Training tips to get faster in the middle stages of a 5K

by Jeff
(Newberg, Oregon, USA)

My daughter is a high school varsity 5K runner who has been running for a number of years. Currently her 5K time is in the mid 20 min range. She is currently trying to improve her pace in the middle portion of the 5K as she has a very good first mile and a Very good last 400 meters. What training tips would you suggest to speed up the middle portion of her runs to achieve her overall goal of low 19 min 5K's? As a side note she runs year round and also competes in the 1500 and 800 meters during track season.

Thank you for your time,


Hello Jeff,

It sounds as if she runs a 5k much too much like how she approaches a 1500 or an 800 meter race. You don't have as much time or distance to cover in a track race, so you typically don't have that mental or physical lull where the pace falls off. If your daughter is to be successful in the 5k, she has to push it much harder in the middle of the race than the current effort she is giving.

For example, everyone can run well at the beginning and end of a 5k. At the start, everyone is fresh and has energy to burn. At the end, you can see the finish line, so it is much easier to give it all you have. During the middle, you're tired and there is no finish line in sight. It is going to take some mental toughness on your daughter's part in order to improve.

First, during the race, tell her to back off her start just a little bit. She might be going out too hard and using up too much energy too early.

Next, she has to focus on passing people in the middle of the race. The whole running field slows down in the middle of the race, so if she isn't passing up runners, she is running at a slower pace.

Finally, don't save anything for the final kick of the race. You can't run with the attitude, "I'm going to save something for the finishing kick." The truth is, you use different muscle fibers for a sprint than you do for the slower paced parts of the race. This means she will still be able to kick it home even if she doesn't "save energy" for the last part of the race.

Here's a video with some racing tips for CC.

I hope some of this helps. You should also check out some of the running workouts like Fartleks, a Progressive Run, or a Tempo Run if you want to build endurance and strength for a 5k race. Here's another video on these workouts.

Happy Trails - Coach Tief

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