Over the next several weeks, we’re continuing our weekly workout series with workouts that are focused on helping you to achieve your best 5K. Remember, it is important to build a strong base and slowly add new elements to your training. This workout is challenging, so if you are not used to running five or more miles, you may want to give this workout a try instead. Once you’ve established that base and are approaching race day, this and the following 5K workouts will help build speed, confidence, and ensure you are ready for race day.
While you may not hit the wall as hard in the 5K as you might in a longer race, the “fly then die” strategy is an all-too-common race day scenario for many runners. You start out at a hard effort—and then slow down significantly during the last mile. The 5K can certainly serve as a reminder of just how far one mile is! However, you don’t have to crash and burn at your next 5K.
Tempo runs, also known as threshold workouts, are run at a comfortably hard pace approximately 25-30 seconds per mile slower than your current 5K pace. While you won’t be running at your goal pace, threshold runs improve your ability to sustain a harder pace for a longer and longer amount of time. For the 5K, this translates to the ability to sustain your goal pace longer in the race, because your endurance and stamina will be higher.
To make the tempo run more specific to the demands of the 5K, this workout puts a twist on the traditional 3 mile tempo. At each ½ mile (0.5, 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5), you will surge for 60-seconds at a hard pace—a pace that feels like 5K race effort. After the surge, settle back into tempo pace. This workout requires some control, as you’ll be tempted to stay at a faster pace after the first few surges.
Do not race this workout—this is not a 5K race nor is it a time trial. You can use a calculator such as the McMillan Calculator or VDOT Calculator to determine your tempo pace based off of a recent race time. Ideally, you want to choose a flatter route rather than a hilly route for tempo runs, so you can focus on settling into a steady rhythm and hold your pace.
- Warm up with dynamic stretches and 1-2 miles of easy running (~60-90 seconds per mile slower than tempo pace).
- Run 3 miles at tempo pace, with a 60-second surge to 5K effort at every ½ mile.
- Cool down with 1-2 miles of easy running.