This post explains two different workouts designed to be ran 2-4 weeks before a goal 5k race. Both of these workouts are fairly high intensity (as are 5k races themselves), so I might recommend more of the 3-4 weeks range personally. Before starting either of these workouts, one should determine what his/her goal 5k pace on race day is. You can certainly run the workouts by feel as well, but the idea is to treat both workouts as a sort of dress rehearsal for race day; so, be deliberate and focused with our effort.
Dress rehearsal, stress test, or pace calibration; call it whatever you like. To the extent possible, try to prepare for this workout as if it were race day itself. In other words, practice proper hydration, eat a meal similar to what you plan the night before your race, and wear the clothing/shoes that you intend to on race day. Practicing your race preparation in a workout can help you gain confidence for race day. Don’t stress about it though, as these workouts may help you identify areas for improvement as well. The whole idea is may race day a little bit less stressful so you can enjoy the labors of your training. One final note before describing the two workouts: Relax and remember to have fun!
This workout, titled 4k Vision, is simple in structure but difficult in execution. 4k Vision is the more aggressive of the two workouts I’ll describe. Basically, this workout breaks down a 5k race into 1km intervals to be run at race pace. I recommend noting your timing on each 1km interval for later evaluation. After each Goal Pace Interval, you will downshift to a recovery pace for 600m (you can use 400m if you want to be a little bit more aggressive as well). After your recovery interval, you jump right back into your next 1km interval.
Other notes on this workout:
My suggestion is to do four 1km intervals, but some people may prefer to complete five 1km intervals for the full distance. Completing the full 5km gives some people more confidence, but I’m recommending 4km given the high intensity of this workout. Overall, I think you’ll be fine with either four or five intervals; so, it just comes down to what you’re more excited about and comfortable with.
If you find yourself struggling…don’t panic, this is a difficult workout. Try to slow down your 1km interval a little bit and stick with it. Also, this is one workout where pulling the plug a little earlier may be necessary depending on what you are experiencing. Remember the objective of this workout is to get ready for race day, so better to work out the kinks now.
Lastly, resist the temptation to overreact to the outcome of this workout. If you didn’t achieve your target pace today; that doesn’t mean that it is automatically out of reach. Evaluate your dress rehearsal and think about what went well or if you’d like to change anything. Also, running at high intensity (or any intensity) is a mental challenge; which completing this workout should help with.
This workout may be a little bit more comfortable for some runners compared to the longer 4k Vision workout detailed above. If this is the case, don’t view this as a bad thing; there are lots of different ways to prepare for an awesome race effort!
Ok, let’s jump into the workout. First of all, make sure you are warmed up and ready to roll. Now, you’re ready to toe the line for a 2.5km time trial to be ran at your goal 5k pace (2.5km = 1.553 miles, so we can call it a 1.5 mile time trial instead if you like). Take note of your 2.5km time and take a maximum of 2:00 for recovery (passive recovery- walking or a quick water break is fine).
Now for the challenging push to the finish with a sequence of 200m intervals. If you fall off pace, stick with it and you’ll still get a lot out of it. Start with a 200m interval at 10k pace (a rough guide is to take 15-20 secs off of your 5k pace). Recover for 60 seconds (again, passive recovery is fine). Back at it with a 200m interval at 5k pace now; followed by another 60 seconds of recovery. Next, crank it up a notch with 200m @ Mile pace, followed by 60 seconds of recovery. Lastly, finish up with 200m @ 10k pace.
A few extra notes on this workout: You can of course skip the 200m sequence at the end, but the intention is to push you past the 5k half way point in this workout. While the time trial is the main focus of this workout, you want to test to see if the 1.5km time trial left you entirely dead. Also, some may prefer to complete a 2 mile time trial instead. If you decide to go for 2 miles, then I suggest a longer recovery before the 200m sequence (and possibly skipping the 200m sequence).
Well, those are the two workouts! As much as we tried to simulate a race effort today; remember that the adrenaline and vibe of race day can give you a nice boost. Also, this workout is just one data point or test in your training, so don’t overreact to the results if they are negative. If the workout went well; awesome! Try to think about how you prepared and what went well and let’s bottle that up to uncork on race day!