How to run a sub-25 minute 5K

The dream.

The dream.

Back in January, I set myself three fitness goals. One was to run another sub-2 hour half marathon. I accomplished that goal in March at the Hampton Palace Half Marathon with a solid PB of 1:57:49. My next goal was to do my first multi-sport race. I’d say I pretty much crushed this one. Not only did I do two duathlons this year, but I also did two triathlons, and one of them was in the sea in Brighton!

But there’s one goal I have yet to accomplish: run 5K in under 25 minutes. I have been close. Back in January, I managed a time off 25:32 at the Highbury Fields Parkrun. But I’ve been chasing it ever since.

So, with two months left this year, I am making a concerted effort to crush this goal too. I did my first speed workout last week. A short 1.5K warmup, 10×100 sprints and then a 1.5K cooldown. I felt like superwoman, flying across the dark sidewalks at 6:30 in the morning. With one speed workout under my belt, I had high hopes for the weekend. (High hopes = delusions of grandeur)

On Saturday, I was back at Parkrun. Despite the tequila shots on Friday night (Eeeeek!), I managed a pretty good time: 26:28. But, it was literally all of my soul to get there. It was so hard. I felt like I was running like a total sloth and my mental dialogue was discouraging at best. I had one minor boost of confidence when a runner in front of me peeled off to the grass to be sick. At least I’m not feeling as crap as that guy, I thought. (Sorry to whoever that was!) Due to some technical difficulties, I had no watch or music, so I really had no idea how fast I was going. I was pleased to see the time, but it was truly every ounce of energy I had.

Sometimes you just gotta collapse in the grass after a tough 5K.

Sometimes you just gotta collapse in the grass after a tough 5K.

So now that I have a benchmark, I need a plan. Here’s a few things I plan to incorporate into my weekly routine to get me to my goal:

Run more: I’ve been focused on cycling and swimming over the past few months and usually only got around to one run. I need to up the frequency if I’m going to meet my goal. I’m now planning three runs/week.

Speed workouts: Turns out that if you want to run faster, you actually need to practice that. Who knew? I plan to incorporate a few different speed workouts into my routine. No more casual 5K jaunt. I’m going to be doing 100 metre or 200 metre repeats, or the famous fartlek workout. A fartlek is a series of faster bursts of speed with recovery in between. The length and speed is up to you. I like to find an object off in the near distance (like a sign or a tree) and run to it at a pace much faster than I ordinarily would. Once I reach the destination, I jog or walk slowly until I feel recovered. Try it sometime! It’s fun!

Strength training: To run fast, you need to be strong! Weak glutes, hamstrings or calves will just not do. Other muscles will have to compensate and you could hurt yourself. The best way to build strength is to incorporate a weekly hill run (no thanks!) or regular body weight exercises like squats, lunges or box steps. I like to join the GRID classes at my local gym. They are quick 30-minute classes that incorporate a variety of strength exercises.

That’s my plan. Sub-25: I’m comin’ for ya!

PS – Happy Halloween! Here’s a pic of me dressed like an 80s aerobics instructor, Halloween 2008

80s aerobics instructor Halloween


  1. April Runs On October 31, 2016 / 7:41 pm

    Yay Miranda go get em! I know you can do it! I found doing speed workouts with my track group helped immensely this summer!!

    • thoughtsandpavement October 31, 2016 / 7:43 pm

      Awesome! Good to hear. I’m all over this.

    • thoughtsandpavement October 31, 2016 / 9:16 pm

      LOL. It’s hard. Running leisurely is more fun… but it doesn’t help accomplish any goals 🙂

  2. Francois October 31, 2016 / 8:41 pm

    I’m no expert (disclaimer), but here’s a suggested training tactic that helped lower my 5k time.
    400m speed endurance training (on 400m track). Sample workout as follows:
    75-80% effort per lap (400m),
    90sec rest after each lap,
    8 – 10 laps total,
    2x per week for 4 – 6 weeks

    Happy Halloween & Happy Running!

    • thoughtsandpavement October 31, 2016 / 9:15 pm

      Amazing! Thanks so much for sharing this! Really helpful.

  3. afastpacedlife October 31, 2016 / 9:58 pm

    Good luck! I totally think it’s doable in two months. I went from 27:XX to 24:XX for a 5K in one summer a few years ago.

    • thoughtsandpavement November 1, 2016 / 9:16 am

      EXCELLENT. This is most encouraging. 🙂

  4. Kathy November 1, 2016 / 3:34 pm

    Good luck on your sub-25 min 5km! I’m still trying to break 28min from a few years back, but may try some of the speed work you suggested.

  5. Bill November 27, 2016 / 4:39 am

    Core core core….and,….core……counter intuitive. But work your core and work your per km time down…

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