Many active adults do not consider themselves ‘runners’ or even capable of doing a race. For those willing to give it a try, a 5k is the perfect way to start. They are a great introduction because they are usually easy enough for anyone to finish. That means you can get a big group and tackle a 5k without many issues and make it a really fun time.
The amount of time it takes to complete a 5k will depend on the strength of the runner, usually top runners finish in 10-15 minutes, most runners in 20-40 minutes, and those who mostly walk 40-60+ minutes. Even with just walking, a 5k does not normally take over an hour to complete.
For those who are serious, you can train to get the best possible time, and we are here to help with that. As a general time frame, allow 6-8 weeks of training before your race.
There are three main areas of Focus for 5K training – Speed, Endurance, and Race Specific Fitness.
Speed reflects how fast you can run. Like strength, speed is a skill and can be learned. The best way to get faster is to do sprints. If you are a novice runner, you may want to be able to maintain a light running speed for 10+ minutes. While sprints can be done by anyone, not having a baseline of cardiovascular endurance will make them really challenging.
After establishing your baseline of cardiovascular endurance, start working on improving your speed by running at an all-out effort for 10-30 seconds with a 30-90 second rest time (walk) and repeat for 6-10 reps.
Once you can do 30 seconds of sprints with 30 seconds rest for 6-10 reps, move on to hill sprints to further build up your legs. Sprint 15 seconds up a hill or incline on a treadmill, and walk to recover for 30-60 seconds. Repeat this 6-10 times.
Note: Sprints are not meant to be easy. As such, they may be felt the next day in muscles and joints. This is especially true for hill sprints, but your body will improve over time. Always start off easy, allow your body to catch up and take time off to recuperate.
Endurance is not only a reflection of how fast you can go but how long you can maintain that speed. Just like getting stronger in weight lifting, endurance is improved by increasing your volume; basically to gain endurance you need to run more.
For a decent 5k time, you should be able to get a mile in 7-10 minutes and maintain that for around 3 miles.
Race Specific Fitness
Race specific fitness is any area of fitness you need to complete a particular race. For example, some races have mile minimums (you have to be able to do an 8 minute mile) to qualify. Other races may be very hilly which means you should be able to run long distance up hills, and other races such as Mud Runs require some upper body strength to make it through obstacles. The type of fitness necessary for the race will be determined on where the race is taking place and the type of race it is.
All of the above needs to be considered and programmed into the type of training you need to do for the race. Though this article is meant to help with 5k training, the same general rules apply for any race (10k, ½ Marathon, or Full Marathon), but keep in mind the longer the race the longer out you need to start training.
Below is a sample 6 Week 5k Training Program aimed at helping a novice runner accomplish their first 5k. It serves as a general template but be sure to get a trainer to make it more specific to your needs.
|Day 1 – Easy Run
|Day 2 – Interval Training
|Day 3 – Long Run
|Run 2 minutes/Walk 5 minutes x 4
|20 on 40 off x 10
|Run/Walk 1 mile
|Run 3 minutes/Walk 4 minutes x 4
|25 on 35 off x 10
|Run/Walk 2 miles
|Run 4 minutes/Walk 3 minutes x 4
|30 on 30 off x 10
|Run/Walk 2.5 miles
|Run 5 minutes/Walk 2 minutes x4
|30 on 25 off x10 (3 reps on Hill/Incline)
|Run/Walk 3 Miles
|Run 6 minutes/Walk 1 minute x 4
|30 on 20 off x 10 (4 reps on Hill/Incline)
|Run/Walk 3.5 Miles
|Run 7-10 minutes/Walk 1 min x 2
|30 on 10 off x 10 (5 reps on Hill/Incline)