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How to Run a Sub 20 5k

How to Run a Sub 20 5k Guide – UPDATED – Training For A 5km

For many people that run each week, running a sub 20 minute 5k is one of their big goals. They read about training, listen to podcasts, and talk to coaches, in the hope of getting some advice to help them run faster. However, many runners never end up being able to run fast enough and end up losing motivation trying to reach their goal.

So what makes the 5km so tough? And why is breaking 20 minutes for 5km harder for some than others?

In this article, we show you how to run a sub 20 5k as well as some of the best 5km workouts you should do. We also cover other topics related to breaking 20 minutes for 5km. So, if you are stuck and haven’t been able to go below that magical time, keep on reading.

Sub 20 5k Pace – How Fast Do You Need to Run?

The first thing you need to know when training for a 20 minute 5k is how fast you have to run.

To run 5km in under 20 minutes you need to average 4 minutes per kilometer. That will mean you will need to run the final 1km in 3 minutes 59 seconds. While this is usually the smartest way to break 20 minutes, it doesn’t always work that way.

This strategy can work if you have pacemakers that can shelter you from the wind and also hold even splits. However, if you are running a 5km race, these splits will probably be thrown out the door within the first few kilometers. This is due to motivation, other competitors, and general excitement.

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An alternative strategy is to go out hard and hang on. Often this results in some fast early kilometer splits, followed by rapidly declining final 2 km.

So which pacing strategy is best?

For 90% of people, even splits are the way to go. It will prevent a rapid rise in heart rate, allow you to be more relaxed, and keep your breathing pattern under control. It will also feel like a slow controlled effort, where the majority of the pain and suffering will come in the final 1.5-2km of the event.

While this may sound easy, pacing even splits (especially around other people) can be difficult. So practice in training is needed as well as controlling your excitement during the first few kilometers.

5km Workouts You Need To Know

Key 5km Workouts You Need To Know

Before we get into how you should train for a 5k race, they are some key workouts that you will need to know. These include:

– Distance run
– Long run
– Intervals
– Stride outs
– Tempo Runs
– Hill repeats

All these workouts are vital when trying to run a personal best over the 5k distance. So including these in your training plan will help improve your strength, speed, and stamina. Thus, resulting in improved lactate threshold and v02 max. However, it may sound complicated but that’s far from the truth.

Training for 5km is relatively easy, and following some general guidelines will help you train smarter. Some of these include:

– Have a rest week every 3-4 weeks where you reduce the training volume by 40-60%
– Implement hill repeats early in the plan (week 1-6)
– Increase your volume each week through weeks 1 – 12
– Start doing tempo runs after you have completed a block of hill training (week 7-10)
– Introduce interval training (1-2km repetitions) during weeks 10-14
– Week 14-16 increase the speed by doing 200m repeats

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Sub 20 minute 5km

How to Run a Sub 20 5k?

So now we know some of the types of workouts we need to do, how do you run a sub 20 5k?

First, you need to structure your training plan. That means breaking your training into blocks or commonly known as periodization. However, for this article, we will keep it simple and work in blocks.

Block one: Week 1-6
Block two: Week 7 -10
Block three: Week 11-14
Block Four: Weeks 14-18

Generally, a good 18 weeks will be enough to break 20 minutes for 5k as long as you are not a complete beginner.

During block one, the focus should be on building your weekly volume by 10-15% and including hill repeats 1-2 times a week.

The hill repeats should only be around 2-4 minutes in length and be performed at an intensity around your lactate threshold. That means they aren’t that hard. However, it is important to remember they will help improve your lactate threshold and prepare the body for more intense workouts in the coming weeks.

Block two should be where you start to incorporate tempo runs and longer runs in your training. That means increasing the distance of your long run each week slightly. Also during this period, you should continue doing some hill repeats, but reduce this to only once per week. You should then replace the other hill repeat session with a tempo run.

The tempo run should be slightly lower than your threshold or around 15km race pace. To make sure you progress properly, start by doing 15 minutes at tempo pace, then increase it to 20 minutes after a few weeks.

Block three of your training plan is where you feel strong enough for the final part of a 5km but lack speed. So, this is the phase where you need to start incorporating intervals into your training and these intervals should be performed at 5 km race pace or slightly below (3 minutes 55 – 4minutes per kilometer).

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Last but not least is block four. Block four is where you focus on bringing up your speed. This will help you relax at speed and increase your average speed across the 5k. This period can consist of intervals ranging from 200m-400m and is generally run much faster than your 5k race pace.

Once you have completed around 18 weeks of training for a 5k, you should be able to run fast enough to break 20 minutes.

However, before you go out and follow the above 18- week training plan, remember a few key guidelines.

– Include a rest week every 3-4 weeks
– Include stride outs after your easy runs during blocks 2-4
– Reduce the mileage during weeks 14-18
– Allow 5-7 days to fully taper for the event
– Your long run should not exceed 90 minutes.


How Long Does it take to Run a Sub 20 5k?

If you are wondering how long it takes to run a sub 20 5k, there is no straight answer. It all depends on your fitness and background when starting a 5k training plan. However, if you have been running for a while and can run under 25 minutes for 5km, it shouldn’t take you more than 18-25 weeks to complete.

If you are someone that runs slower than 30 minutes for 5k, it can take anywhere from 1-2years.

However, other factors like the training you do and the time you have available, can all play a role in how long it takes.

Running Training Plans