How to train for a sub-20min 5k

Want to run a sub-20min 5k? Hit your goal with these 4 weekly run sessions


Short on time but want to train for that elusive sub-20min 5k? Andy Bullock suggests four weekly sessions that will help, lasting around 3hrs in total.


Running a strong 5km with limited training will take a bit of time and commitment, but it is certainly possible.

How to improve your run form

How to build a good run base

Consistency always trumps volume, so split the time you have available. There’s plenty you can do with 3hrs of run training and you should be able to achieve your target of a sub-20min 5km.

Assuming you have a reasonable level of base fitness, your best plan of action is to split those precious 3hrs of run time into four sessions. The first session will focus on strength and technique.

Session one

A hilly run or hill reps gently increase strength by working against gravity and allow you to develop technique by thinking about posture.

Drive up the hill using your arms and rolling off your toes. This should be 45-50mins in duration with you staying below lactate threshold.

Session two

The second session is a steady run lasting about 40mins, with occasional pick-ups to race pace.

These pick-ups should last 15-20secs max; aim for five or six throughout the session.

Session three

Session three is around an hour and aimed at developing lactate threshold and speed work.

You should incorporate intervals above your 5km pace. These intervals should have 50-100% recovery depending on the time of year.

Session four

Session four is a 30min run off the bike.

During the winter this can be at a steady effort to back up your aerobic conditioning; during the race season, you might want to pick up the intensity and run at tempo pace.

Don’t forget…

Be sure to always take care to balance the intensity of your training across the week – including swim and bike sessions, of course – and avoid accumulating too much fatigue.


Stick with the plan and consistency will see you achieve your target.

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