For most beginning runners, entering, competing in, and completing your 5K run is a heady experience. Run 5K and it feels as good as you have completed a marathon. And who cares about the time. But after three or four events, to run 5k becomes more of a competitive challenge.
Your first Run 5k goal
Women are given a little more leeway, but the initial goal for the average person to run 5k is around 25 minutes. This puts you in the middle of the pack for runners, and to run 5k in that time, is an average of a little over 8 minutes per mile. Running at this pace is no slouching matter, but once it’s been achieved, quicker paces are enticing.
Your competitive goal
Once you’ve consistently reached the 25 minutes or lower goal, the next step for most run 5k competitors is to aspire for the magical 20-minute mark. Run 5k in 20 minutes or less puts you into the top 10 percent of athletes in the event and marks you as a serious runner.
How to train for a competitive 5k run
At 3.1 miles, a 5k run is short enough so that most fit people can run it but long enough that it challenges serious athletes running power.
So how do you train for top 5K times? Experts say, its both a combination of speed and endurance that ensures you quality times.
The first element is speed. A 20-minute 5K run involves running at of 6.25 minutes per mile, which is equivalent to running a typical track 4 times at around 1.5 minutes.
keep in mind that some of those laps will be slower as the run continues, so you really need to learn how to fly when running.
The key to speed is to have consistent experience running fast. You should look to run your laps at around 10 seconds or more greater than your 5K pace time so that if you run at an average pace of 6.25 minutes per mile, you should be running at 6.15 minutes per mile or less.
How fast is too fast? When you run fast, your body builds up lactic acid, which restricts your ability to continue running at a fast pace. If, while training, you feel the effects of lactic acid kicking in, you’re probably running too fast. The idea is to gradually stretch your bodies ability to handle lactic acid.
Many sprinters practice interval running when they run for short distances and then rest. Copying this example is a sure way to build up your speed.
While on the track, concentrate on your form. The better you can learn to keep your upper body erect yet relaxed, your arms pumping forward and back (not side to side) and concentrate on your feet landing in the mid-position on your feet and then rolling toward the front, the better it will translate into natural speed.
The second element to becoming a competitive 5k runner is having great endurance. You don’t want to take off like a jackrabbit and end up like a turtle.
The first requirement of building up endurance is consistent training. If you are serious about competitive running and being a 20-minute or less 5K runner, you should aim for at least three 30-minute training sessions per week. During one of those training sessions, aim at one long run, which is perhaps 2 to 3 miles further than your others.
Your long run doesn’t necessarily have to be fast. In fact, many people try to run too fast during their training sessions and defeat the purpose of building up endurance in the process.
Establish tempo runs to your routine. Much as you will want to do interval sprints to build up your speed, tempo runs, running medium distances, then resting for a while is another method of training your body to deal with lactic acid. Tempo runs should be done at a moderate pace, for around 20 minutes or more.
Also, add hill work to your training. To really build up endurance, frequently do your runs on an incline. This puts your leg and calf muscles at unusual angles, and also builds up strength in the tendons of your ankles.
It’s possible to run a 20-minute 5K. The question is, will that exalted time be in your near future?