Beginning, motivated runner looking to run 5km sub 20min

Hello everyone,

I just started running some 3 weeks ago. I already have some stamina from playing football for 11 years (which I still do, 3 times per week). 2 sundays back, I competed for the first time in a running match. I ran 5km in 23:36. Of course I would like to improve it. Normally, I run about 2 times per week (running 5,5km then in about 24 min). Do you guys have any idea if I will be able to get my time below 20 min, and do you perhaps have an idea what's the best way to achieve it?

Many thanks in advance!

- A beginning runner


  • It depends how much you are doing at football, how serious you want to be and how much time you have. If you were in the ideal world you would want to run 5-6 times a week, of which 1 run would be long (10 miles say) and 1 or 2 runs would be quick (Intervals or Tempo), with the remainder steady. Your mileage should increase gradually, so no more than one extra run a week and no more than 5-10% increase overall in a week. You then run a race/ park run once a month to test your form and take it from there.

    What will influence this is how much you are doing in football training and if this is high intensity (like shuttle runs or sprints). If you are doing that regularly then the ideal running schedule isn't going to work as that would be like doing intervals 4 or more times a week, which isn't really a great idea!

    Give us a bit more informaition on what running you do at football, if you are going to continue with it and if a 5k pb is your only 'goal' (pardon the pun) then others can offer more precise advice from that.

  • (Technically a running 'match' is called a 'race' - but we can excuse that.) image

  • Hehe, sorry for the mistake, I'm not a native speaker of English myself, that may have caused it.

    Well, my football practices(2 times per week) aren't really intensive (90 min), it depends a bit though, sometimes a bit more. My football game (also 90 min) is much more demanding. Sometimes we do have sprints, but not very often. We've did some shuttle runs last year, but we won't do them this year.

    Running 5-6 times per week isn't really feasible for me, since I've got to do a lot for school.

    And what do you mean with "5k pb"? And that won't be my only goal, eventually I will run in 10km races, but that will only be in some months.

    My scheme for a typical week:
    Monday        - Football practice
    Tuesday       - Running 5,5km at a normal pace, at about 90-95% of what I'm able to do
    Wednesday  - Football practice
    Thursday      - 1 hour gymnastics at school, after that running to home with a friend ( 7km, I could increase that easily)
    Friday           - Rest
    Saturday       - Football game
    Sunday         - Rest

    Could you tell me if this scheme is a good one, or if it needs some changing?


  • Robs already answered you, it's about specificity. What you're doing looks excellent for all round fitness, and I suspect from your answers about football and Gymnastics and being young, running a sub 20 minute 5k on your current training would probably be quite easy for you in a few months, but you could probably go much further than that if you wanted to get better at running at the expense of your other interests. So as Rob says, it's about how much you want to run, rather than do football practice and matches.

  • "5k pb" = 5k Personal Best, your running target time. Some people have goals of time, distance or even just completion - so what you are aiming at influences what you need to do. If you want to get better at distance you will need to prioritise running a little more, if you are sticking at 5k/ 10k then you will be OK by mixing it up, but you'll not get your full potential out of running unless you prioritise it.

    From what you say above then the less disruptive steps you could take are to increase the distance of the Thursday run and to put in a modest recovery run on Sunday. The next step after that would be to drop football or to risk doing both running and football on the same day - that's the compromise you need to think about.

    (As a Triathlete then I often have the dilemma of do I run, do I do something else, do I rest etc, so you have my sympathy on this!)

  • Thank you guys for the quick responses.

    Rob, I don't think I want to drop football, since it's also a bit of a social activity for me. I might drop it next year though, since many players are planning on stopping. A recovery run on Sunday might be a good idea, do you simply mean running 5km at a slower pace?  And increasing the distance of the thursday run also seems nice, I'll keep that in mind.

    And really, would sub 20 min be so "easy"? I know I need to train a lot, but still.


  • If you drop football next year and want to take the running further then come back or look for a sensible running plan aimed at your target distance (google 'hal higdon' for example - I find these good plans for most levels).

    Yes, the recovery run on Sunday should be modest distance and effort as you are likely to be tired from Saturday. (Normally Sunday is the day that runners do a long run, but with your other commitments then Thursday looks a better option).

    If you can do this then your times should improve (you have a tempo session on Tuesday, a long run on Thursday and cross training/ recovery runs the remainder of the week - make sure you keep the Friday rest day). 20 Minutes can be more of a pschological barrier than a physical one and you'll soon know what it will take for you to break it - depending on how you respond to training then I would say it should be realistic for you based on your first result.

    Best of luck!

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