Sub-20 5K

Five expert tips to get that time down to the teens


1) Patience

Now depending on how close you are to those magical teens it’s either going to take you a longer or shorter amount of time. The most important thing is not to rush.

The moment you start becoming impatient, a number of issues will occur. Psychologically you become frustrated and, as a result, everything else will suffer. You will also start rushing things like training, or pushing yourself more than you should, which will lead to injuries.

So it’s pretty simple, be patient! 

2) Mix up training

Doing three different sessions a week is a must.

In no particular order, an intervals session, a 5-10-mile run and a 5K run.

Intervals session

When you do intervals you’re building up your speed endurance – your ability to run faster, longer. You should be running around 80-90% of your max speed, so considerably quicker than 5K pace.

Different types of sessions are as follows:

Six by two minutes with a minute rest in between each rep.

One, two, three, three, two and one minutes, with a minute rest in between each rep.

Or 30, 60, 90, 90, 60, 30-second reps with a 45-second rest in between each rep.

5-10 mile run

Whether you can muster 5 or 10, this is still important. Running further than your desired distance will build both stamina and fitness. Hand in hand with your intervals, being able to run longer for faster will make you even quicker over short periods. It’s common sense, right?

5K runs

How do you get better at golf, tennis, football, boxing? By practising! To get quicker at 5Ks you need to run 5Ks. Practice really does make perfect, and being able to get used to the distance as much as possible and what your body can achieve is crucial to getting your time down.

If you feel like you want to add more, than resistance training is great. Using your own body weight for press ups and crunches will improve strength and power. Work your way up, week by week. 

3) Nutrition

For many, this is actually the hardest part.

Being a runner is about lean strength. The lesser the body fat the better. Depending on whether you’re looking to do this just once or to keep regularly hitting below the 20’s could be the difference between a temporary or full on lifestyle change.

In short, many peoples’ diets need very little changing; it’s usually just a case of cutting out the crap. No crisps, chocolate and fast food. Well, at least to begin with. Breaking through the first couple of weeks is the toughest, after that, you can reward yourself with a slither of chocolate on a Friday, or a glass of wine.

The worse thing you can do is to indulge and/or binge.

More specifically, take a look at our breakfasts, lunches and dinners for runners for more ideas.

4) Pacing tactics

Always key. Setting off too quickly is a problem for even the best runners.

Keeping the same pace is the best way of assuring you have enough left in the tank for a sprint(ish) finish.

This is why practicing 5K runs becomes even more crucial.

Admittedly, this is very hard to do without a device – having a running watch which can guide you is a great way of keeping you on track.

Aiming for four minutes each kilometre will mean you’re on target for 20. Keep aiming for those four minutes and eventually you’ll get down to it.

If you can’t afford a watch, there are plenty of free apps on your smart phone too.

Failing that, a regular stopwatch to count your minutes should work just as fine. 

5) Race-day prep

You’re finally here!

You want to keep things very simple. If you’re running on a weekend for example, just one gentle run on a Wednesday will be fine.

Make sure you try nothing new on the day, eat what you’ve always eaten and drink what you have always consumed.

For the two nights previous, try and get at least seven hours sleep. You’ll be surprised how much this actually helps. There’s nothing quite like feeling refreshed on the day.

The rest is fairly simple; make sure everything is prepared a day in advance: where you’re going, what you’re wearing and that everything’s charged.

The least amount of stress before the race, the better you’re going to feel on that start line.

Lastly, we wish you luck. Sometimes, that’s all you need!

Tom Bristow

Written by Tom Bristow | 118 articles | View profile

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