High-mileage runs improve endurance. Run them at 50 seconds slower than race pace, around 10:30 per mile.
The pace: 8:02 per mile
Who’s up for it?: Runners who regularly perform long runs of at least eight miles and can complete one all-out mile in about 7:25 to 7:45
Busting the 25-minute barrier marks you as a "serious" runner. It requires a commitment to more mileage and focused workouts, and can take a couple of years to achieve. "Your goal is to engage different types of muscle fibers every time you work out, which teaches your body to race," says Rea. That education includes workouts that prepare you to run negative splits, expose you to different terrain, and fortify your body for the rigors of running fast.
Prevent Common Foot Injuries
Exceed Race Pace
Running faster than goal speed "prepares you to run the first half of your 5-K at a solid clip and pick it up in the second half," says Frank Gagliano, coach with the New Jersey-New York Track Club. Twice a week after easy or steady-pace runs do 10 x 200-meter cut-downs: Start at 5-K pace and get slightly faster each time. The last effort will be fast. Jog 200 meters between each. Three weeks before race day, run a mile at goal pace, jog five minutes, then do 5 x 300 meters at 10 to 15 seconds faster than goal pace. Walk 100 meters between each.
Vary the Terrain
Boost the benefits of speedwork by occasionally going off-road. "When you run on the track, you're always moving in the same direction, which puts your body off-balance," says Kastor. "If you do half of your speed sessions on trails or grass instead, you'll reduce the impact on your joints, stimulate more muscles, and improve your efficiency."
Lose the Junk
With a sub-25-minute goal, there's no room or time in your training plan for mindless running. Even steady-state, weekday runs should serve the ultimate purpose--prep-ping your energy systems to deal with the rigors of race day. "For example," says Rea, "every fifth minute, you should throw in a 30-second surge that's about five to 10 seconds per mile faster."
The Benefits of Shorter Races
Countdown to Race Day
Race-week workouts to stay focused and sharp for your sub-25 attempt.
Tue: 2 x 1-mile tempo at 8:00 pace. Jog 30 to 45 seconds between each. Run 2 miles to warm up and cool down.
Wed: 3 to 4 miles easy running
Thu: 6 x 400 meters at 2:00 [race pace) with 1:30 recovery between each. Run 2 miles to warm up and cool down.
Sat: 2 to 3 miles easy running
Race: Warm up with a 15-to 20-minute jog, then do 5 to 10 minutes of light stretching. Follow with 5 to 10 minutes of drills. Run 4 to 6 x 100-meter strides at 80 percent effort, with a 40-second rest between each.
Build a Strong Engine
"To run fast, you have to be a pusher, and to push, you need a strong posterior chain," says Norman. A weak link in your glutes, hams, calves, or back forces other muscles to overcompensate and increases injury risk. Build strength by doing a weekly hill run. "Hills are a poor man's weight machine," says Rea. "They strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, and hips." Supplement incline runs with twice-weekly body-weight exercises--do three sets of four to six reps of single-leg squats, side lunges, and box steps.
Try This: Leg and Glute Workout
The pace: 6:26 per mile
Who’s up for it?: Runners who regularly complete long runs of nine to 10 miles and can comfortably run a mile in about 5:56 to 6:06
If you've zeroed in on the sub-20 time goal, you are indeed an uber-competitor. It takes drive to achieve such speed, as well as a capacity for discomfort. Sometimes, however, desire clouds reality, so take this test to ensure the target is within reach: Run for seven minutes at five to 10 seconds faster than 6:26 per mile. Jog for five minutes. Repeat, but aim to run farther. If you can maintain pace for both efforts, you're ready for this superfast goal. For those prepared to dig deep, we turned to the pros for their best advice.
Train with a Group
"When you get in a race with your teammates, and you've all done the same training, you know that you should be able to stay with them for the majority of the race," says Galen Rupp, who set his 13:06 5-K PR at the 2011 Birmingham Grand Prix in Alabama." If they pick it up, you know you can, too. It can be a great source of confidence."
Tips to Join a Running Group
Time for a Fast 5-K