How To Place In Your Next 5K. Our Guaranteed Steps To Get You That Prize.

A few months back, we published an article called “Runner’s Bucket List” which, according to our metrics, proved to be one of your favorite stories. The piece explained that all runners should have a list of running goals they want to accomplish at some point in their lives. The goals should be a way to stretch your efforts and achieve something that is both reasonable and challenging at the same time.

We met one of our readers recently and he shared some great insight with us about an item on his running bucket list. Item # 4 on his list was that he always wanted to “win something” at a race. It was that simple, he wanted to leave a race having placed in his age group and he wanted to receive a trophy, ribbon, certificate.. basically anything. He explained to us that this was extremely important to him and that achieving it did not have very much to do with actual running skill or ability.

Based on his feedback, we developed a fool-proof guide to help you win that trophy.

1. The smaller, the better

You want a race with a small crowd, so pick a race that is poorly marketed. When you know about a race, but you can’t find any info online and all the advertising is based on hand-written signs, that’s gold for you. The words “1st Annual” are ideal.

2. Check out the Prize Categories

Before you sign up, check out the prize categories. Some races offer prizes for placing in age categories of 10-years, such as 20-29, 30-39, etc. Your chances greatly increase if the age categories are broken down further such as 20-25, 26-30, etc.

3. Take a look at the results from the previous year

This will show you what the times for your age group last year and if you have a chance to place. Races tend to vary with which age groups draw a bigger turnout. Also, some races are notoriously faster or slower, so the previous year’s results will provide you with a sneak preview of what to expect.

4. Bad weather = Better placing for you

Almost all races are listed as “rain or shine” however, a lousy weather forecast will usually keep the crowds from coming out. So, if you want to place, be sure to show up on race day if it’s cold, rainy & miserable out.

5. Check the competition

Midway through the race, take a look at the pack of runners that are nestled near to you. Take an assessment of who is in your age group and be sure that, no matter what, you beat them.

6. Start towards the front

Many of the smaller races do not have electronic scoring, so the prizes and placing are based exclusively on how you finished, not on how you ran. It may sound elementary, but that little adjustment may be the difference.


So there you have it – the guide to winning that trophy, ribbon or certificate at your next race. Of course, there is one other option that you could do…. You could actually train harder, prepare better, eat healthier, drink less beer and come up with a better race strategy. But come on, that all just seems crazy and our tricks are a whole lot easier.

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Charlie Hoffmann

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