Before I transition to triathlons for the summer months, I have one month and one more 5k (you can read my recaps of the previous three here, here and here) to tackle in the spring season. My times have been inching downward and my goal is to get back under that 20 minute barrier. I’ve written in the past about the mental and physical demands of running a fast 5k. Now, I want to talk tactically about the 4 key workouts for a faster 5k that I’ll be using this final month of training.
These 4 workouts target speed and pacing, the two critical factors in executing a successful 5k race strategy.
In many other types of races, even the comparable 10k, you have time to recover from a section of poor pacing and get back on track. Not in the 5k. You need to nail your strategy and your speed from the outset. If you fall behind pace or make the dreaded mistake of going out too fast you are unlikely to recover. You will not get back on pace or will suffer terribly for the hot start in the last mile.
Incorporate and nail these workouts in your training and you have a great shot at hitting your splits and crossing the finish line with confidence.
6-8 x 1:00 Hills
If you want a fast 5k, you are going to hurt during the race. Your legs are going to get heavy and acid-filled. Hill repeats are a great workout to help you both build power, but also get used to running with tired legs.
They might be a dreaded workout on the schedule, but they get results. Done properly, you get a workout that targets the big leg muscles, will help your form and will help you prepare mentally for the grind of a fast 5k.
Find a hill that will allow you to run steadily for 1 minute. It doesn’t have to be super steep, look for a grade of 3-5% that will challenge you to run your 5k or faster pace for the whole interval. Recover fully between each interval. Don’t rush it.
Fast Finish Run
Where the hills will hit your quads and glutes and build power, the fast finish workout will target pacing.
Use this workout to practice your race pace. Think of it as a 5k tempo run. Run the first half at an easy pace, and then run the back half at a hard tempo (close to 10K pace).
This run will help you get better at pacing by feel. If you run the first half too hard, you will not be able to finish at goal pace.
You can also treat this as more of a progression run. Start out at an easy pace and gradually increase your pace to 5k in the last miles.
This track workout is all about learning to change gears, surging and running fast on tired legs.
Deceptively simple, but also deceptively hard. Don’t go out too fast!
You can pick your own times and paces. A good starting structure might be [2-3-4-3-2]. You would go 2 min hard, 2min easy, then 3 hard, 3 easy. Try a range of paces, going hardest on the shorter intervals at the start and finish.
3K Time Trial
Like an FTP test on the bike, this time trial is a good benchmark workout to test your fitness and how effective your training has been. You might use a ‘B’ race to do the same thing, but if you don’t have one scheduled, doing a time trial every 6 weeks or so is a good substitute and a good excuse to go fast!
Very important that you warm up fully before this one. The goal is speed. You should try to run your goal race pace or even a little faster than your 5K pace. Go fast and hold on as long as you can.
Cool down completely. Track your times to monitor your progress. You can also convert your time to a 5k, as well.
A 5k may be short, but it’s definitely not easy. You need a razor sharp fitness mix of speed, power and mental toughness to really excel. Try these 4 workouts to get faster and toe the starting line with confidence at your next race.