How to pace for hilly 5k

I'm doing a 5k tomorrow night at Grizedale Forest in the Lakes. It's my first race for 10+ years and I've only been training for about 6 weeks or so. On a flat course I would aim to pace myself at about 4.10/km for the first 3km then speed up if possible. My problem is that after mapping the race route out I've found it's got 160m of elevation on it (I knew it would have some hills, but didn't realise how much).

The course is steadily up to 160m at half-way then steadily down, with about 0.5km of flattish ground at the start and the end.

Anybody got any tips on how to pace myself? I don't want to destroy myself on the uphill section and leave nothing for the second half, but then I don't want to be losing too much time either.


  • Ron - unless I am missing something - run your normal pace for first 0.5k, then work hard up the hill giving it everytihng you've got for the next 2k (only 1.25 miles although with 160m of climbing it will seem like more) then after that its downhill so you don't need any energy for that and by the time you've gone downhill for 2k you will have recovered enough to blast the last 0.5k.

    Only risk I can see is if it is offroad in which case you need to be slightly okay just so your brain and eyesight are still working properly so you can judge where you are putting your feet etc.

    That would be my tactic anyway.

  • On tougher terrain trying to run to set splits is very difficult and I would say next to pointless really as you can be smashing yourself uphill to keep a pace that isn't practical and have nothing left for the easier running. Your best bet will be to guage on your effort, having not raced for 10 years that may be a little tough but I assume you have done some training? Use a tough training run as reference point.

    For a 5k your effort level can afford to be pretty high and still maintain that through to the end. If you are sure it is a steady climb followed by steady descent then keep a sustained effort on the climb working your lungs etc without killing your legs and then empty everything on the way back. That is ofcourse if it is that simple.

  • Sounds good, ta. I was thinking of something similar, maybe just starting off a little slower to give myself a bit more to attack the hill with.


    WiB - I have been training but the most hilly route I've done was 60m over 5k, so this is almost 3 times as high. I see what you mean about judging it off effort levels. I guess I'm just a bit unsure as I don't know what such a big hill will feel like.

  • Just looked at run on t'internet as I live in Cumbria - you didn't actually mention that the run is at night time which may require a little more care and hence control on downward part! I tend to lose some control if I am absolutely whacked so, remembering it is your first run for 10 years, I would keep it sensible and leave destroying yourself for another day (preferably in the light!!)image

  • Skinny Fetish Fan wrote (see)

     I would keep it sensible and leave destroying yourself for another day (preferably in the light!!)image

    That doesn't sound like much fun!

  • Ron, when it starts to hurt pushing up that hill it's only lactic acid building up, when you come down again it will clear and you'll be fine.   It will hurt I'm sure, but remember the faster you go the sooner the pain will be over with image

  • Wow - you're running 4:10 per km and faster after 6 weeks!

    I know after a break (I've been an on and off runner for the last 20 years) it takes me a while to get my pace judgement right.

    So long as you are not stupid about it (i.e. sprinting!) a 5k effort is pretty much full on all the way. I'd pace it by effort rather than actual speed - run the whole thing at the maximum effort you think you will be able to sustain, and just give it everything in the last km or so.

  • Thanks for the tips. I didn't set myself any pace and decided to go off effort level instead. It was a good job I did because a 160m hill is a lot different in real life than it is just written down! The course was absolutely brutal due to it being so steep and really rocky, and the fact that it was dark didn't help. I think I did the first half in about 20.00, then the 2nd in about 9.00, so any pacings would have gone straight out of the window as soon as I started the climb.

    Even with that high time I still came in 3rd out of about 15. The only two to finish ahead of me were pretty serious young fell-runners (think 1st was about 25.00) so no shame in that. On to the next race.....

  • Well done Ron - sounds like a good effort based on minimal training - I would class not falling over and injuring yourself badly as a big plus if the race terrain was really rocky and steep and in the dark!!! 

  • Thanks SFF - Yeah I was pretty amazed to get down in one piece. There were some pretty hairy moments on the descent, especially as I completely ignored your advice about keeping it sensible!

    I thoroughly recommend this kind of race to anybody reading. The combination of trails, hills and dark makes it so much more interesting than your standard race. I found a series of these races here Looking forward to signing up for the 10k one in Rivington. That said, I need to test out my flat 5k time too, so will sign up for some 'normal' races in the meantime.

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