With the Olive5k races, I hear a lot of questions on how to run faster and how to improve times. I am absolutely the worst person to ask. I am barely cracking the 40 minute mark at the moment. The fact that I am running approximately twice a month at the moment could be the reason. Do you know who is the best person to ask though? Our resident winner – Even Nedberg. Even has participated in every single Olive5k since 2014. He is a machine, competing in mainly longer distance races lately. Not marathons, but 100km+ races. You can check him out on Instagram (@nedberg) and his blog over at Løpegutt if your Norwegian is up to scratch.
I this text I will try to cover some basic ideas on how you can better your time for a 5k. I will give examples that have worked for me and try to give you some ideas on what you can do if you want to become a faster runner.
What you need in advance:
- Your current time for a 5 km race
- Your current pace (how much time you use per kilometre, for example 6:00min/km)
- A nice and preferably flat 5 km route (I like to run at a 400 m track)
- A GPS enabled watch or smartphone with training app will help, but it’s not required
Now you must set a target time and figure out your target pace. You will also need to set a timeframe for when you want to reach your target. If you want to cut 1 minute, then you can do that in a short time, 5 minutes will of course take longer. It is also harder to go from 25 minutes to 20 than it is to go from 35 to 30. I will also advise you to set both long term and short term targets. That way you keep track of your progress and you get more motivated by achieving your short term goals on the way.
I will build my example on a 30 minute 5k race, a pace of 6:00min/km. A long term target would be to finish in 25 minutes (5:00min/km), and I would first have a short term target of 29 minutes (5:48min/km). I will set new short term targets once I reach the first, probably 28, 27 and 26 minutes in this case. I think we could reach the first target in about one month and then we will see how long we need for the next one.
So how do we train to reach our target time?
I will suggest you do three workouts each week.
- Each week you should do one workout with short intervals
- You should also do one workout with longer intervals
- And the third workout should be a long and slow run (sometimes with a fast finish)
You do not need to do the workouts in that order, just don’t do the intervals on days following each other. My advice would be Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, just fit them into your schedule as you find best. If you want to add more running it is absolutely crucial that these are easy runs!
Extreme running with Even.
Details on the workouts
These workouts help you build speed. They will be hard, but luckily they don’t last too long. Typically you will do 6 to 10 repetitions of 200m to 500m at a pace faster than your target pace. Between these efforts you have 60-90 seconds of rest (walk, slow jogging or complete rest).
The first time you do this workout start with 6 repetitions and 90 seconds of rest. Try to run 400m at a pace faster than your target pace (I would suggest 5:20-5:30min/km for our target pace of 5:48min/km). It is important that you finish all the efforts at the same pace, or preferably slightly faster towards the end. If you get slower, then you started to fast.
As you get to know this workout better you can add repetitions or have shorter rest periods. You can also mix it up with different length and pace for each effort. You are supposed to be pretty exhausted on the last effort, but still have a feeling that you just might be able to do one more.
Remember to warm up before and cool down after the workout. 1 km of running at a very easy pace should do fine.
These workouts follow the same idea as the short ones, but the focus on building stamina rather than speed. Your efforts will be 1-2 km at slightly faster or equal to your target time. Your rest periods should also be active, slow jogging. You should do 3-6 repetitions with a rest period of about half the time of your effort (or shorter).
For our target pace of 5:48min/km I suggest starting with 4 repetitions of 1 km at a pace of 5:40min/km with 2-2,5 minutes of slow jogging/walking between. Again you should try to get faster rather than slower on the efforts. You should feel pretty certain that you could have done one more, but not two.
If I was training only for a 5km then I would not do longer intervals than 2km. I would perhaps do 3 repetitions and try to hit my target pace.
Again: Remember to warm up before and cool down after the workout!
The third workout is the one I like best: A long and slow run. This should be done at a pace slower than your current 5 km pace. You should have no problem keeping a conversation going on this run. Start out with 6 km and add 0,5-1 km each week up to 8-10 km. If you want, you can try a “fast finish” and run the last kilometre at your target pace. Don’t do this each week though!
The thing most of us do wrong is to go too hard on this run. If you run to fast you will not get the wanted effect and you will affect the other workouts in a negative way too.
If you want to run more that is OK, but keep it slow and easy! If you have a HR-monitor, you should stay in zone 1!
A word about pace for the intervals
I have made some suggestions for pace on the intervals. Do not take these too serious! If it feels to easy, you can run faster, longer or add more repetitions (or shorten the rest period). If it is too hard, then adjust accordingly. It will take some trial and error before you find the right pace and number of repetitions for you and your level. To get an idea of suggested paces for your current level you could have a look at https://www.mcmillanrunning.com.
Keeping track of your progress
We all follow the “Licorice and Olives virtual 5k”-series. They are a fine way to keep track of your progress. Say you start out with this program after your October run. You now have four weeks to improve before the November race. As the first couple of weeks will probably be a bit of trial and error to find the right pace, distance and rest for your intervals you might not see a big drop in time the first month, but you will get there! On your “race week” you should do 1-2 repetitions less and substitute the long run with the race.
Try to plan your races in advance. Decide when you want to do them and train according to that.
I have written about what works for me and done some adjustments for shorter distances. I normally train for marathons and ultramarathons. But my training still follows the principles above. I am pretty certain that you will have progress if you follow this plan, but I can’t make any guarantees. Also you should listen to your body and keep away from injury.
Now that I am back to work, I am going to be following Evens training plan as close as I can and see how my October time comes out! Anyone else in?