Running 5k in under 30 minute

I had a recent conversation in regards to running a 5k in under 30 minutes, and I thought it would be good to share the advice I gave with all y’all.

A little background on her specific situation to put the advice into some context:

  • She was dealing with an injury which now seems to be under control. This affected her training and there are some lingering effects, but she’s been back to running.
  • Prior to the injury, she was active, and was getting into running. She also had the ability to run 5k before.
  • Currently she can run 3.5km before having to stop, and doing this 4-5x/wk

With those points in mind, I gave the following advice for her to reach her goal.

“First, know that you can run 5k non-stop before trying to achieve a specific time goal. This is best done by slowing the pace of the run slower than you think you should. Take whatever walking breaks you do need, and as the body adapts to running, you will need less and less walking breaks.

Once you can achieve 5k running non-stop, it’s time to incorporate speed into your training. That does not mean trying to run 5k’s as fast as you can every single time you run. You may do that, and see initial success, but you will quickly hit a plateau and wonder why you’re no longer making progress.

What you want to do is interval training; periods of fast running followed by periods of rest. There are many ways to go about doing this, but we’ll keep it simple for now.

First, follow a distance based interval plan. I have my reasons, but we’ll roll with that for now.

Distance based intervals are as the name suggests; you run a set distance, and you run it for time. For now, your rest time will equal your work time. So if you run a distance in 30 seconds, your rest is 30 seconds. You repeat this process for however many sets you can handle.

Since we’re trying to incorporate speed, it’s best to start with shorter intervals. Let’s start with 100m intervals (100m run, rest, 100m run, rest, etc.). The goal is 30 minutes, and I’ll assume your current 5k time is slower than that.

Using 30 minutes as the basis, break down the pace for 100m.

I’m gonna bore you with some math for the next paragraph, so if you want to skip to the following paragraph for the answer on pacing, go ahead. If you wanna know how I break things down, keep reading.

30 minutes is 6 min/km. Divide 6 min by 10 (since 1km is equal to 10x100m), and you end up with 0.6 min. Multiply 0.6 min by 60, and you get 36 seconds.

So the goal then will be to run 100m in 36 seconds, and rest for the same amount of time. Repeat that for several sets, say 10 sets. You can then take an extended break to recover and attempt another round of 10 sets, or call it a day.

As fitness improves, you extend the distance you run and see if you can maintain the pace. That means for 200m, you’re aiming for 1:12. For 300m, it’s 1:48. For 400m, it’s 2:24, and so on.

1-2 of your regular runs can be replaced with this style of training. The other run days can be your easy to moderate paced steady state runs.”

This is just an example of improving your 5k run. It’s not the only way, but it can give you an idea of how to progress your running abilities.

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