5K is one of the most enjoyable distances to run, but it’s a difficult event to master.
Take on the advice of our expert running coaches and you could shave seconds or even minutes off your current 5K PB.
Our coaches have a wealth of experience and regularly help beginners take their first strides into running.
1. Train slow, get fast!
The 5K distance is 85-90 per cent aerobic (the same energy system marathon runners build). Building your aerobic capacity and endurance should remain the bread and butter of your training.
Try this: Aim to run a weekly longer run of 75-90 minutes, perhaps including 2-3 blocks of ‘threshold’ running (at a controlled discomfort) in the final 30-45 minutes. This could be 3 x 6 mins at threshold, built into the last 30 mins of the run off a 2-3 min easy run recovery.
2. Get specific
To run a faster 5K, your need to get yourself accustomed to your new PB pace. Do this by including a weekly race paced interval session into your training.
Try this: Intervals between 800m and 1,600m with a short recovery of 75-90 seconds can be highly effective in building your V02 max (maximal aerobic capacity), running economy and ‘feel’ for 5K pace. For example, 6 x 800m at planned 5K pace effort off 75-90 secs recoveries, or 4 x 1,200m at the same intensity and off the same recovery.
3. Up the gradient
Strength and leg speed are a vital part of breaking through 5K PBs. Make hills your friends and you’ll quickly develop the power needed to sustain your race pace through the final 1-2K of the race.
Try this: Run between 6-10 short, fast hill repeats of 45-60 seconds each - with a block of ‘threshold’ running at 3-4 word answer pace on a flat surface at the start and finish. This might look like 5 mins threshold (3 min jog) + 10 x 45-sec fast hill (90 sec jog down recovery run), then 5 mins more of threshold running.
4. Fleet feet make PBs
Many runners try to ‘force’ too hard in 5K. Spend some time in your week focusing on your running technique and float your way to a PB.
Try this: Include ‘strides’ once or twice a week, where you run 80-100m focusing on ‘running on clouds’ – tall and light, with relaxed shoulders and with a fast stride of roughly 180 strides per minute. Try to incorporate a slight forward lean as you run and make sure your arms are relaxed and swing naturally.
5. Race to success
If you were racing a half or a marathon, you’d break that goal down and likely race a 10K or a half marathon in the build up. There is nothing stopping you doing this for your 5K races.
Try this: Use your local 5K parkrun cleverly by aiming to start at a controlled effort and build to 5K race pace for the final 2 to 3K, or even consider racing over 3,000m on the track. Both of these races are then clever training sessions and totally race specific.
6. Fuel your sessions
Harder sessions are fuelled by a greater percentage of stored sugars, or glycogen. Don’t leave yourself short of energy when running your faster training sessions.
Try this: Snack on high-quality carbohydrate during training days, ensuring you eat foods such as a banana or oatcakes 60-90 minutes before interval sessions or races.