Today, I’m telling you how to run a 5k in 30 minutes or less.
Who doesn’t want to run faster for 5k, whether it’s a solo run, a weekly park run, or an event that you’re targeting?
But while it’s fun to race, turning up to a 5K every week isn’t really going to get you that super-fast time you’re after.
You might see improvements, to begin with, but after a while, your times may plateau. So, the best way to improve your time is by including some specific sessions aimed at improving your speed and threshold levels.
The good news is that sub 30-minute 5k is definitely in the near future for most of you guys.
Just use these tips and you’ll be there.
Let’s get into it…
How To Run A 5K In 30 Minutes Or Less
Respect 5k distance
Before doing anything, you really need to respect the 5k distance.
This is still a decent amount of mileage and you want to treat it as such so that at the end, you’re not burnt out.
So, keep that under control, and remember that you always have a little bit left in the tank.
There’s always that little bit you want to push out at the end and that’s when you want to do it.
Lastly, it’s not that it gets easier, but it’s that you guys get stronger. So, every single race is another benchmark.
With that out of the way, what does a 5k in 30 minutes translate to?
Running a 5k in 30 minutes or less directly translates to about a 6-minute per kilometer pace or a 9:39 per mile pace.
Related: 14 Great Running Shoes For 5K Races
6:0/KM or 9:39/ Mile pace
So, that’s what’s going to be what you’re aiming for on the day of the race, but there’s a lot more that goes into it before that.
If you’re a new runner or someone who’s run a couple of races and maybe a 5k before, chances are you haven’t really taken a look at your pace much.
I best you maybe haven’t really tracked your runs out on your watch, on your phone, or on those different GPS apps and stuff. But that is going to be key if you’re going to hit that sub 30-minute 5k mark.
There’s a few ways you can do that and the biggest thing is just being aware of your pace at the beginning…
Know your pace
You’re not going to get into that race pace right away or give yourself time limits or anything like that.
Just start looking at your watch.
There’s a few different ways you can do that and one of my favorites is the Strava app on my phone. It has a really good GPS and it breaks up your miles, your half miles, kilometers, and all that good stuff.
You can also just simply use your watch and then just time a certain period of run. Again, just start looking at the time.
So, taking note of your pace and later on, we’re going to get into a few workouts and benchmarks you can look at to start fine-tuning those paces.
One of the reasons we even sign up for this race in the first place is to see what our limits are and how much we can push on race day.
Your training days are going to be a lot different often because you’re doing it a lot more, but when you get to that race day, you want to find out where you can push and what time to push that out so you make that 30-minute mark.
One of the ways to do this is to kind of mimic that race day feeling…
Mimic Race Day Feeling
You’re going to do this with a 1-mile run. You don’t even need to use those apps at this point. All you’re going to do is take your watch out and time yourself for 1-mile run on a day hopefully you’re feeling decent or pretty fresh.
You’re just going to track how long it took you to do that.
So, if you’re someone that took close to 9-10 minutes, achieving that 30-minute 5k is definitely in the near future for you.
With the right training plan, you can probably hit that in a month or a little bit longer than that.
If you are someone who’s finishing that mile in maybe 12 minutes or 12min+, there’s a couple of things to look at there.
- Were you totally exerting yourself?
- Did you give it everything you had in the whole mile?
- Did you come out really fast and then totally burn out?
- Maybe you’re just a little further out from hitting that sub 30 minute 5k, which is also totally fine.
Overall, start with that 1-mile run and then we will move into the workout progression from there.
So, the next piece we’re getting into is a weekly workout progression to get you to that sub 30-minute 5k pace…
How To Run A 5k In 30 Minutes Plan
This is going to be a big emphasis on that timer and getting that pace dialed in.
5 x 1K run with rest in between
You’re going to do a 5 by 1k run with some rest built in between. The rest is going to be decreased as you move on week to week, but you’re starting with a 2-minute rest between each round.
If you’re on a track, that’s a great place to do it. So, you’re going to be running 2.5 laps. This is a 1k run and aim for a 6-minute pace, which is what’s going to translate ultimately to that sub 30-minute 5k.
You run 1k + 2 minutes off. You rest and let that heart rate come down a little bit and catch your breath.
You run it again all the way through 5 rounds. That’s the workout.
Dumb that down to 90 seconds rest. It’s a little bit less time to recover, but you’re still expected to hold that 6-minute 1k pace.
You go to 1-minute rest.
You go to 30 seconds. And then after that, you’re going to string those 5 1ks together to hit that 5k hopefully at 30 minutes or less.
Again, this is more designed to train your body to mentally get over that hurdle of when you want to slow down.
So, less time to feel rejuvenated or to feel like you can push as hard as you were before. It just gets you a little bit over that hump. So, try this workout, it’s awesome.
Obviously, adjust the rest if you need to, but that progression down will get you to that sub 30-minute 5k efficiently.
The reason I love that workout progression is it gets you very comfortable with maintaining a pace that you need to keep.
So, the one thing about race day with all of us is we get those jitters or we get that huge rush of adrenaline at the beginning, or maybe someone jets off past us way faster and we start doubting everything we’ve worked on the last five or six weeks.
It’s really important to remember that everything you’ve worked on can be translated to that day and that 5k is longer than you think it is.
It’s not going to be an all-out sprint on race day because that energy’s going to carry you all the way through.
How To Run A Faster 5k
In this section, I’m going to run you through some tips on how to run a faster 5k.
I’ve got a few tips I’m going to run through as well as a couple of workouts that would hopefully help you to achieve that PB.
Run Slow To Run Faster
I know that’s a pretty bold statement to start given that this whole article is about being able to run a faster 5k.
Even elite Kenyan runners do not do all of their training at superhuman paces.
Of course, they do a lot more volume than many of us, but a vast majority of that volume is at a distinctly human pace.
So, to be able to do that, you need to learn to run slow.
The reason is being able to run slow allows us to save energy for those quality harder workouts while still improving our aerobic capacity and efficiency as a runner.
In simple terms, that means keeping your runs to an easy and conversational pace. Something like a 5/10 in terms of effort.
If you’re using a watch that has heart rate built-in or it can deal with heart rate, then they can normally work out your maximum heart rate looking at your previous runs.
Using that as a guide, we’re looking at around 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate.
Now for tip number two, which is to work on your technique…
Technique is really important in running and it can actually shave a ton of time off your 5K PB.
The key to this one is drills. Drills really allow you to improve your efficiency as a runner. In other words, drills allow you to run faster for the same effort or run at the same pace but for less effort.
What is not to like about that?
What it does is break down the technique of running, allowing you to focus on specific individual areas such as your form, your posture, your foot contact and your proportion, and so on and so forth.
I used to do drills week in, week out without fail, but since stopping doing them, I’ve really noticed a difference in my technique in a bad way.
What I would suggest is setting aside 20 to 30 minutes at least per week where you can focus on doing some drills.
Prior to a run is a really good idea because hopefully then you take that technique forward into that run.
Try and stand tall and lean forward slightly from the ankles. What this does is engages your glutes, which gives you a bit more stability and also a bit more power in your stride.
You just want to relax your arms down a bit and swing them through. All this does is just helps with your rhythm and your balance.
To make sure you’re running at the right pace and really take your running to the next level, you can use heart rate and GPS.
It’s really common to see people heading off way too hard at the beginning of a 5K.
Just monitoring your pace during training and races can make a big difference and holding back at the beginning of a 5K.
Don’t Shy Away From The Hills
Running hilly routes or including some hills into some of your workouts can really help to improve your leg strength.
In particular, your glutes or your backside, which is basically like your running powerhouses, all of which can really help to make you a faster runner.
I just like to incorporate this into some of my steady easy runs. As I’m exploring, I’ll go up and over the hills, which, to be honest, is awesome.
But if you don’t have many hills on your doorstep, try and find an incline of some sort, and you can always just do repeats on that.
Just build your effort on the way up the hill, turn around at the top, jog right down recovery, and keep doing that as many times as you’d like.
On which note, let’s talk about a couple of the key sessions that you might like to consider for the 5k distance to make you fastest. One of which is the threshold or tempo session. Then, we’ve got the speed workout.
Let’s start off with this tempo or threshold workout…
A threshold run is above that easy pace that I was discussing before but below your 5k best-paced effort.
I describe it as around an 8/10 and it’s often referred to as comfortably uncomfortable.
Again, if you’re using a heart rate monitor, this works out around 80% to 85% of your maximum heart rate.
With that in mind, I would only advise doing one of these per week, or maybe even just once every other week.
Now, this is obviously below your 5k best effort. That means that you can rack up a good duration at this intensity, which, in turn, can really boost your fitness and improve your overall speed as a runner.
Let’s run through a couple of session ideas that you can build into, say, a 45-minute run.
5 x 4 mins @ threshold effort + 90 secs jog recoveries.
4 x 5 mins @ threshold effort + 90 secs jog recoveries
3 x 6 mins @ threshold effort + 60-90 secs jog recoveries
3 x 8 mins @ threshold effort + 60-90 secs jog recoveries
3 x 10 mins @ threshold effort + 60-90 secs jog recoveries
Say you could start out with 5 lots of 4 minutes at threshold effort with 90 seconds jog recoveries, building two 4 lots of 5 minutes at threshold effort with 90 seconds jog recoveries.
Then, to 3 lots of 6 minutes at threshold effort with 60 to 90 seconds jog recoveries.
With time, maybe even building to a solid 3 lots of 8, or 3 lots of 10 minutes at threshold effort, also with 60 to 90 seconds jog recoveries between.
Now, to be clear, you should never finish a tempo or threshold workout on your hands and knees. You should always feel like you could push on a fraction more should you need to.
I understand it’s a bit of a tricky pace to get your head around to start off with, but with practice, it does start to become a little bit more familiar.
Now, moving onto the exciting one, the speed workout…
While similar to the tempo or threshold workouts, you only want to be doing one of these speed sessions per week or every other week at the absolute most.
But the difference on these sessions is that you’re going to be running at your 5k race pace or above.
I often describe this as if you’re tapping into your inner speed. You’re unlocking it and teaching your body how to move your legs that fast.
Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that, and there’s also a lot of hard work that’s required, so you really do need to arrive prepared and ready for these sessions.
On which note, I often find it’s best to do these sessions with a training partner, in a group, or even with a club just to help push you on a little bit more.
As with before, here are some session examples for you:
Again, a speed session is as it says really. It’s a session designed at improving your top-end running pace. You want to do this on a flat and smooth course, which does lend itself to an athletics track. However, a smooth trail will do just as well.
2 x (8 x 30 secs fast, followed by 30 secs jog – continuous) + 3 mins recovery jog between sets.
6-8 x 400m at target 5k or above + 90 secs rest (not jog recovery)
4-6 x 800m at target 5k or above + 90 secs rest (not jog recovery)
3-5 x 1km at target 5k or above + 90 secs rest (not jog recovery)
You might want to start out with something along the lines of 8 lots of 30 seconds fast running followed by 30 seconds of easy running, 3 minutes jog recovery, and repeat through again.
I really like that workout just to get myself into the swing of doing speed workouts.
Then, with time, you might like to build to something like 6 to 8 lots of 400 meters at target 5k race pace or above with 90 seconds recovery between.
Don’t worry about jogging between these, necessarily, you’ll likely be pretty pooped after each of these reps.
Then, building to 4 to 6 lots of 800 meters at target race pace or above, also with 90 seconds recovery.
Then, up to the ultimate, 3 to 5 lots of 1 kilometer at target 5k race pace or above, taking 90 seconds recovery between.
I guess the big takeaway points from this is that if you really want to run faster over the 5k distance or any distance for that matter actually is that being specific in each of your runs makes a huge difference.
- You shouldn’t be trying to set a new PB at local 5K every week.
- Every week, you should be doing a tempo session and a speed session for variation.
- You also need to look at your running technique.
- Your pacing can make a big difference to your overall 5K time.
- Pick a date, work towards that, and really target it.
So, there you have it. This was how to run a 5k in 30 minutes or less. If you’ve been successful hitting that sub 30-minute 5k time, please share your experience with us.