HOW TO RUN A FASTER 5K
Back in 1979 when I started running the road racing circuit I always noticed that the 10k distance was by far the most popular distance. Well, times have changed and in fact you can be hard pressed to find a local 10k race unless you headed to Pittsburgh and out lying areas. The 5k has quickly taken over that popularity contest for a number of reasons. Traffic control is much easier and even the novice runner will pick this distance for their first race. Seasoned runners like the fact of running fast for a short distance and not feeling that beat up feeling that can accompany a longer race. But what does it take to run a fast 5k?
Since it requires a nice blend of both speed and endurance the training for this distance can help all the other distances including the marathon. Many of you out there have heard the term VO2 MAX; this is simply the maximum volume of oxygen uptake. The better the VO2 MAX the faster you will run. There are two ways to increase your aerobic capacity. You can increase your capacity by simply increasing your average weekly mileage. Untrained runners who began training at 25 miles per week increased their VO2 MAX 30% after a few months. When they moved to 50 mile per week it increased another 13%.(peak running performance studies)
However, if it were as easy as just running more miles we all would be doing that. For high school athletes, any mileage above 50 miles per week will increase your capacity another 3% but also increase your chances of getting injured about 50% I have always trained at about 50 mile per week and I remember a competitor that I had just beaten in a 10k race saying to me “how many miles a week do you do?” When I replied with the answer of 50 he basically called my a liar! I asked him and he said that he did 100 miles per week! My answer back was that I guess I was getting much more out of my 50 then you are out of your 100.
The other way to help increase aerobic capacity is training intensity. After all, running a lot of miles slow means just that. you can run slow for a long time. I have always felt that intensity was the single most important aspect of my training. This included hill repeats, mile repeats, and an anaerobic threshold run. The threshold run is simply a run done at about 85-90% of effort. The run can be best monitored by a heart monitor for those who have one. I have also found that mile repeats relate more to the 5 k distance then 400 meter intervals.
The next question is how many intervals and at what time should I run? Here is a sample of a runner who’s best 5k is 17:42 and runs approximately 50 miles a week. The pace for 400 meter intervals should be 85 seconds and he could do 14 intervals. If it were 800 meters it would be a time of 2:50 and 7 repeats. The mile repeats would be done at 5:40 and he could handle 4 repeats. Although intervals can be hard work they can also be fun. The biggest mistake made by runners doing intervals is running them entirely too fast. All intervals should be based on weekly mileage. The ratio should not exceed 10% of your total mileage. Soon you will be on your way to faster times and enjoying the experience.