You may have run your first 5K/Park Run just for fun, without caring about your pace, but have done a few more and enjoyed seeing your time improve. Maybe you’re ready to work on improving your 5K performance and have your sights set on doing it in a 25-minute 5k. If so, you may find helpful information in this blog, which will review:
Ready to learn more? Are You Ready to Try for A 25 Minute 5K? There’s no hard and fast rule about who should aim for a 25-minute 5K, but a 25-minute goal is reasonable for runners who have raced a 5K in 30 minutes or less and have been running regularly for at least a year. If you’ve never run a 5K but are a regular runner with a typical running pace of around 6:15 per km pace, (10 mins per mile) and can run at least a km or two under 5:37 per km pace, (9 mins per mile) then a 25-minute 5K is likely a reasonable goal for you.
In order to run a 5k in 25 minutes, you need to hit the following 25-minute 5k pace: 5:00 mins per km, or in old money, 8:03 mins per mile. If you hold this pace consistently for 25 minutes, you’ll run exactly 5k – so during your run, try to sit a couple of seconds below this pace! When it comes to this challenge, it can be useful to set your Garmin/Apple watch (other watches are available!) to beep every kilometre – this way, you know that every 5 minutes you need to cover a kilometre – it makes it easier to gauge your progress!
With events like Race for Life and Parkrun increasing in popularity, working on your 5k time has never been a more relevant running goal! If you’ve been running regularly and can run a 5K in 30 minutes, then you already have the endurance to cover the distance. It’s important to maintain your endurance, of course, but to lower your time to 25 minutes, you will need to focus on improving your speed, which will require adding intensity to some of your runs. With such a specific goal, pace becomes extremely important, for both training and racing. Knowing the 25-minute 5k pace will be necessary during your race, of course, but is also used to figure out the proper paces for your speed workouts. Therefore, it is very helpful to train with a watch that can monitor your pace and give you continuous accurate feedback during your runs.
There are many variables to consider when creating a 5K training plan, including your running experience, current level of fitness, injury history, familiarity with speed work, time available for training, and number of weeks until your goal 5K race. Given that each runner’s circumstances are unique, it is not possible to provide a plan that is perfectly tailored to every runner in this blog. We can, however, provide some information and discuss the building blocks of a solid 25-minute 5K training program so you can create a plan that suits your abilities and situation.
To lower your 5K time to 25 minutes, consider a running plan that includes five days of running per week, with two speed workouts, one long run, and two shorter runs. You can arrange your running days in whatever way suits your schedule but try to have at least one day between the harder runs (speed workouts and long run). If you enjoy running every day, you can continue doing so as long as the extra runs are short and at easy pace, but keep in mind that your speed workouts are the key element of your training plan, and you want to be sufficiently rested to run those workouts properly. Therefore, if you find yourself struggling to hit your paces on speed days, consider cutting back or eliminating those extra run days. Conversely, if you find it difficult to incorporate five runs into your schedule every week, you can eliminate one of the easy run days if you maintain your long run and speed workouts.
As mentioned, speed work is extremely important if you are trying to improve your 5K time. There is a saying — train fast to race fast — which is not only good advice, but helpful to keep in mind if you’re looking for motivation during your speed workouts, as they are the key to improving your race time. There are several ways to incorporate speed work into your training schedule, but the two main methods I recommend are intervals and tempo runs.
In order to run at 5:00 minutes per Km pace in a 5K race, you will need to run at that pace, and a little bit faster than that pace, during training. This 25-minute 5k race pace equates to about:
1:00 for 200 metres
2:00 for 400 metres
4:00 for 800 metres
As you begin training, run your intervals at these paces. As your training progresses, however, push these paces a bit so you’re running closer to:
0:56 for 200 metres
1:53 for 400 metres
3:45 for 800 metres
If you prefer to keep things uncomplicated, stick to running 400 metres (either measured with your watch or one lap around a track). Start with four 400s at race pace. Each week, gradually increase the number of repeats and decrease your time, so when you are about ten days from your goal race, you are running ten 400s at 1:53 pace. Initially, take a minute or two to recover between the 400 repeats, but as you push the pace, it’s okay to take a little longer, perhaps three or four minutes, to ensure you can hit your times. If you’re up for it, consider including 800 metre and 200-metre repeats into your interval sessions. For example, run two 800s with about four minutes of recovery, two to four 400s with two minutes recovery, and two to four 200s, with one-minute recovery.
These repeats should also initially be run at goal race pace (so, 4:00 for the 800s, 2:00 for the 400s, and 1:00 for the 200s), but gradually increased to a bit under race pace (so, 3:45 for the 800s, 1:53 for the 400s, and :56 for the 200s). More varied speed workouts such as these, help increase your ability to maintain faster speeds for a longer period of time and help you retain speed for the end of your race. You can play around with these workouts, and even include longer repeats of 1200 or 1600 metre if you like, but generally keep the total distance of all the repeats to no more 4000 metre, or ten laps around a track. Also, be sure to warm up properly before tackling these workouts, with one or two miles of easy jogging as well as some dynamic stretches and strides.
Tempo runs are continuous runs that begin and end with at least a kilometre or two of easy running but have a faster segment in the middle. If you are targeting a 25-minute 5K, aim for a 5:15 pace for the faster “tempo” segment of these runs. As you begin your training, start with about 10 minutes at 5:15 pace, but gradually work up to about 20 minutes at that pace. Running coaches often describe the effort level for these runs as “comfortably hard,” which is somewhat vague, but it may be helpful to shoot for an effort level of 6 or 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. You should not be pushing so hard you cannot complete the tempo segment as planned, but you should be going fast enough that it feels significantly faster than your usual pace and prevents you from holding a conversation with someone. These runs are not easy, but if you want to run a faster 5K, they are invaluable, as they not only improve your physical ability to maintain faster paces over longer distances but give you the mental confidence that you can handle the discomfort of maintaining a fast pace.
Another option is you can substitute some hill running for some of your speed sessions. Instead of running short intervals on a track, for example, you can do so some hill repeats, which involve running hard up a hill for a minute or two then jogging back down to the bottom. Additionally, instead of a tempo run, you can run a hilly route that elevates your heart rate and requires an effort level like that of a tempo run.
If you’re aiming for a 25-minute 5K, you’ve likely been running for a while and already have the endurance to cover the 5K distance. Therefore, adding a lot of extra km’s to your training routine is probably not necessary, and as long as you are averaging between 32 and 48 km’s per week, you’re maintaining sufficient mileage to race a 5K. Based on your previous mileage, your long run can range from 8 to 16 km’s. If you have not previously been running more than 8 km’s at a time, start from that point and work up gradually to about 11 or 12 km’s. If you have already been doing 16 km’s runs regularly, you can maintain that distance, but drop the km’s down a bit if you’re feeling particularly fatigued.
It is also probably best not to exceed 16 km’s during this training, as the extra miles will likely wear you down and make it harder to hit your paces on your speed workouts, which are the key to achieving your goal. Your long run pace can be significantly slower than your goal pace — no faster than 6:15 per km, and even up to 7:00 per km is fine — as these runs are simply about covering the km’s and maintaining your endurance, not about building speed.
In addition to your hard runs, it is helpful to incorporate two easy runs into your week. Depending on your prior km’s, aim for 3 to 8 km’s on these runs and keep the pace easy and conversational, around 6:30 per km or even a little slower. Easy runs help you recover from your harder workouts and promote overall running efficiency. See the following link for more info: Want Speed Slow Down
Now that you’ve put in the hard work, it’s time to race! Consider these tips so you can have the best race day possible:
To optimise your chance of hitting your goal time, choose a race that is fairly flat, without too many curves or turns, and has the terrain you find most conducive to faster running. Also consider temperature and select a race that is likely to occur during favourable weather conditions. You may also want to think about variables such as the size of the race and crowd support along the course and pick a race that offers the best setting for you.
After doing a goal pace speed workout about one week prior to your race, alternate rest days with short easy runs with a few strides at the end. Two or three days out, you can throw in a short burst of running at your goal race pace (maybe a half km) just to get that pace locked into your mind and your legs, but otherwise keep the runs slow and easy.
For optimal running, it is always helpful to get enough sleep, eat well, and stay hydrated, but these elements are even more important the few days prior to an important race to be sure you arrive at the starting line feeling good, focused, and ready.
Consider some gentle stretching and foam rolling the week before your race to work out any kinks or sore spots.
Unlike a longer race, such as a half-marathon or marathon, where you can use the first few miles of the race to warm up, a 5K requires you to run fast from the start, so a proper warm up is essential. About 45 minutes before your race starts, begin with a few minutes of walking and then jog a km or two. Next do some dynamic stretching, such as high knees, butt kicks, skipping, leg swings, and arm circles. Finally, do several strides, running 10 to 15 seconds at increasingly fast past, ending near your goal race pace. If there is any delay in the start of the race, do your best to keep yourself warm and your heart rate somewhat elevated, even if that means jumping and running in place a bit.
If you are not told where to go for the start, consider lining up close to the front, where the faster runners usually congregate. If you start too far back, you risk getting hemmed in by slower runners and walkers and create unnecessary obstacles and stress for yourself. There may be a bit of jostling at the start, but just stay focused and calm as the runners will soon spread out and you will be fine.
Accelerate to your goal pace as soon as possible and check your watch to be sure your excitement and adrenaline are not causing you to go out too fast. Use the first kilometre to settle into the race and get comfortable at your goal pace. Focus on maintaining your goal pace during the second kilometre and anticipate that this mile may feel harder than the first kilometre but remind yourself that you have trained for this and can do it. For the last part of the race, dig deep and run as hard as you think you can maintain to the end, and over the last 100 or 200 metre, switch to a full-out sprint and pass as many other runners as you can.
After you cross the finish line, keep walking until your breathing returns to normal. Drink some water and maybe take a few bites of a banana or other food the race may be offering. You may also want to do some static stretches and cheer on other runners as they cross the finish line.
If you hit your 25-minute goal, savour the moment and be proud of your accomplishment. If you didn’t quite make your desired time, give yourself permission to be briefly disappointed, but acknowledge the effort you made and resolve to learn from the experience and try again.
Stuart has competed in triathlons from Sprint to Ironman distance. As a qualified Triathlon Australia, Australian Athletics Run Coach, and a certified Ironman coach, he is aware of the importance of balancing training with lifestyle, thus complementing other important aspects of an athlete’s life (family, work, study commitments, etc.).
Contact Stuart at firstname.lastname@example.org
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