Time for a fast 5K - The break-30:00 plan

Summer is 5K season! A favourite with new runners and experienced racers alike, a 3.1-mile race is a great way to focus your training and target a time goal. Use the following workouts and tips to nail your new PB.



STRETCH YOURSELF Add speedwork to hit your sub-30:00 goal

Setting out to break 30 minutes in a 5K is a challenging yet achievable target for relatively new runners, those returning from an injury layoff, or seasoned recreational runners. Sign up for a race five weeks out, and stick with a plan (see below). ‘Training consistently and doing speed workouts will help make you faster,’ says Rea. Goal pace and tempo runs will get you feeling comfortable with holding a speedier pace.

Practise fast pace

Run 4x1000m (two and a half times around a track) at slightly faster than race pace, with a two-minute jog between repeats. Don’t worry if you’re not close to a track though – this can be done on any flat and reasonably obstruction-free route. Measure the distance using a GPS watch, smartphone running app or online route planner. ‘If you can nail this workout, you’ll run close to that pace for a 5K,’ says Rea. Do it two weeks into training and again 10 days before race day.

Make time to tempo

A tempo run is a workout at a ‘comfortably hard’ intensity, where you can speak just a few words at a time. Warm up for 10 minutes, then take five minutes to work up to a 10-20-minute tempo at just slower than your 10K pace (if you’ve not got a race time to base your tempo pace on, aim for 8 on a 1-10 scale of effort), advises Thomas Morgan, an assistant track coach at the University of Kentucky, US. Add a couple minutes each week until you’re up to 30 minutes.

Keep moving

Rest fully on one day but spend one rest day cross-training, says Norman. Mix up cross- training days with the following workouts:

Power plyo Do 10-30 seconds each of star jumps, high-knee marches and skips, squat jumps (from a squat, explode upward), split squat jumps (from a lunge position explode upward and switch legs before landing), and single-leg hops.

Flex training Do 10-15 minutes of dynamic yoga: a knee hug, low lunge, downward dog and plank.

Active recovery A maximum of 60 minutes of low-impact cardio.

This five-week schedule by coach Andrew Kastor is for runners who currently log 20 to 30 miles a week


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Discuss this article

Runners World is very good at producing precise training plans for certain distances which usually start several weeks or months before the expected race date.  Like many other runners I race regularly, once or twice a month, at distances ranging from 5k to half marathon.  

What sort of training plan would you suggest to cover these options?  I usually run 30 - 35 miles a week and regularly do hills, although I do not have a fixed training plan.


Posted: 23/04/2014 at 18:20

If you read the articles in that link, you get the key principles for the 5K. - and other articles give the key elements of half marathon training.

It seems pretty obvious that you need to take elements from each... but in my opinion, if you focus 80-90% on the HM training plan... with a smattering of the fast interval training recommended for 5K... then that is probably optimum for a typical runner like you.

The specialised 5K speed training sessions are good at refining your 5K and perhaps 10K times - - but are only really effective once you've got your aerobic base sorted - something that can take many minutes off your 5-10K times.

On the other hand, those sessions have a comparatively small effect on HM - where sorting the aerobic base contributes a huge amount.

That's why you, as a regular racer across a range of distances, should have a training week that looks more like a HM training programme than anything else. IMO.


Posted: 24/04/2014 at 08:29

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