Ok. It’s time for a no-nonsense revelation of how I smashed my 5K PB, after a 2 year slump of almost no gains. To begin, we are going tackle one of the most widespread myths in running. It’s a plague that affects athletes all across the world and it needs to be addressed.
The Myth - Distance Training Will Make You Faster
Here’s the thing. Distance training basically means running slower, for longer. Pretty much the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. The main problem with this strategy is that you aren’t learning how to tolerate the discomfort of running as fast as you can for a set period of time.
To cut a long story short, distance training is great for weight loss, but it has limited benefits when it comes to running faster.
So in this instance… screw distance training. The goal is to run a faster 5K in the next 2 weeks, not set a new record for your longest run.
So what's the right approach?
The basis of this strategy is fairly simple. The first thing is to figure out the exact pace that you need to maintain over 5k’s in order to actually break your PB.
Then you just need to slot in 5 interval training sessions (running at that target speed) in the 2 weeks leading up to the race.
For example, let’s say your goal is to run a sub 25 5K. In that case, the goal pace is 5mins/km (8:02 mins/mile).
Then you just schedule 5 interval sessions, where you run several 1km or 2km laps, at the target speed (5mins/km).
Week 1Basic Training Plan
Monday - Rest Day
Tuesday - Interval Training at Target Pace
Wednesday - Rest Day
Thursday - Interval Training at Target Pace
Friday - Rest Day
Saturday - Interval Training at Target Pace
Sunday - Rest Day
Week 2Basic Training Plan
Monday - Interval Training at Target Pace
Tuesday - Rest Day
Wednesday - Interval Training at Target Pace
Thursday - Rest Day
Friday - Rest Day
Saturday - Race Day
Sunday - Netflix & Chill
Why is this strategy so effective?
Here are three extra reasons this works so well:
- Most runners don’t do enough interval training. This is why they plateau.
- You are priming your mind and your body for race day.
- You are giving yourself enough rest days to recover from your training
What exactly do the 5 Interval Sessions look like?
This is my approach to the interval sessions. If you want to do it differently, that’s perfectly fine. Just make sure you do at least 5 sessions in the 2 weeks leading up to the race.
- 1st Interval Session: 4 x 1km Laps at target pace
- 2nd Interval Session: 2km at target pace + 3 x 1km at target pace
- 3rd Interval Session: 2km at target pace + 3 x 1km at target pace
- 4th Interval Session: 2km at target pace + 2km at target pace + 1km at target pace
- 5th Interval Session: 2km at target pace + 2km at target pace + 1km at target pace
My Results with this strategy
Using this approach, I was able to take 16 seconds off my Parkrun PB. This is a pretty big gain for me, because in the previous two years of training, I only chopped my PB by 7 seconds.
Side note 1 – The period from 2016 to the end of 2018 would have been a lot better for me if I didn’t experience 7 separate calf strains and a lisfranc tear (bachelor’s party gone wrong). As you can imagine, 8 injuries in 24 months won’t help you get fitter or faster.
The table above from the official Parkrun website shows that I knocked 16 seconds off my PB by squeezing 5 interval sessions into a 2 week period.
Side note 2 – I had to cut one of my training sessions short, due to mild food poisoning. No further commentary needed.
Side note 3 – My decision to stick to the target pace (rather than blitzing the first half of the race and then suffering) paid off nicely. I now know that a sub 18 5k is within reach.
Tips For Race Day
Pick & Stick To Your Target Pace: Don’t be the guy (or girl) that shoots ahead at the start of the run, only to feel like death midway through the race. This is one of my party tricks and it tends to backfire.
For this plan to work, you need to stick to the target pace that you’ve been hitting during training. It should feel difficult, but not impossible.
Find someone to hang on to: If there’s someone running at the same pace as you (or a touch faster) hang on to them for as long as possible.
You can use them as a yardstick, and hopefully overtake them in the closing stretch. If they start dropping off the pace, don’t be afraid to leave them in the dust.
Push Hard In The Final 400 meters: One of Mo Farah’s best strategies is to run crazy fast in the last 400 meters. If you can find the courage to overcome the searing pain, this tip alone can be the difference between a new PB and another failed attempt. Dig deep, and push hard during the home stretch.
If you’re serious about dramatically improving your 5K PB in 2 weeks, I’m confident that the interval training method described in this post will help you do exactly that. It worked for me and it can work for you. Now go out there and start smashing those interval training sessions!