How to get out of a run speed rut

Six times Ironman world champ Dave Scott advises a triathlete stuck in a speed rut and not getting any faster. The triathlete does 3x5km and 1x15km each week


One comment actually answers this issue: insert higher-intensity intervals into your three 5km sessions per week and you will get faster! 


But here’s a more detailed reply as to how to add a little spice to your weekly runs. I’ve prescribed two ways to make your 5ks more interesting and provided a pace-change suggestion for your long run.


First off, session one. 5km. Do your usual warm-up for 8-12mins and then add in what I like to call ‘anaerobic endurance repeats’. These are typically 25secs to 2mins, and should be very, very, hard, very fast! But they can vary in length.
My suggestion is 2-3 sets, one at the beginning and one at the end, with some easy aerobic jogging in between. The return on this is that it really enhances that energy power house, the mitochondria, which proliferate around the muscle cells and improve the quality and functionality of your performance. You’ve got to have better mitochondria to be fast, basically! What kills mitochondria over time is long, slow distance as they become dysfunctional, and we don’t want that. When we do these short anaerobic efforts, the magical return on this high-intensity effort is huge!


The second 5km suggestion is to add a lactate threshold segment. Depending on your ability, this will be anything between 20 and 60mins of hard effort that you can hold for that length of time. To find this, quite often I’ll ask athletes what their 10km race time is. So say it’s 45 mins, they’ve probably worked hard for that as they’re fired up by race day and they want to beat their team mates. You’re working hard for the first 1km and then you’ll try and sustain it for the next 9km. Chances are, that’s your lactate threshold pace.

Within a 5km session, look to spend between 14 and 25mins on the lactate threshold segment. I suggest breaking this down and doing anything between 90secs to 3mins and mixing them up. So it could be an ascending rest set – e.g. Do 6 x 3mins with 1min rest in between each rep, then you might need a 2min break after each rep to still be
able to hit your lactate threshold in those 3mins. But make sure you always give yourself enough rest to still be able to hit that pace.


The mistake many people make is to always run at the same speed, at a steady pace, and trying to add distance to each run. But I like to use three difference paces, to create a type of fartlek run. I call this ‘swing pace’ to help determine overall race pace. 

So first of all, we’re going to include a very short section on this, like a little spike. Maybe 30-45secs at lactate threshold pace.

The next pace is slightly below that, approx. 5-6% slower than LT. Do your math and figure it out! 

The last pace is race pace. Now interweave the three paces into your long run and mix them around. 

This type of training, ‘swinging pace’, really helps you determine pace. You should already know what your heart rate and your sweat rate feels like at a certain pace. So in a race, you’ll know you’re hitting the right pace because again you’ll know how it feels. 

It also really helps you monitor your food/fluid intake – and most importantly, when you’ll need to take in extra fluids – and how to increase run pace when you need to, plus how to decrease it without losing too much speed.

And let’s not forget the bike, so make one of your weekly 5ks a brick session using this run session: 

10mins fast running, increasing 1min each week at week 3. Maintain this progression for 10 weeks. Week 10 = 18mins of anaerobic endurance repeats. The extra 1min could be a 1min effort or broken into smaller segments. These can also be mixed up so the shorter repeats aren’t always on the end of the block.

10min warm-up; 50secs, 40secs, 5 x 30secs, 2 x 20secs with 4-8mins of easy jogging between each set. After each repeat jog very slowly for 40secs.   

So there you go. A 5km run with anaerobic endurance repeats, a 5km run with lactate threshold segments and a swing pace long run. Good luck, I hope this all helps you get faster. 


Dave Scott is the first 6x IRONMAN World Champion and a Master Coach of IRONMAN U.  As the founder of the Dave Scott Multisport Institute, he dedicates himself to making triathletes of all levels faster and more efficient.  Learn more at