Achieving a sub 20 5k

Hi all. My biggest aim is to get under 20 mins over 5k, my PB at parkrun is 21.12 which was 4 years ago. My PB for this year is 22.08. What do you recommend I do during the week, and how many days should I train/rest? Atm I get out on a Wednesday and do anything between 3 and 8k, depending how tired I feel. I work mon-fri in a physical job, which helps keep the weight off! I'm 33 later this month and in reasonably good shape, any advice to get below that 20 min mark would be greatly appreciated

Thanks, Glenn


  • If you are only running twice a week (Wednesday and Saturday Parkrun) and can run 22min you probably just have to run more. Maybe a longer run on a Sunday 10-15k slow and then another short run midweek. You probably wont be able to push yourself every week at Parkrun so maybe once a month drop a midweek run so you can give Parkrun a good effort.  
  • chamolkchamolk ✭✭✭
    Hi Glenn

    Sounds like you could certainly do it. I equalled my pb of 21:56 in April and wanted to get under 20. After a bit of a break following the London marathon, I started some speedwork specifically for my 5k time, and gradually increased my weekly mileage from about 25 to 40.

    On the track, I did weekly sessions at target pace, usually with about 5k worth of fast work, increasing the distance I was holding target pace at each week

    400m x 12 at target pace
    500m x 10
    600m x 8
    800m x 6
    1000m x 5

    I think by this stage I'd got down to about 20:21 so I did
    1 mile x 3 at target pace
    1.5k x 2 at target pace

    Then got 19:57 in early Sept - probably about 3 months of fairly determined training, though this was also whilst training for an autumn marathon too.

    This worked for me, might not work for everyone. In general, I'd suggest you'd get most benefit from simply increasing your weekly amount of running, like bigballer said. Next step would then be incorporating some speedwork at target pace.

    Or maybe you've already achieved it - how have things been since your original post? 
  • Hi Glenn, 

    hows the goal coming along? I’m in the same boat as you, pretty my the same PB’s and age etc. <div>
    </div><div>I am trying to break the 20 minute barrier, only just started back running after maybe a year off. Really would like to break that 20 minutes!! </div><div>
    </div><div>Cian </div>
  • Without wanting to dampen your enthusiasm too much, the fact is that most people are genetically incapable of cracking the magic 20 minutes, not with any amount of training, and as time goes by after you hit your late 30’s then it becomes even further out of reach. My PB is 22:15 but I know for an absolute fact that the sub 20 is never going to happen because my maximum heart rate (about 170) won’t allow it. If you said you’d only been running for 6-12 months then fair enough, but your post implies that you’ve been running for at least 4 years. I’ve been running for a couple of years around 30-35km per week, and for the first year the PB’s kept tumbling down, but now it takes an exponential extra effort to knock off even 5 seconds, never mind 2 minutes. Going from 22 down to 20 doesn’t sound like much, but the extra effort required is truly massive! It constantly pees me off that various running publications would have you believe that with the right training anyone can achieve that target, but for a lot of people they simply don’t have the physical heart & lung capacity to do it, otherwise we’d all be running sub 20’s given sufficient will power. When it boils down to it, ultimate running performance is 90% genetics. The right training will allow you to reach your individual potential, but it plateaus off pretty quickly, after which the law of diminishing returns kicks in. Don’t get hung up about a specific PB target, just increase the training 10% per week and see where you end up. It’s called a “personal” best for a reason...
  • SBD.SBD. ✭✭✭
    I think you're being a bit overly pessimistic there Wheelyneil.

    A sub 20 5K should be achievable by an average male senior (lets leave veterans out of this for the moment!) with the right training over a suitable period of time and assuming they're not carrying any excess weight.  It just needs a bit of dedication and focus!
  • <blockquote class="Quote">
    <div><blockquote class="Quote">
    <div class="QuoteAuthor"><a href="/profile/SBD.">SBD.</a> said:</div>
    <div class="QuoteText">I think you're being a bit overly pessimistic there <b>Wheelyneil</b>.

    A sub 20 5K should be achievable by an average male senior (lets leave veterans out of this for the moment!) with the right training over a suitable period of time and assuming they're not carrying any excess weight.  It just needs a bit of dedication and focus!</div>
    I’m not convinced. The figures speak for themselves - less than 5% of parkrunners ever achieve sub 20. Even excluding women and vets, I would guess that less than 20% manage it. If the original poster has been running for more than 4 years then I cannot see where more than 2 minutes is going to come from.</div></blockquote>
  • SBD.SBD. ✭✭✭
    Think positive Wheelyneil - any reasonable coach could get even you under 20 minutes given the time and your commitment!
  • Increase from 2 runs per week to 3 or 4+ runs per week. Gradually building mileage and running consistently. 
  • I have a similar goal. Current PB is 20:51. I think speed training is key, but I've also found that long slow runs at the weekend helps. Don't forget hills.

    Your speed training will need to be faster than 4 min K pace too, otherwise its not speed training (it's all relative!).

    Then, pick your course for success - pick a flat one.

    Most runners know the answer to improve - they just don't want to do it (me included!)
  • Carps 86, I'm 47 and have been running for just over 12 months. I whittled my PB down to 22.07 in early November, following a pattern of setting a PB, consolidating around that time for a few runs, then knocking another big chunk off. However 22.07 seemed to be my limit...or so I thought. I run about 30-35 km a week, but I started mixing it up a bit. I did fartleks where I'd choose a landmark and then sprint to that landmark, usually around 200-300m, then recover at slow pace. When you feel recovered enough,repeat. Repeat as often as you feel but I usually incorporated it in 7-8k runs. Also keep up tempo runs of between 7-10k. I knocked another 30 secs off after just a couple of weeks of this style training. Now down to 21.37. Good luck.
  • I'm 35 now but in my prime at about 22/23 I could run around 19:30-19:50. I've started training and racing again now, it's only been 3-4 months of training 2-3 times a week and I've got down to 21:09 in the last race. I think if I can avoid injury and maintain consistent training for a few more months I think I'll be able to get under 20 again. Sustaining sub 4min/km pace is getting easier so I'm confident it will happen.

    My advice is to practice running more at the 3:45-3:50 pace and keep pushing up the distance
  • i would love to do a sub 20 minute 5k
  • Adequately training for a 10km, 10 mile or Half Marathon race first with a 12 to 16 week training plan building endurance, increasing mileage with 1 interval or tempo run per week.

    2 weeks after running a 10km or Half Marathon and enough time to recover it would be a good time to test out a 5km Park Run as a benchmark to train towards a marathon. 

    Another 12 to 16 weeks of building mileage, fitness and endurance it would be a good idea to run a target marathon. 3 or 4 weeks after running a marathon, consider running a 5km race.

    The endurance and fitness boost may lead to an improvement in 5km running times. Alternatively gradually building fitness, endurance and doing 1 or 2 interval or tempo runs may improve 5km race times.
  • Is there anyone out there who can run a sub 20min 5k at a bmi of 33?
    Ive done a 5k in 19.56 at a body weight of 240lb and height of 181cm. Been training for almost 4months. 
    Just seeing if this is respectable for my weight and seeing if theres any runners out there who can do this? 
  • I’m interested in knowing whether I’m physically capable of going sub 20 at the age of 42, with a stale PB of 21:53 from 2014 (before having 2 kids and then essentially taking 6 years off running). 
    I’ve returned to regular running (4-5 times, circa 20+ miles per week). 
    My aim is to continue to run consistently and rebuild some endurance, test myself soon by running a hard 5k time trial - since all events are off - and baseline my goal time from that. 
    I’m somewhat with wheelyneil that there is a genetic limit to what most people are capable of running but I don’t think 20 mins is it for the majority, and if consistent and well trained and injury free, I think it’s a reasonable, if difficult target. 

  • I hoping to break 20 mins before my 40th in Jan. Never thought it possible based on park run times of around 22 mins but did a run a few months back on a track and got to 20:05. I've got a proper training plan which I'm half way through so I'm feeling optimistic for an attempt in mid september
  • My husband ran a 22 min 5k with no training, granted he was very skinny and played lots of football. By just completing the park run once a week, he got down to a 18:51 before he quit
  • So did my PB attempt today and got 19.40. Proper chuffed. I had a program that followed an 80/20 principle (80 easy runs/ 20 combo threshold, tempo, intervals) upped my distance to 40km per week. 9 weeks in I started picking up some ankle niggles so didn't do the last 3 weeks of the program. Tapered early and it all came together on the day. 10km PB next. 
  • My goal when parkrun returns is to achieve a sub 20. I was one second short in the summer last year, but have some work to do before I return to that level of performance!
  • The way I achieved this was fairly simple and without the various training plans friends gave me. The plans I read online and in runners world magazine seemed very structured which didn't really appeal to me. Before the lockdown I was a 22/23 minute 5K runner with no real desire to improve. The way I trained was as using a 1K loop and tried to run it at 4 min per k which at first seemed like a sprint. I sometimes did this before a normal run or even after just to get my body used to running under that pressure and that pace. I moved this on when it started to get easier to 1K at 4:00 and 1K at 5:00 and alternated for 5K. I then just gradually tried to see how long I could maintain the 4:00 pace whether that be for 2K or 3K. I also trialed running my first K very fast at like 3:45 to save me some time for later Ks when I was feeling tired which may also be a good option. The thing I have found about running is that most of my best runs and PBs have come when I have not been trying or expecting them which is a really nice surprise. All the best with your sub 20 min 5K target. Steve C
  • I am currently running my weekly Park Runs between 21 to 22 mins, with a recent best time of 20:49. I would need to lose 5 pounds or increase my fitness to get closer to breaking 20 mins in Park Run. Cutting carbs and limiting alcohol are small sacrifices to make to lower my weight to get under 20 mins in a Park Run.
  • For the more casual runners (not park runners) having the correct watch may help. My watch pace seems way off sometimes and therefore I never quite know what I am running - Doesn't help the training!

    I am running with an Apple Watch & the splits are well off. my friend is running next to me with a Garmin with 4:00 splits and my Apple Watch will say 4:30 or something stupid, making a sub 20 impossible for me.
  • Hi Guys, I am a 3rd year university student looking for runners to participate in my survey. All you need is to have ran over 10km competitively in the last 3 years. The survey will take a small 5 minutes of your time and any participation would be greatly appreciated.
    The link is below - Thank you!!
  • i didnt think i would ever get to sub 20 it took years of running started parkruns in 2011 didnt get under 20 till 2015
  • I ran 5k in 33 mins last year. Have been training on and off since April. <div>Now down to around 22 mins. I’m weighing 90 kilos tho and I should be 80. So that is a big handicap for me. </div><div>I don’t think everyone is capable of going sub 20. The vast, vast majority don’t do it because the training to get to that level is hard a people have genetic limitations. Or weight ones in my case. </div>
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