvement.

Chad Sabo running

Chad celebrates at the NYC Marathon

Plain and simple, your powerful Marathon Dominator program taught me to be a better runner.  Everything that is included in the design of the program, from the focus on quality over quantity, strength training, nutrition strategies, and rest, was all perfectly timed out to ensure that I was ready to go on race day.  Even when I encountered a slight achilles injury several weeks prior to race day, your support proved to be invaluable.  I thought that I could just be tough and run through the pain that I was experiencing, but your helpful advice and guidance was exactly what I needed to hear so that I didn't worsen the situation. 

To help set my new personal record, I also integrated the Extreme Endurance protocol into my training.  I firmly believe that this supplement allowed me to race faster and be consistent in hitting my splits, especially during the later miles of the race.  It also significantly helped my recovery following the race.  

Again, thank you for designing such a fabulous program that has changed my running!  I look forward to being able to use the Marathon Dominator program in preparation for my spring marathon, so that I can shatter my Boston age group requirement time.

Cheers, Chad

Congratulations to Chad! If you have running questions, comments or feedback, just leave them below – and you can check out the Marathon Dominator by clicking here.

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2 thoughts on “How To Run A 5K or 10K: Dominate Your Turkey Trot

  1. Greg woods says:

    I ordered the dominator package a while ago and never got it,please send it to me so I can order the kona package.thanks greg woods

  2. evilcyber says:

    While your advice is absolutely sound for people that regularly do cardio, I doubt that for unexperienced runners this will make a difference, as the side stitches, upset stomachs et al. are probably more due to the fact that the latter simply go far beyond their capabilities.

    Building stamina and being to able to do a 5k is a comparatively quick process, but does require a bit of practice.

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