Want To Do 5 Miles In 38 Minutes

by Don
(Nutley NJ USA)

I am about to turn 51 and I have been running seriously for about a year and a half. Last year at this time I was able to run 2 miles in an 8 min 30 second pace. I now can run 5 miles in the same 8 min 30 second pace.

Shortly I will be running in a 5 mile competitive race and would like to finish the 5 miles in 38 minutes.

Where should I be focusing my training?

Right now I run 3 times a week and weight train 3 times a week.

5 miles in 38 minutes
My three runs:
  • Day 1 speed as fast as I can for as long as I can (usually 3 miles in 24 minutes).

  • Day 2 5 miles at around an 8 minute 45 second pace.

  • Day 3 is longer slower paced run about 7 miles in 60 minutes.

  • Thanks in advance for your help


    Answer by Dominique:

    Hi Don,
    Thanks for your running training question.

    Well done on picking up running and combining a healthy mix of running and strength training in your routine. Not many of us exercise six times a week, you have done really well to build up this routine.

    My thoughts on this are split as follows:

    1. Setting race goals - what is achievable?
    2. Making improvements in your running training

    Setting Race Goals - What is Achievable?

    5 miles in 38 minutes
    When you do not have a lot of racing experience, it is tricky to set good race goals. There are a few ways to go about it, which I will outline below. It gets a bit numbers-based and maybe a bit technical, but it is important.

    Use one race to predict another
    I checked my Race Conversion Calculator and used your "run as fast as I can"-times of 3 miles in 24 minutes to calculate what your time would be in a 5 mile run. This got me to 41 mins and 14 secs.

    And it is clear, that when you race 3 miles in 24 minutes (8 minutes/mile), it is going to be a challenge to race 5 miles in 38 minutes (7:36 minutes/mile).

    Use running training paces as a guide
    An alternative calculator on my website calculates the appropriate running training paces that accompany a certain race result. You can find it here.

    You can use this calculator to reverse-engineer a race prediction. Takes a bit of trial and error, but its doable.
    When doing this it emphasises that that slower run you are doing is still quite fast.

    7 miles in 60 minutes equates to 8:36 min/mile. Suppose that would really be easy pace. Plugging in different results for a 5 mile race, I eventually ended up at a time of 34 min 30 seconds equating to an easy run pace of 8:37 minutes/mile.

    5 miles in 38 minutes
    So, what have we learned so far?
    The things these calculators tell me are that:

  • Your goal of 5 miles in 38 minutes is not YET achievable. Based on your 3 mile 'race pace' you are likely about 4 minutes off

  • Your running training is geared towards faster running mostly

  • Let's get into the basics of running training a bit more in the next section.

    Making Improvements in Your Running Training

    The funny thing about improving your running speed is that you first need to be able to get further, before you can get faster.

    As stated before, I think you are doing the majority of your running too fast.

  • Day 1 is an all-out effort

  • Day 2 and Day 3 are at about tempo pace effort, based on a race time of 3 miles in 24 minutes (check the Running Pace Calculator I referred to before).

  • So, you are not doing any easy running.

    5 miles in 38 minutes
    Tip 1: Build Your Base and Increase Your Mileage
    I think you need to first develop a stronger base by doing slower, easy runs. I would be in favour of all three runs becoming much slower at the moment.

    If you really want to do some faster running, then do one tempo pace workout per week. But start doing some real base building.

    I would also increase the length of your long run, e.g. build up to a longest run of 10 miles or so. You could probably get there in about four weeks or so (add 1 mile each week). When you run a bit slower, you will find it easier to add the mileage to your runs.

    Tip 2: Other Way to Increase Mileage
    A simple way to increase mileage is add another running day. Maybe let go of one strength training session and add another easy run of 30-45 minutes.

    That's a personal choice you will have to make. If you like your current routine, stick with it. You can get reasonably far with consistently running three times per week. But more would be better.

    Tip 3: Once You Have Build a Base, Add Some Speed
    Once you have got that easy slower running "under control" you can make one day a day for faster running. I would not make that an "as fast as you can"-day, but instead I would work on some tempo running (as referred to before) or interval running.

    This approach should help improve your running speed over time and get you closer to your goal.

    As a last suggestion, I'd recommend checking out the Running Training Section in greater detail. There are a lot of articles there with different bits of advice on different types of workouts and how they can help you achieve your goals.

    Hope this advice helps to "slow you down to speed you up!"

    Best of luck, Don, enjoy your running!
    Kind regards,

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