Thursday, May 10, 2012

Crazy Idea for a Sub 20 Minute 5k -or- I Want It All and I Want It Now

Not sure why I am thinking about running a sub 20 minute 5k when my best race time is 23:18. Maybe it’s just because it has been a goal of mine ever since I started running again. I figure that if I can run that fast in that race, I will place in my age group in age group in nearly every local race and should finish in the top 5% of the “bigger races”.  My other fascination with the 20 minute 5k is that I will consider myself back to “high school” shape. That’s pretty big since high school was nearly 20 years ago.

My race times have gradually improved over time. I ran about 32 minutes at my “untrained” 5ks in 2008 and 2009. I ran 28:10 at the Brooksie Way 5k in 2010. In 2011, I went from 29:57 for my first 5k to a 24:38 best. This year, I’ve done 24:01, 23:18 and 24:30 (Like Milli Vanilli, I “Blame It On The Rain”) and am really hoping to go sub 23 this Saturday.

I’m pretty confident I will get to sub 20 minute 5k and faster eventually, but I want it sooner rather than later. So I have hatched a plot that is goofy and probably won’t work. Here’s the setup: Right now, I can’t run a 20 minute 5k, no matter how good the effort (see the above race times as Exhibit A). I’m not even sure if I can run 2 miles at a 20 minute 5k pace (6:26 per mile). However, I’m fairly confident I can run one mile at that pace (that is even an assumption; I haven’t really done it yet).
So, the plan is simply that I will start by running a mile at 6:26 pace (If unable to do so, I will run a half mile at this pace). I will do this at least weekly and each time attempt to add a quarter mile to the run while maintaining that pace. At the end of approximately 13 weeks, I should be doing the entire distance in less than 20 minutes in training and, therefore, should be able to do that in a race as well.
I never read anything like this in any training manual and have no idea if it will really work. The main point is that I really need to make myself do speed work to get faster.  Since my “comeback”, I’ve probably only done a couple days of actual speed work.  The other days I’ve gone “fast” probably qualify more as something akin to “tempo” runs.

I do not dislike speed work, I just never seem to have time to get it in and keep up my mileage to a level I’m comfortable with. I already seem to run fewer miles than most of the runners “at my level” and I am not keen on doing less. I’ve been able to run 4 or 5 times a week lately – 3 have been running solo and 2 have been running with Lil’ C at a reduced pace for her benefit. After working a 10 hour day and being away from home for 11 or 12 during my work week, I just don’t think I have it in me to do speed work during the week. This leaves me Saturday – Monday, but I try to do a “long, easy” run on Saturday and a faster paced, mid distance run on Monday.

I don’t think I’m overly obsessed with time, as I enjoy the vast majority of my time running regardless of pace, but one of my main goals is to get faster. “I want it all and I want it now” is how the Queen song goes, and it is often how I feel. However, I am proud of the progress I have made in terms of speed, stamina, endurance, weight loss and overall health and it has been hard-earned. The effort has been part of the reward. If it came “cheaply”, I probably wouldn’t appreciate it as much.

I Want It All
So… I am going to start my crazy plan and see where it takes me. If not effective, I will try to do a more normal speed work program, or at least incorporate it into something closer to a standard plan. We’ll see what happens….

What is your big goal?

Have you had to make changes to your training that you initially resisted, but ended up working out for the better?

Are you obsessed with “time” to the point that it makes running less enjoyable, do you have a “healthy” relationship with time, or do you just not care that much and “whatever happens, happens”?


  1. I'm excited to see how this plan turns out!! I am trying to stick to more traditional speedwork, but I'll totally copy your plan if it works!

    1. I'll likely incorporate more normal speed work than I let on. Will probably do some 400 repeats to warm up, then go hard for a mile, then more repeats. There is an article about doing a "magic mile" that I may copy at first. Will update - that's what the blog is for. :)

  2. Not to rain on the parade you've planned, but if you are truly having to push hard to get a mile in at that pace, adding a quarter mile each week at that pace might not be that easy...and "could" lead to injury. Still yet though, it really depends on your limiting factor in running that fast over any given distance (a mile at first). If it is getting used to faster leg turn-over, and getting used to the pain of running that hard, I think this will work. If it is a lack of aerobic capacity to propel yourself that hard over distance, it "might" take more time.

    It IS an interesting idea though, and as long as you are able to stay tuned into what your body is telling you (and back off accordingly when there are danger signs), increasing the distance you can run at that pace slowly seems doable. It might well take longer than 13 weeks, but the concept sounds reasonable.

    I look forward to reading about your initial timed run for a mile, and following your progress. Personally, I hope you're able to break 20 minutes in the 5K even faster than 13 weeks !

    1. Thanks for the feedback. I'm actually probably too careful in my training, so I'm not too concerned about injury. The main idea is, even if my "plan" is junk, I'll start training faster. So far, when I've tried to up my speed, my body has acclimated well.

      My 5k goal for this year is 22 min. I'd be happy with that. The closer I get to 20, the more likely it is that I'll get it next year.