Tuesday, 25 November 2014

TRAINING UPDATE: Targeting a sub 21 minute 5K

Throughout my journey to completing my first ever triathlon, I have decided to set mini targets along the way. One of them being a shiny new 5K PB. I haven't dabbled in this distance for over a year now and I think I have ran 5K about three times this year, one of which was a parkrun. 

The distance itself is actually great for all sorts of abilities. Whether you are new to running and making it you first target, or using it as essential strength building time during marathon training, everyone really should be boshing out a few 5K every now and then.

In the last four years I have been a runner, I have rarely chosen to complete the distance. Mainly because I always saw it as 'too short' and not relevant to my training but really, it can make a nice change to pounding the pavements for miles and miles. I am also a stronger competitor over shorter distances so why I have never seeked regular 5K PB has left me a little clueless. Still though, with a 5K in my triathlon, there really is no excuse now to set up some training sessions to improve my speed over the 3.1 miles.

Why 5K?
What's brilliant about 5K I guess is parkrun. One of the greatest events to be funded by the UK government, it's is a free 5K race for anyone to take part in. Taking place around the country at 9am every Saturday, thousands and thousands of Brits descend on their local parkrun to take part. The timed run is something many people I know dedicate their Saturday morning too and I really must pluck up the courage to squidge one or two into my training regime.
My current 5K PB is 21.58, which I achieved almost a year ago (above is where I achieved this at Newbury parkrun). If I was to go out now and run 5K, I'd be lucky to go under 24 minutes. Not good. So what time do I target? I feel like I could play it safe and aim for sub 22 minutes again but then part of me is thinking it's time to push myself and so why not try and aim for sub 21. I guess I am being an eager beaver but it would train me to work at 110%, which in turn will be very beneficial to me come further triathlon training.

Looking deeper into my reasons for this target, in all honesty I also am in desperate need of speed, endurance and most definitely a decent core, so fitting in some 5K tailored sessions will help tick these boxes. You could even say I am starting my New Year's resolution early!

The strategy 
How will I achieve this? Well I guess I am already halfway there in terms of tailored training with Thursdays spent at the athletics track enduring numerous sessions to get the body working at VO2 max and so I will definitely continue with this part of my normal training as it already helps with my speed. I will then make sure I balance our these intensive workouts with consistent running, aiming to do 3-6 miles for each run I do. I will try and do this twice a week, along with the cycling and swimming I already do as part of my triathlon training. Phew! 

The idea overall is for my track and running sessions to gel together, meaning that interval training will generate speed and muscle whilst consistent running will build endurance and efficiency.

More importantly, I need to fit 5K events into my diary and for this, I will most definitely turn to parkrun. By fitting these in, I will (hopefully) notice increased speed as my times get faster and faster with the aim to end up with that sub 21 minutes (20.59 here I come!). I did back in August take part in a parkrun and crossed the line in 23.09 so I am hoping I can land back around this sort of time and work my way up from there. Still though, hope is no guarantee so whatever time I do, I must accept it, be patient and build on it.

Key 5K training tips
For anyone who, like me, are also hunting down a 5K PB, here are some key training tips to remember when working towards smashing this distance...

1. Integrate speed work into your training. Opt for sessions that involve short bursts of hard running with small rest breaks. Pyramid sessions are great for this:
2. Hit those hills! This is rich coming from me, the Queen of hill dodging. I will however put my hands up and surrender to undulating courses and steep climbs. Hill training will really help to strengthen your core, not to mention your endurance. Head to a local park where you know a decent hill lies and again aim to do intervals running up and down the hill, followed by short sprints across flat ground. 
3. Master your stride. 5K is fast and requires lots of speed training so perfecting your stride will help to avoid injures and niggles. Lengthening your stride will also assist you in securing that all important PB. Short hill reps will help you achieve this.
4. Plank it. Like I have said throughout this post, a solid core makes such a difference when racing. To speed up the process of toughening it up, mix up your training with static workouts, such as planks. I have recently discovered walking planks to where you lean down on your elbows and push up so your arms are straight. It burns so bad but is totally worth it in the long run!

All of the above I will most definitely be adopting into my training regime (even the hills!). After all, I have a long journey to take to reach that sub 21 minutes, with the aim to hit this milestone by my birthday in April 2015

What PBs does everyone else have on the agenda? Are you aiming for a 5K personal record too?

Lipstick Runner.


  1. I loved this post and found it rather helpful as I've also given myself a 5km PB aim - I used to be very happy in the late 25min zone but I cannot get those pesky few seconds off right now. My objective for 2014 is getting sub 24...(Eeekk).
    I'm very sure that you'll get your sub 21min 5km (that's the sort of time my running dreams are made of) - Keep us updated :)
    Katie x

    1. Hi Katie. Thanks so much for reading! Thrilled to hear you are going for sub 24 and I am sure you are going to smash it! Keep up lots of speed work. I really found this so helpful to me when I was trying to pick up the pace. Good luck to you and let me know when you break it :)