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Articles > Faster 5Ks on 40 miles per week


Want to get injured?
It takes no skill to train yourself into the ground with overtraining: just go out and run your hardest every day.

If your goal is to race fast though, while avoiding injury, you should run quite slowly most days (60 to 70 percent of maximum heartrate or max HR). You should only feel slightly fatigued after any speed session; you should not be achy all over.

To race good 5Ks and 10Ks you need to be patient. You need a series of mostly gentle runs interspersed with modest amounts of quality or "hard" running. The quality runs must be at appropriate pace for you or they will not give you any training benefit. You also need several different types of quality running to perform well:

  1. Hill training for strength
  2. Interval training for running economy and speed
  3. Anaerobic threshold training for endurance

Items 1 and 2 are run at 5K intensity most of the time, or at 95 percent of your max HR. You'll include about 25 percent of your repeats at 2-mile pace or intensity, which is 97-98 of max HR, or 10 seconds per mile faster than current 5K pace.

This web page is primarily the anaerobic threshold phase of training. Threshold pace is the best predictor of race performance. At 25 to 30 seconds slower than 5K pace, this modest speed allows you to do more running at this pace. Cruise in control to stimulate your muscles and your oxygen delivery system to work at high effort while producing minimal amounts of lactic acid.

This running schedule is for the moderately intensive runner, or intermediate runners during phase three of 5K or 10K running, training & racing:

Experienced at 10K or 5K racing on 30 miles per week and done a hill training phase at 40 per week? Graduate to moderately intensive 5K training, and run at speed twice a week, accumulating eight miles of gentle speed running each week.

Week One:

  • Day one: warmup and cooldown of 2 miles each side of 4 miles of fartlek running to give a total of 8 miles for the day. Run at 10K to 5K effort for whatever durations you feel like, and on soft terrain to save your legs for Sunday. Run or stride out some long efforts of 2-5 minutes, but include some short efforts of one minute. Jog or walk fast for recovery between efforts.
  • Day two: 12-14 mile easy pace run at 60 to 70 percent of max HR.
  • Day three: easy 4 mile run.
  • Day four: cross train gently.
  • Day five: Anaerobic threshold training to gradually increase the speed which you are able to run before you produce huge amounts of lactic acid, and to teach your muscles to absorb the lactic acid better. Run a one mile, a two mile and a one mile repeat at 30 seconds per mile slower than current 5K pace…but only take a two minute rest between repeats. You should be at 85 percent of your Max HR.
  • Day six: easy recovery 8 mile run at 65 percent of max HR.
  • Day seven: rest

Total mileage is 40-42, but the schedule is essentially the same for 60 or 30 mile per week runners. You'll all run 10 percent of your mileage at good pace on Days One and Five. You'll also run 25 to 35 percent of your miles in one run on Day Two, and spread the remaining miles to recover from and to set up for the three key training days.

Week Two is the same as week one except:

  • Day One: Hill repeats to maintain strength from your previous 10 weeks of training. 2 miles of 200 to 400 meter hills at 5K intensity.
  • Day Five: Run 3 to 4 miles at anaerobic threshold pace, or 25 minutes if that comes first. After a two minute rest, run another mile at threshold pace.

Repeat weeks one and two for several rotations while getting more and more relaxed at anaerobic threshold pace and you'll improve your speed endurance. Use a variety of surfaces. Rest up as out-lined below to do a 5K race.

Those of you who have run through this schedule before may only need four weeks in this phase. You'll be running it as relaxation after a series of races at the end of your last build-up, or as a transition from racing longer distances, or for regaining fitness after an injury, or perhaps as your vacation running. You will then proceed to Interval or VO2 max training for 8 weeks or so prior to more 5K and 10K races:

When you're ready to move onto Interval sessions you can run this 4 week rotation on Saturdays: warmup and cooldown 2 miles each:

  • Week one: run 4 miles of fartlek.
  • Week two: stride your 2 miles of hill repeats.
  • Week three: cruise 4 miles of anaerobic threshold running.
  • Week four: economical interval runs at 5K pace.

Each of those four sessions must be run slowly enough so that on Day two of each week... you can handle a 12-14 mile easy pace run at 70 percent of max HR.

The remainder of your week is unchanged from above except that on

  • Day five: Interval training at 5K to 2-mile race pace to perfect the art of running quite fast but with minimal effort, i.e. to run efficiently.
  • Total mileage remains 40-42

The fifth week should be restive by reducing all sessions by 25 percent to prepare for a low key race: you'll then run another four week rotation, followed by a second race. Rest up for the second race with:

  • Day One: 3 miles of Intervals: say 5 x 600 meters at 5K pace, and 4 x 400 meters at 2-mile pace.
  • Day Two: 10 miles easy.
  • Day Three: Walk a mile.
  • Day Four: Do half of your normal cross training session, but no weight training.
  • Day Five: One mile at threshold pace, then 4 x 200 meters at 2-mile pace.
  • Day Six: An easy 4 miles.
  • Then rest for your race

More intensive 5K runners will have been through this schedule at least once already, and may be testing the limits of their bodies with three speedy runs per week. They'll probably run fast on day three most weeks, concentrating on relaxation at speed with slightly tired legs from Day two.

Adapted from 10K & 5K Running, Training & Racing: The Running Pyramid by David Holt.