Running 5km at Parkrun
Training

Run 5km Faster

Why Run a Fast 5km?

Training for the 5km distance is something anyone can do. It’s time-efficient since there’s no need for super long-distance runs, rather shorter interval work is key. It’s a great distance for weight management and gaining fitness. To run a good 5km it’s about speed, strength and endurance combined. The distance is long enough for it to become very challenging, creating a great training stimulus to build your mental fortitude. But also short enough that when things get hard, you are well over halfway, and you can’t give up once you’ve gone that far. The best part of 5km? Assuming you warm down properly, you can train the next day, allowing you to keep building on endurance.

How to Run 5km Faster?

Running 5km faster is all about developing a tolerance to running well above lactate-threshold.  The best way to do this is interval training. Always do a proper warm-up before intervals. At least 10mins of running before starting, the more tired you are the longer your warm-up should be. Ideally, run intervals should be scheduled when you are most rested during the week.

Sample sessions:

400m around the track is a great stable for improving speed. For 5km you want to aim to run at a pace ~20sec faster per km than your goal pace (this is 8sec per lap faster).

5 x 400m @ goal pace per km – 20sec.
Take 90 seconds rest between intervals.

Increase the reps by 1 each week until 10 x 400m.

IE Goal 5km time is 16:40, this is 3:20/km

5 x 400m @ 3:00/km (71sec per lap).

Another great interval set is 1km repeats. Run your goal pace for 1km, followed by 90sec recovery. This can be static or very easy jog 200m.

5 x 1km @ goal pace
Take 90 seconds rest or easy jog 200m to recovery between intervals.

To progress, increase the repetitions to 6 and look to reduce the rest between the intervals.

However, remember to start with only a few reps and increase slowly over time to avoid injury. Typically, as a triathlete aerobically you may be very strong from swim and bike training but always tend towards fewer repetitions for speed work with running. It’s better to be under cooked and consistent than push too far and have to take a couple of weeks or more off to recover from an injury.

Pacing correctly is also very important to run your fastest 5km. Running a 5km at your limit isn’t easy, and most go too easy, or too fast for the first km. In my experience running 5km fast should feel like:

1km – Things are ok, the effort feels hard but still manageable
2km – Effort level as you cross 2km should be taking its toll, you wonder how far until halfway, but still believe you can sustain the pace.
3km – Boom effort level is going through the roof, and you question whether you can keep this going to the end. Lactate is getting high. This is when its time to dig deep as you are over halfway!
4km – Mentally the hardest, as there’s still another km to go, your brain is screaming at you to stop, your legs feel like lead. You’re at your physical limit and controlling your breath is challenging.
5km – Final km you can do it, drive the cadence with your arms, whatever you do, don’t give up. You’ve come so far and so much pain it will all be over shortly. Mentally very challenging as the last couple minutes feel like hours, with every fibre in your body trying to rebel.

Finish – the endorphins kick in and you feel amazing! You can’t believe what you just achieved when you clearly thought it was impossible. Congratulations on running your fastest 5km!

Sound like fun? Just remember if you get to 3km and it doesn’t feel hard then you probably going too easy!

When to Run a Fast 5km?

Running 5km flat out every week isn’t necessarily a great way to keep improving, as although the physical load is relatively low, really applying yourself to your best 5km time takes a lot of mental strength. Joining in with your local parkrun can be a great way to encourage yourself to give your best, with a huge range of runners of all levels taking part, this can spur you on to achieve what you didn’t realise was possible.

Running a fast 5km every week is ok, just save those special flat out PB attempts for once a month, so you can dig deep and give your best.

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