A Little Under a Month Until My First 5K

by Tom
(Delhi NY)

Hello Dominique, I am a bit less than a month away from my first ever 5k. I have asked you a few questions in the past. I started running a year and 80 pounds ago today.

I am a 45 year old male. I average about 5 days a week on a short day I am running 3 to 4 miles on a long day 6 to 7 and have done as far as 8.5 recently.

Can you please give me a good training schedule for the three weeks leading up to my 5K. I am getting so confused with the splits and all the other lingo I am reading about. I think I may be reading too much and giving myself mental overkill.

I just need a common sense plan to prepare for this first race, one that gives me ample time to recover etc.

I am not obsessed with time but would like to shoot for under 28 minutes. Thanks for any advice you can give.

Answer by Dominique:

Hi Tom,
Thanks for your running training question. It sounds like you have made amazing progress over the last year.

80 pounds is a lot of weight to shift. You must be incredibly happy with that.

And thanks for providing the extra background info, it does make it easier to provide a sensible answer.

Five days of running is very solid and the distance you are covering is great for a first 5k.

Generally for a first race I think it is good to not go out with a time goal. Having fun is way more important.

A dedicated 5k running program would be a bit longer than 3 weeks (8-12 weeks). It is hard to get immense improvement in just 3 weeks, but I can give you some general guidelines.

Oh, let me not forget to put in a shameless plug for my coaching service. Maybe something to consider for your next race ... :)

What I would do in the next few weeks, apart from the last week, is the following:

  • A weekly long run at the distance you are currently comfortable with (~ 7 miles)

  • 1-2 weekly easy runs (3-4 miles)

  • A weekly interval session

  • A weekly goal pace session

  • Now with regards to the intervals. It would be great if you did these at a pace faster than your 5k goal pace. E.g. do 3-4 miles in which you alternate 3 minutes of easy running with 2 minutes of fast running. Also see my interval running page.

    With regards to the goal pace session: you could do a 4 mile session or so in which you alternate 1 mile easy with 1 mile goal pace. The goal of these sessions is to get a feel for what running at goal pace is like. Another idea for a goal pace session is on my goal pace running page.

    In case you had asked this question 3 months back I would have thrown in tempo running sessions as well, but given the short period and the nature of a 5k race I'd focus on running at goal pace and faster than goal pace.

    By the way, this will give you a good idea as well about the likelihood that you will be able to run this fast on race day.

    So, use these sessions as a guide as well, if you have a lot of trouble doing them then maybe adjust your time goal so your first race experience is a good one.

    In the last week I'd do one last fast session, e.g. 3 minutes easy, 2 minutes hard alternating. But make sure this last fast session is at the beginning of the week and is not too long (e.g. 3 miles is plenty).

    Assuming you would have had your long run on Sunday, do the interval session on Tuesday, giving your body 4-5 days time to recover until your race in the weekend.

    It is good though to still do that fast session in the last week as you do not want your legs to become stale and lose that speed.

    Other than that do some easy 20-30 minute runs in that last week to keep the legs fresh, without exhausting yourself.

    Hope this helps.
    Best of luck and let me know how your race went!

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