How To Run Faster: Training for 5K Races

Use this 5K Training Schedule to Increase Running Speed and Improve Running Techniques

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How you prepare for your first 5K run will in a large part depend on your prior running experience. You may possibly have been running for fitness in your background--maybe even for years--but as of yet, you have never entered an organized event. Training at small runs such as 5K runs can help you improve running techniques and train for a marathon as well. 

For the sake of this article, let's assume you have done a little running. Perhaps you've been doing easy runs of maybe 15-20 minutes 2 or 3 times a week. However, you have decided that you want to challenge yourself further and saw the notice for the 5K run and decided you would enter. Let's assume this is your first 5K run, and the first time you have ever entered an actual organized race. You probably want to learn how to run faster and how to run properly, right?

A good first step is to pick up a copy of Beginning Jogging and Running Guide; even if you've been running for a while, the tips in this book will help you train efficiently and safely for any situation.

Here are some tips and a 5K training schedule to help you when you're training for 5K races:

  1. The key to training in the early stages of your preparation is to take it slow and easy. I feel that 3 months is about the perfect amount of time to properly prepare for your best possible showing come race day. By trying to do too much too soon, you risk injury and injury is a way of discouraging people from taking up a sport they could well come to love. Use these running tips to help you train for your race.
  2. For the first 4 weeks, plan on training 3 times per week. Note that you are training for a 5K now and not jogging. The idea is to give yourself a rest day in between run days. This is especially important in the early training weeks.
    For example:
    • Run Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
    • Rest Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

    Don't worry about how far you are running. Focus on the duration of your runs. That will make planning your training program that much easier.

  3. During the 3 months of training, plan your longer runs for the weekend. So I would suggest this for your first month:
    • Tuesday-15 minute run.
    • Thursday-20 minute run.
    • Saturday-30 minute run.
  4. Your second month of training, you will begin to get a bit more serious and increase running speed and times and run 4 days per to train for a 5k
    • Tuesday-20 minute run.
    • Thursday-25 minute run.
    • Friday-30 minute run.
    • Saturday-35 minute run.
    • Sunday, Monday, Wednesday-rest days.

    Note that you always take a rest day "after" your longest run. Do this whenever you train for a race of any distance. Recovery time is vital.

  5. Your two biggest weeks of training of the 12 weeks will be weeks 9 and 10, the first two weeks of the third month. For those two weeks only, you will train for 5 days and rest for 2.
    • Monday-20 minute run.
    • Tuesday-25 minute run.
    • Thursday-30 minute run.
    • Friday-20 minute run.
    • Saturday-40 minute run.
    • Wednesday and Sunday-rest days.
  6. Note a few things here. You have a rest day in the middle of your training week. This is your mid-week recovery day. Also, you have a short run the day before your longest effort of the week. You have a rest day "after" your longest run.

  7. From the start of week 9 (above), begin to do your runs a bit faster than your normal pace of the previous weeks. Also, do your long Saturday 40-minute run a bit faster than the other four runs of week 9. You are gearing up now for your race day. You want to get some idea what it is like maintain a steady pace throughout the 5K race.
  8. Week 10 is exactly the same as week 9 except for one thing.... Your Saturday run will be 50 minutes at a good steady pace. I believe in over-distance training and it has stood me in good stead in my 30-year endurance racing career. The 50 minutes you run on this last big training day will be longer in time than your actual race. When that run is done and you feel like you are ready, there is just one thing left to do........
  9. Taper. Cut your training down for the next two weeks leading to your race. REST.
  10. Week 11 will look like this.
    • Tuesday-run 25 minutes.
    • Thursday-run 25 minutes.
    • Friday-run 20 minutes.
    • Saturday-run 35 minutes.
    • Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday are rest days.

    Note that you are back to 4 days training and your long distance is reduced.

  11. Week 12 will be your final week of preparation and will take you into your race day. Assuming you are racing on a Saturday, your last week will look like this........
    • Monday-run 25 minutes.
    • Wednesday-run 20 minutes.
    • Friday-You are going to run 10 PUPS. At least that's what I call them. They are really called 'pick ups.' Not really sure why. Just go with me on this. It's the day before your race. Go outside, or on an indoor track and do a 5-minute warm-up run. Then do your PUPS. Run a good brisk, (faster than you normally run) 10-second spurt. Use your watch. Rest for 20 seconds and do it again. Ten times. Do a 5-minute cool-down run. It will take you 15 minutes.
  12. That's all. Your training is done! You are ready for your best possible 5K race.

Many people tend to take a day off the day before a race. I don't agree with this. Have an easy week and take the day off "two" days before your race. By going out the day before your race and doing the 'pick-ups,' you are staying sharp for the race. You are also reminding your body that you will be asking a bit more from it the next day.

Now you know how to train for a 5K run! Good luck with your first 5K race!


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I agree with the first commentary. Great article.

By Alan Hammond

This article delivers what the title promises. A person could print this out and begin training immediately.

By Kathy Steinemann