Should I Run the Exact Route of my Upcoming 5k

by Tom
(Delhi NY USA)

5k exact route

Hello Dominique,
My first ever 5k will be in 3.5 months' time. I am the 45-year-old guy that asked you awhile back about how to train.

My question is: I now know the specific route of the race. I have run it twice and it has a particularly killer hill on it. I was dismayed that my time slowed down.

Should I not run that route until race day? I am wondering if I am getting my mental game off balance.

Would it be better to just keep training as I have been doing with your suggestions of tempo, base and interval and not run that route until race day?

I guess in the end I'll have to decide for myself but wanted to get your input on it.

Thanks very much I find your site not only helpful but more importantly, inspirational as well.

Answer by Dominique:

Hello Tom,
Thanks for your question about the upcoming 5k race. I'm glad that you find my website helpful and inspiring.

Now, let's dive into answering your question:

1. The principle of specificity in running
2. Test run on actual route and mental game
3. My personal experiences with knowing and not knowing the course

The Principle of Specificity in Running

5k exact route

The principle of specificity is the foundation of any effective running training program. It states that the body will adapt precisely to the demands placed upon it.

For us runners, this means that we need to train in a way that mirrors our race conditions as closely as possible. The actual race route has a hills? Then you should definitely incorporate hill work in your training! By doing so, you're not just preparing your body physically but also mentally.

Test Run on Actual Route and Mental Game

5k exact route

The way I look at it, having the knowledge that this hill is there is benefiting you. Only imagine if you found out about this hill during your 5k race. That would be so demotivating.

So, I think running the actual race route before the race can be beneficial. This will familiarise you with the layout, landmarks, and particularly challenging spots, like the hill you mentioned. However, it’s essential not to let this knowledge psych you out.

Running should not just be about beating the clock; it should be a fun and enriching journey. Mixing in different routes keeps your training fun and versatile, which in turn, helps keep your mental game strong.

So, my advice would be to do this particular race route maybe a couple of times more. Get familiar with it, but don't fixate on it. Run many other routes with and without hills in preparing for your 5k race.

My personal experiences with knowing and not knowing the course

5k exact route

I have got my fair share of fails and experiences with knowing or not knowing the course. I still remember very clearly this 10k race at which I wanted to set a PB. I had trained well, I was prepared.

But what I had not accounted for was the hilly course. I had completely assumed it was a flat and fast course and was confronted with all these little hills that were not insurmountable, but definitely made a PB impossible.

And I only had myself to blame!

Another good example where knowing the course is really beneficial is a lap around the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne, called "The Tan". It is a 3.82km loop and it has a fairly sizeable hill in it which stretches for about 500m of the course. One of those hills that hurts, no matter at what speed you run it.

I participated in a corporate competition in which we had to run The Tan every fortnight. I can't tell you how useful it was to go through that learning experience of trying to race the same challenging lap every fortnight. It took a while to get it right.

Even though I had run the lap so many times before at an easy pace in training, the first time I raced it, I attacked the hill too eagerly and ran out of steam before the finish. The second time I was a bit scared, took it too easily and lost too much time. It was only after 3-4 times that I started to get the hang of it. It was a learning process on how to deal with that hill well.

I hope this helps. In the end, make sure you do the right training for the race. With or without a hill, racing a 5k feels like an awful long time if you have not properly trained for it. So put in the work, get a bit more familiar with that route so you know what you are in for and I am sure you will go well.

And keep in mind. As much as it's about crossing that finish line, it's also about enjoying the journey.

All the best,

5k running tips

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to 5k Running Questions.

Like this page:

Share this page:

Like this site:

[?] Subscribe To This Site

follow us in feedly
Add to My Yahoo!


  • Beginner Running Tips

    Are you a beginning runner? Then this is your best starting point. Many tips and running programs on offer, dedicated to you.

  • Running for Weight Loss

    Aiming to lose a few pounds? Get into the Running for Weight Loss section for tips and advice.

  • Running Training

    The Running Training section of the site has got the most articles. It is constantly getting updated with new tips and information. A must-visit if you are serious about improving your running performance.

  • 5k Running Tips

    The 5k is a great distance to run and train for. The great thing is that you can do it quite often and see big improvements.

  • 10k Running Tips

    The 10k is a real challenge. You need to run fast for an uncomfortably long time! Check out this section if you are strong of mind and legs!

  • Marathon Running Tips

    The marathon is a massive challenge. Proper training is so important! Make sure to check out this section if you have got your mind set on the marathon!

What's New?

  1. Half Marathon - Need 11 Minutes Improvement

    I ran my first half marathon yesterday. I'm a 48 y/o female and my time was 2:11 (gun time). I trained with one long run a week and two short runs -

    Read more

  2. 5 Minute Mile at 45 Years Old

    Mid-life crisis question. I'm 45 years old and haven't run seriously since college. In high school, I ran 4:40 for a mile; 10:20 for two miles. I could

    Read more

  3. Sneezing after Running

    Every time I finish a run, I start sneezing (like a minute straight). For the rest of the day, I will have a runny and stuffy nose and will continue

    Read more

  4. Special Running Workouts :: Billat's Four by Five and the Thirty-Thirty

    Veronique Billat trains elite runners. She has found a few great workouts to improve your running and increase your running speed. Learn all about them on this page.

    Read more

  5. Want to Run a Half Marathon in Less Than Two Hours

    Love your website! Today I ran 5 km in my local race. My time was 25 minutes, 38 seconds. I am a 44 year old woman, average height and build (5'5 and

    Read more