Sub 20 minute 5k - the straightforward way

Here's my straightforward plan to do a sub-20 minute 5k, not necessarily easy but certainly straightforward

any thoughts?


Running 5k Better


Goals:  /82% Age Graded 5k and an open water Triathlon.


  • My thoughts are that you need to condense. You make sense but you waffle too much. make it shorter and more punchy. Try to be less boring. Hope this helps.
  • I always remember my English teacher telling me that using p.s. was bad form; indicating that you hadn't planned properly what you had written.
  • ps you're right

  • a lot of that link reminds me of one of those generic RW training articles.

    By that I mean that the overall logic is sound in places, but the overall premise isn't narrowed down enough.

    You actually mention yourself that sub 20 is a wildly different achievement dependent on age/gender, yet you make no distinction of what shape you have to be in before undertaking your little 2-3month plan.

    A man 18-39 in the 22-23min range already, with 6months running experience who does 20-25miles a week it'd probably work for.

    For a 57year old woman who's 5 years in, does 30miles a week and has a pb of 27 mins it has no chance

  • @StevieG, yes that's true. Thank you for those comments. I was trying to help people who want direction and are competent runners. Few people have the benefit of personalised training plans or coaching, so i was trying to help there.

    I do add caveats that you need to be able to run for an hour and another caveat that  if your current PB is 23-25 minutes then the plan is porobably too ambitious for you at present. So yes I agree it would not work for the 57 year old woman you mention who in reality will probably never get below 20 minutes...


    Running 5k Better


    Goals:  /82% Age Graded 5k and an open water Triathlon.

  • I've been doing your 5k programme for the past 2 weeks and I'v found it to be very good, I wanted to change my usual routine up abit to avoid bordom, and also increase my speed abit so I googled for a sub 20 training plan and found your one, much fun so far. I wanna do a timed parkrun before the end of the year and see if I can get a sub 20.

  • My guess is that you've improved the article since you received the comments above.... as it seems pretty clear.

    But the actual 4 part programme is not so easy to instantly get my head round.  Partly because I cannot think in 'seconds per km'  -  as I'm a miles person.

    If I decide to do it, then I could spend some times working it all out.-  but if you're good at spreadsheets, you could create a  nice little tool where people input their max & rest heart rates, and the target time for their next 5K race.   As an output, the spreadsheet could give an actual schedule of training paces/times for each individual.

    It would take you a few hours to do it - so that all depends on your own motivation for writing your blog/website.. but would save at least 30 minutes for each user and remove a big barrier for the uptake of your proposal (for me, I think it would take more than 30 mins to sit down and sort it all out).

    I'm just coming off the back of a marathon, and looking to do something different for a while, so might have a go - although I might look to 10K first. 



  • Jon & RunWales

    thanks for the feedback. Always appreciated.

    I made a few changes but not many (I thought my PS and PPSs were funny (?) but hey ho they're now numbered corporate bullet points...a bit more boring). I guess it depends on how you start reading it. I could have really condensed to a few paragraphs but then would have been criticised for making MANY mistakes hence the caveats and setting the scene. We Brits are a critical lot you know (me too).

    Jon: I think you hit the nail on the head there. ie "change your routine". I think that is one of the best generic ways to improve as your body willotherwise get used to the same stimulus each time.

    RunWales: yes point taken I once was a miles person but saw the light. But I take your point re uptake as we are all different. I haven't got time right now to do that but i think i will at some point  


  • DT19DT19 ✭✭✭

    Hi, Just one observation on your last point, your times for the respective distances dont really marry up, unless you are far better at the higher threshold pace pace stuff. Its more likely however that at 47, your endurance will be stronger. a 20 min 5k would put you at 41 min for 10k and 1hr 32 for half. Likewise a 45min 10k would put you at 22 for 5k. Have you looked at mcmillan race paces?

  • @DT19 +1, you'd also need to adjust the paces for your level of fatigue.

    hi Sketty - I think your 5k specific plan probably wasn't at fault. I suspect mine would have made only some difference at the margins (other things being equal).

    But on to the meat of what you say: with 3 runs per week you CAN CERTAINLY improve quite a lot. It sounds like you are following a sprint triathlon plan of some sorts if all your sessions (presumably 9-12 per week) involve at least 30 mins of 'trying' then you simply must be getting better/'fitter' IF your plan allows sufficient recovery and speed (diet etc). If you did your 22:55 'flat out' BUT fatigued then simply by tapering properly you could knock more than 1 minute off. 

    IMHO it's not all about miles or even speedy miles. There's a lot more to getting the benefit from the miles or miles per hour than just what you do on the ground.

    so start off by looking at your taper, hydration shoes, caffeine, sleep, warm up and my article on "how to get a 5k PB this weekend' that'll at least give you a few more things to think about and you certainly also need to consider AS WELL how you training is structured.


  • The5krunner I was looking at your site last night and thinking of giving it a go.

    I run a lot in my teens but stopped around the age of 17(nearly 35 now).

    I started running again in mid September (2014) with basically just a run walk run for 10 minutes the first few times, I then cut out the walking bits and added a bit more distance on with each run until I got to my first 5k in 24:53 this was after less than 30 km run in total including the 5km that day, 19 days after I started running again.

    I then started running 5k on Tuesday's Thursday's and Saturdays and my times fell with each run 23:56, 23:43, 23:40, 23:36, 23:34.

    After 2-3 weeks of doing this I then began to add 1 km each week to my weekend run until it reached 10 km,so my running week was now  2 x 5 km's and 1 x 10 km.

    Within a few weeks of upping my weekend distance my 5k times started to drop again and in consecutive 5k's went 22:24, 22:18, 21;43, 20:54, 20:50, 21:02 and its now currently at 20:45.

    I am now 3 months back in to running and think I need to find new ways of reducing my time down to sub 20. I have entered a 5k in mid March so have about 14 weeks to lose 46 seconds, my target is sub 20 for this race.

    I have read many forum's and posts about doing lots ofeasy miles etc but this method is not for me, I don't need to run flat out every run but I need to run a decent pace to get enjoyment out of my runs. I don't enjoy running slow and would lose interest if this was the majority of my running week.

    I also have a restricted amount of time available to me for running with a young family and work etc, my wife is fine with what I am doing now but I don't want to push it to far so don't want to add to many more hours to my running week.

    My current running week now looks like this;

    Monday Fast 5k

    Tuesday and Thursday Mid paced 5k

    Saturday 10k.

    The 5k's also involve a slower warm up and cool down so are more like 1+5+0.5 km.

    With the 10k I start slow and build my speed on how I feel. The 10k is sort of run like a tempo run, I do 1k slow, 2k easy then I do 5k at about 4:30 pace, I gradually let the pace drop over the last few km's until I reach 10km, I them walk once I reach 10km.

    My thoughts are to first run your 535365353 on Thursdays instead of the 5k and see where this takes me first, I don't want to change to much to quickly as my body seems fine with what I currently do.


  • If you are unwilling to run easy then there is a limit to how much improvement you can make, however you are nearly there already on the sub-20.

    I would just say try and increase the distance of the saturday gradually towards 15-16k. Same for the mid paced runs towards 8k. For the fast 5k maybe split it into 1k/1mile intervals at 4min/km pace with 90 seconds rest between intervals.

    I think it will take you 6 weeks tops.


  • Thank's Iwan, I hope your prediction is correct. I would be happy if I could get to a consistent sub 20 level, I see it as a respectable time as opposed to a fast one and would be happy doing regular parkrun's etc then.

    I used to be able to run low 19's without training for weeks but I was a stone or two lighter back then, you take fitness and speed for granted in your teens.

    I take it your Welsh as well?

  • 5 x 1km @ 3m55secs to 4mins/km pace 2 min jog recovery.

    3 x mile @ 6 mins 30secs per mile. 3 min jog recovery.

    Long run: 5 to 10 miles.

  • Is that what you do/have done BarefootTed?

  • I run 2 x 3 to 5 mile runs mid week instead of the km and mile repeats. If I wanted to improve my 5k time further I would be running two interval sessions per week: 3 x mile or 5 x 800m reps and 4 x km or 10 x 400m reps + long run 5 to 10 miles.

  • VDOT52VDOT52 ✭✭✭
    2 interval session is too much of the same. I interval session and one tempo run of 4 miles at about current 5k pace plus 30 seconds per mile, which in your case would be 7:10 per mile.
  • Most of the on line plans seem to go for the 3 main work outs each week,

    1;speed work.


    3;long run.

    Where the difference of opinion seems to come in, is what a tempo run should be and what speeds etc it should be run at, while others seem to think that a regular hill run is of more benefit!

Sign In or Register to comment.