I also realize that winning doesn’t always mean getting first place; it means getting the best out of yourself.
-Meb Keflezighi, silver medalist, 2004 Olympic Marathon
I don’t save all my Runner’s Worlds, but I do have quite a few. So when I was looking for a 5K training plan, I dug into my archives and came across these two with the same title – one from July 2007 and one from July 2009 – 5 Weeks to your First (or Fastest) 5K.
The ’07 article is really geared more towards beginners, but had a few good takeaways, which I’ll comment on at the end. The ’09 article is a story of an older guy (in his 60s) going back to train with a girl’s high school cross country team. I felt like I could identify with that perspective and it sounded like a lot of fun. Can I go back and train with the high school too? Probably not, but here are the 7 lessons he picked up from the team and their coach:
Lesson 1: Develop Speed
The Key: Change up your track workout.
Over the next five weeks, change the distances of the sprints you run at the track. The idea is that you teach your body what it feels like to be fast at different distances.
Lesson 2: Run Smart Intervals
The Key: Sustain your pace without much rest.
Map out a loop that takes 6-10 minutes and repeat it several times at a faster pace each time. This teaches you not to go out too fast at the beginning of a race and forces you to run faster later in the training.
Lesson 3: Run Uphill
The Key: Build strength and run with ease.
Most races have some hills. Hill workouts builds quads so they won’t fatigue later in the race. Find a hilly route and run hill repeats with a little rest in between.
Lesson 4: Run Downhill
The Key: Glide with ease.
“Many mistakenly think their stride has to lengthen to run faster down a hill, but then your feet will land in front of you absorbing tremendous shock and forcing you into a braking motion that trashes your quads.” Instead, the coach says to, “Lean forward with hips and chest up, and shorten your arm swing, which will quicken your stride, enabling your feet to land directly beneath you.”
Lesson 5: Learn to Push
The Key: Get comfortable finishing at a fast pace.
Harnessing the kick for the end of the race. The coach recommends split miles, where you run the first 1200 at 10K pace then accelerate through the next 100 and bring it home in the last 300 at race pace. Do a three minute jog in between and then do one or two more miles like this.
Lesson 6: Run with a Group
The Key: Gain energy from training partners.
When you run with a group, it takes the pressure off the clock and you can feed off the energy of the group. And there is less stress about going out too fast.
Lesson 7: Fix Your Form
The Key: Improve posture to enhance breathing.
Training at a faster pace magnifies poor posture and improper use of your arms. “You end up fighting your body.” Keep your arms low and close to the body to avoid upper body tension. Keep the shoulders relaxed to allow for better breathing.
When you’re in high school or college, the coach is designing the training plan, yelling at you on the track, discussing strategy as you stretch. When you train on your own like I do, it’s easy to just get into a rut. At the end of the article, there is a practical application of the lessons over 5 weeks leading up to a race.
Since each week offers a Track, Park, and/or Hill workout, I think this makes it easy to fit it into the running schedule you already have. The coach says “Experienced runners can choose two or three of the workouts to do in the week, but no more than two in week 5.” Ok great! I can do that!
In the July 2007 article, I really liked the schedule. I think it’s a great way to organize the running week. For myself, I always like to do sprints in the middle of the week and long runs on the weekend. My favorite part of this schedule are the strides and the core work. Strides are something I never think of but are so easy to add to the end of a run without adding that much time to a workout.
I liked the more variety of workouts from the ’09 article so I plan on sticking with that plan while also incorporating the stride work and the strength training I already do. Can’t wait to get started!
What do you think of the advice from RW?