How to run a sub 20 minute 5km race?

Whether you’re an experienced runner who has been to several marathons or you are pretty new to the running game, running a 5k in 20 minutes is an achievable goal. However, it is a serious barrier for many runners, and it can be quite hard to achieve. But we are here to give you some useful tips to help you cross that barrier.

It is completely normal to feel anxious by the sub 20 minute challenge and you will probably have the typical fears and doubts: How can I run that fast for so long? I’m a very slow runner, it will require a lot of effort to break the 20-minute barrier. What would happen if I do not break the barrier and lose? 

If you follow the detailed training advice and tips given below and reach the sub 20 minute challenge with resoluteness and be consistent with the workouts, it can be easily done! 

However, those who have been training for long-distance events over the past number of years will have prepared themselves to cope with the increase in weekly mileage. 

Regardless of your distance, these targets are all about our ability to increase speed at the right moments and most importantly knowing the highest speed that you need to hit. 

However, there is a limit to how much you can improve by increasing the mileage and running at paces that your body finds comfortable.

If you want to cover 5 kilometers in 20 minutes, your body needs to get comfortable running at the speed of 4 minutes/km – or 6 minutes 26 seconds/mile.

Therefore, to better prepare your body for quicker paces, you will need to adopt a different training plan that incorporates a few established  methods of achieving this goal.

For example, if your weekly schedule includes two long runs per week, you will be able to achieve your goal by switching one of these long runs for a shorter one. You will be able to focus more on increasing the quality of your workouts by reducing your weekly workload.

Here are my top tips to merge into your training plan for achieving your goal of a sub 20 minute 5k:

1) Waking your legs up

Arrive at the race venue with enough time to warm-up with 20 minutes of light jogging. You should keep jogging for at least 10-15 minutes and finish with some accelerations to really wake your legs up and get your body ready.

2) Not getting pressurised

Don’t worry about the other runners because this is all about you and that sub-20 so don’t get scared and pressurised by others around you. This early phase of the race is critical, so keep yourself focused on the pace. Be confident in your strategy and have faith in yourself. 

3) Location of the event 

Location of the event and terrain is definitely worth considering when you’re taking training before the event. If it is your first time at the event then you may want to check online if there’s a course profile there. Otherwise, you can wait till the race day when you will be doing your warm-up before the event. Check out and see if there’s any inclines or declines and if there is then you might want to adjust your pace accordingly.

4) Find your routine 

In the time leading up to a big race, you should start as you mean to finish. The worst thing you can do is change your diet suddenly on the day of the race. Don’t decide to try something new that day or even during the week before your big day.

5) Diet and nutrition

If you are used to having a cup of coffee before a race, do it. Maintain your routine. We recommend a healthy breakfast – avoiding high-fat foods like dairy and meats etc. Try to keep it plain with porridge/toast/fruit. Drink plenty of water too. Make sure you have enough fuel in the tank. Your body is just like a car, you need to put good fuel in it to have it perform at its best.

6) Sleep tight

You can train all you want, but skimping on sleep won’t do you any good. You should not compromise on sleep. Aim for at least 8 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep during the night time. If you take enough sleep to rejuvenate your body and mind, you will be active the next day and it will be easy for you to achieve your goal.

7) The final few days

Take  at least two days completely off from any type of exercise. Ideally, train hard on a Monday or Tuesday and race on a Saturday or Sunday. Spend a few days leading to the final race stretching and relaxing. 

The above tips should set you on the right path for achieving a sub-20 5K. 

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