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 fibres 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 rigours of running fast.
The Pace: 5:00 mins/km Who’s up for it? Runners who regularly perform long runs of at least 12km and can complete one all-out kilometre in about 4:35 to 4:50
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 at an establish running club.
Twice a week, after easy or steady-pace runs, do 10 x 200-metre cut-downs:
- Start at 5-K pace and get slightly faster each time.
- The last effort will be fast.
- Jog 200m between each.
Three weeks before race day:
- Run a kay at goal pace
- Jog five minutes
- Do 5 x 300 metres at 10 to 15 seconds faster than goal pace.
- Walk 100 metres 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 – prepping your energy systems to deal with the rigours 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 kay faster.”
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.