18 minute 5k Training Plan

Target Race Pace: 5:45 per mile for an 18 minute 5k

To run a sub 18 minute 5k you will need to be able to run at a target race pace of 5:45 minutes per mile pace for the 3.1 mile distance.  That works out at 3:35 per kilometre.

 

Your Speed/Distance Training Zones: 18 minute 5k

Pace per MilePace per KmTreadmill Pace mphTreadmill Pace km/h400m Pace800m Pace5km Race Pace
05:4003:3210.5 mph16.9 km/h84 secs2min 49s17min 40s
05:4503:3510.4 mph16.6 km/h86 secs2min 52s17min 55s
*for speed/distance conversation allow for a small amount of rounding up/ down.
sub 18 minute 5k

Follow our training plan for a sub 18 minute 5k

Before starting this plan it is recommended that your 5k PB should be below the sub 20 minute 5k mark already and you are able to run faster than your target 5k race pace for at least 1km.

This is because during the course of this 18 Minute 5k Training Plan you will be running slightly faster than your race pace for short durations so you really need to ensure that you can run 1km at 5:45 pace. If you are not quite there yet, have a look at one of our other 5k training plans and build up to this one:

Other 5k training plans: 16 minute 5k || 18 minute 5k || Sub 20 5k || 22 minute 5k || 24 minute 5k || 26 minute 5k || 28 minute 5k || Sub 30 minute 5k || Couch to 5k

Your 18 minute 5k Training Plan

Please read before starting a training plan:
Frequently Asked Questions
Signs of Overtraining
WeekMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySunday
130mins easy4x1km
[email protected]:35 per km / 90s 5:45p/m (90sec rec.)
30mins easy6x800m
[email protected]:49 per 800m /5:40p/m (200m jog rec.)
Rest/ Cross-train30mins easyLong run
230mins easy10x400m
[email protected] per 400m/ 5:35p/m (60s rec.)
30mins easyKenyan Hiills
Examples
Rest6x800m
[email protected]:49 per 800m /5:40p/m (200m jog rec.)
Long run
3Hill Sprints
Examples
6x1km
[email protected]:35 per km / 90s 5:45p/m (90sec rec.)
30mins easyFartlek
Examples
Rest/ Cross-train30mins easyLong run
Rec. WeekRest/ Cross-trainRest/ Cross-trainTempo Run
to include 3miles @6:00 p/m
Rest/ Cross-train30mins easyRest/ Cross-trainRest/ Cross-train

 

Time commitment: You should be looking to commit roughly 3-4 hours of work a week over the course of the 18 minute 5k training plan in addition to any time spent cross training.

Breakthrough Sessions – 18 minute 5k
The highlighted sessions need to be challenging intense efforts, mini-milestones towards your target.

  • 400m Reps – these need to be at 5:35 p/m pace (84s per lap) with a 60sec standing recovery.
  • 800m Reps – should be reps at 5:40p/m pace (2:49 per 800m) with a 200m jogged recovery.
  • 1km Intervals – hit 5:45p/m pace (3:35 per km) with a 90sec jogged recovery.
  • Hills: Kenyans/ Hill Sprints – alternate between Kenyans and Hill Sprints to get a balance of power and endurance training. Example Hill Training Sessions.

Breakeven Sessions – 18 minute 5k
These sessions are used for maintaining fitness and recovery. Preparing you for breakthrough sessions.

  • Steady/ Easy Run – this should be no quicker than 06:20 p/m.
  • Long Run – this should be less than 1 hour. Aim for 06:30 pace.
  • Fartlek – unstructured training. Example Fartlek sessions.

The core work for the 18 minute 5k training plan is set over a 3-week period with the addition of 1 week’s recovery. At the end of the first 4-week cycle you can repeat and/or tailor the plan to your individual needs to focus on your particular 5k event.

It is recommended that after three months following the 18 minute 5k plan that you reduce your training for a period of one to two weeks to allow your body time to recover from the impact of running. This should mean more time cross-training with a couple of nice easy runs every few days to keep the legs ticking over.

Matt

Keen amateur runner who likes keeping fit & devising training plans that help you get faster. The plans on this site have helped me knock minutes off all my times. I also love cats and popcorn.

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76 Responses

  1. Jonathan says:

    Steady/ Easy Run – this should be no quicker than 06:20 p/m. Would this be to fast for a guy running 5:40 pace for a 5k? Or should this feel more like a tempo? I am Using this plan for an 18:50 5k and just am curious. Thanks!

  2. Jamie says:

    Hello Matt,

    I train running with heart rate monitor most of the time. I wonder, if these breakthrough intervals should really take me to my max heart rate zone which is above 174 bpm or is it relevant at all?

    Another question, can a good tempo run replace a break even session i.e. 800m x 6 or 4 x 1 km run because yesterday I had to do my easy 5km run but eventually ended up running a tempo run for the most part of these 5km, – according to my heart rate monitor and fatigue in my legs.

    What advice can you give on heavy legs? Often times I feel like I could blast those intervals i.e. 6x1km but my legs are “Nope. Not today, mate.”, which is annoying. Especially, when I have days when I otherwise feel fine but whence I start running it feels like I struggle to make those damn legs move faster.

  3. Dean says:

    Hi Matt,
    Thanks for this…. I’m on week 3 of the plan and just completed the 6x1K session – I was slightly under target for the first 3k and a little over for the next 3… probably still fatigued from the hills yesterday.
    With regards to targeting a race when would you look to race based on this plan – end of week 3 but miss the fartlek or week 4 after an easy week on fresh legs?
    I’m feeling so much stronger this week than previous and looking at targeting a 5k after the first cycle to see where I am

  4. Stephen McAlpine says:

    Hi Matt – just about to launch into this. I’ve been doing 80-90km weeks with marathon in mind (it’s southern hemisphere summer so not marathon season yet), but not enjoying it this year as life is too busy for 90-120km weeks. Speed has always been my first love and I hover around 18:25-18:50 for Parkrun (I’m nearly 51), but never having shortened the weeks I don’t know what my true pace could be. The mind shift is to cut the kms and increase the speed this year and get rid of the 30km long runs! I’ll keep you posted, but this looks the goods.

  5. Matt says:

    Hi Matt,
    Thanks for the plan…just wondering if week3, and , with it’s potential layout might be too intense in terms of recovery time?….a succession of a long run Sunday (@6:30 min/mile….hills in this part of the world)…Monday(hill sprints)….then on Tuesday followed by 6x1km @5:45?….I’m struggling getting on pace for Tuesday’s session after managing everything else on the weeks so far…… @ 44 yrs old , maybe I just need an extra day of recovery ….I tend to run on the Friday too, that might be taking it’s toll too?

    • William says:

      I had a similar issue to you in week 3 Matt. I’ve re-arranged the 3 workouts to be tue, thu and sat instead of mon, tue, thu.
      Most probably not ideal but works better for me in terms of recovery. I also run the easy/long runs slower than Matt’s recommendations since I find that running these too hard affects my ability to hit the target times in the intervals.

  6. Magnus says:

    Also, wouldn’t two weeks of recovery after three month cycle downplay the achievemed results and detrain you?

  7. Russ says:

    Hi Matt,

    Just wanted to thank you for the plan. I managed to take my 5k time from 18:45 to 17:35 in just one 4 week cycle. I wasn’t sure that I was even ready given how tough some of the sessions were… 6x1km Repeats were particularly bad.

    Before this, I’d never followed a plan focusing on speed but I’ve really enjoyed it – nice short sessions as opposed to Ultra training! I’ll be starting on the sub-16 plan on Monday. Thanks again, Russ

    • Matt says:

      Hi Russ, well done and thank you for the feedback; it’s always nice to hear some success stories. Pop back sometime and let us know how you get on with the 16 minute plan, cheers.

  8. Magnus says:

    Hello Matt,
    How do I make transition from sub 20 minute plan to sub 18? Thanks to your wonderful plans, I have beaten sub 20 minutes in 19:47 but looking at 18 minute plan paces is discouraging as I would barely keep up with any of the perscribed above.

    Thank you,
    Magnus

  9. William says:

    Hi Matt
    I have a track race 5km (masters) coming up on the 8th April. My recent 5km parkrun pb is 19:07. Starting on January 8th that will give me 13 weeks to get to sub 18. My idea is to run your plan 3 times, with the last 2 weeks recovery/taper. Does that make sense or would it be better to only run this plan twice – and maintain my current focus on higher mileage/less speed for January?

    Thanks
    William

  10. Ryan says:

    Hi Matt,

    Thank you putting this workout plan together. I have been following it for the past few weeks and I’ve already improved my endurance noticeably. I was wondering why you have four pretty tough days in a row going from week two to week three, as I think it would be more beneficial to rest/run easy on the third Monday rather than run hills, and maybe hills should be on Thursday during week 3.

    • Ryan says:

      Also, 6:30 is fast for a long run for someone who is running an 18 minute 5k. The Elites at Nike Oregon Project did 6:14 for a long run, so I think the pace should be closer to 7:30.

  11. Simon says:

    Hi, I started the sub 18 mins, 3 weeks ago. I really should’ve started sub 20 mins as my 3 mile PB was 21:43.. I’m still quite quick over the shorter distances and found the sub 18 mins more of a challenge.

    My parkrun after 3 weeks is down to 20:40 taking a minute off my time due to the programme. I’ve only been running again for the last 2 months, and was wondering how long on average a person takes to get from 21:00 mins to let’s say 16 / 17 mins.

    I’ll continue on the sub 18mins programme until I get there and then move on to the sub 16 programme.

    At the moment I’m using park runs as my markers/goals Ie I’m on 3 parkruns now and by 10 parkruns would like to be sub 20 mins.

    So Id like to set a target for park run 50 and park run 100 etc. So I know I’m not slacking.

  12. Abaan Ansari says:

    This is my first year in highschool and it’s fun and I joined cross country as a side sport, but my PR turned out to be 18:34 but I couldn’t push through the last part which i am mad at myself for and basketball was my main sport but now I think my coach wants me to stick with running to improve since I am decent at running. Anyways i wanted to ask i want a 16 minutes for a 5k at the begining of sophomore year and I know it’s going to be extremely hard but I wanna start winning and I barely made it to regionals but got almost last place which is bad. sorry for getting off topic but I am going to training all year around so any tips on how to improve and reach my goal

  13. Paul says:

    Hi, I’m a 51 year old, looking at running under 18 mins for 5k.
    I was very quick in my earlier years, running 800m and 1500m on the track, my PBs were, 800m – 1:50.4. 1500m-3:46.7.
    Any advice about how I should train, I’m in very good shape, I ran 5k a few weeks in 18.30.
    Regards
    Paul Drake

    • Matt says:

      Hi Paul, thanks for your query. If you are running 18:30 already and are in good shape then I wouldn’t think you need to do anything special other than follow the plan on account of your age. I know plenty of guys, in their 50s, who have had results following the 18 and 20 minute plans. Obviously as one gets older, and I’m conscious of this myself these days, you need to pay closer attention to rest & recovery. When I was 30 I could probably get away with skipping the recovery sessions and days off, but not anymore. If it’s an option I would recommend doing some Pilates or Yoga to supplement your training.
      Let me know how you get on.
      Cheers

  14. Ben says:

    Hey, I’m a sophomore in high school and my pr is 18:08 I’m trying to do your sub 16 minute 5k plan with the hope of running a 16:30 my junior year or after three months of training and I started a couple weeks ago on your training plan. But I tried to run your tempo run 3 miles at 5:30 I got the first mile and a half but couldn’t continue. What should I do am I being to ambitious and I should be doing your sub 18k? or just tone it down and try to run a 17:30?

    • Matt says:

      Hey Ben, your ambition is admirable but I suggest you opt for the sub 18 minute plan first. When you are comfortably running the target race pace for this plan and you get your PB down to sub 18 then I would move onto the 16 minute plan. Good luck!

  15. Alex says:

    Hi, just have a couple of questions about the training plan for 5K under 16 mins. You have these two suggestions there (see below) and I’m wondering A) whether 1) below is the same as “30 mins easy” in the training plan table, and B) what pace would you suggest for 2) below:
    1) Steady Run – this should be no quicker than 06:00 p/m.
    2) Long Run – this should be less than 1 hour.

    Thanks,
    Alex

    • Matt says:

      Hi Alex, thanks for you well constructed query 🙂
      A) Yes you are correct, ‘Steady’ is meant to be the same as ‘easy’ run; I will modify the text here so it’s less ambiguous.
      B) I would suggest something like 06:15-06:30 pace would be good.
      Cheers,
      Matt

      • Alex says:

        Great, thanks! Oh, boy that pace is fast for a long run 🙂 If you were to choose, would you suggest to keep this pace as much as possible, but go for a shorter distance (if one cannot keep it for 8-9 mile), or still try to get closer to 1 hour of running, but at a slower pace? I hope this makes sense.
        Thanks,
        Alex

        • Matt says:

          Hi Alex, it makes sense :-). I would suggest the latter, do the hour but at a slighter slower pace. Make sure the legs are firing for the real speed work on the interval days.
          Thanks.

  16. Ronald says:

    How Long are steady runs you prescribe typically?

  17. Hans says:

    Hi Matt,
    I am 14 years old and My personale Best in 5k is 18:45 for one year ago. Would i be ok to give the program a try and foucus on Going on 18:00.

  18. Em DeLine says:

    Hello!
    I’m a highschool xc and track athlete in my senior year and I am looking to break into the mid 18’s. My current PR is 19:16 but I would like to blow that out of the water.
    What tips/advice could you reccomend?
    I’m looking to run D1 or D2 in college.

    Thank you for your time!
    -Em

  19. Alex says:

    Hi Matt,

    Really like what you put together here! Going to try the adjusted 18 minute plan (+30s/mile) to get back to last year’s 19:30 PB shape from most recent 19:58 (after injury) and hopefully beyond. I have a few questions:

    1. No issues back to back hard days on week 3? Hill Sprints usually make me very sore, especially to do 6x1k the next day.
    2. I noticed for the 18 minute plan the 3 mile Tempo on recovery week is @ 10k pace. Is that on purpose? Seems a bit fast for tempo?
    3. 2 mi w/u and 2 mi c/d OK for all workouts? Looks like it will get me to around 30 miles per week, exactly where I want to be, without doing 90-120 minute long runs.

    Thanks!

  20. Richard W says:

    Hi Matt,

    Just for clarification, on the 4th week you run twice during the week? The rest is made up of cross training? And you cycle this and restart week 1 – 4 all over until goal pace is achieved?

    All interesting stuff, thanks for posting.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Richard, yes that is right: couple of runs in recovery week with cross training and then repeat 1-4 until you’re comfortably hitting target pace and ready to race. Good luck with your training, let us know if the plan(s) work out for you.

  21. Tim says:

    Hi Matt

    I ran my first sub 20 5km 2 months ago ( 1945) without any targeted workouts. Now i am probably around 19 20 for 5km. Would i be ok to give the program a try or should i focus on going 18; xx first?

    Thanks

    • Matt says:

      Hi Tim,

      I would opt for the 18 minute 5k plan but just be mindful that you might need to adjust the split times by a few seconds.
      Let us know how you get on.
      Cheers

  22. Charles Murgia says:

    Matt,

    In the past, I liked to double up some runs on certain days. It helped me get in miles. Can I incorporate this work out and still do a couple doubles during the week? If so, how would I do that.
    Thanks you,
    Gbird

    • Matt says:

      Hi Gbird,
      For the 5k plans, I’ve found that there can be less focus on getting in the miles as when training for longer distances. As long as you are doing enough to comfortably run the distance the focus should be on hitting the right speeds when you do run. That said, and specifically if you are at the 18 minute level and below I don’t see a problem with throwing in some recovery type runs on some days as long as they are not hampering your efforts for the key speed sessions then you should be fine.
      It took me ages to learn something very simple, which was: listen to your legs.
      Cheers

  23. Eduardo Vila Real says:

    about 10k sub40 Training Plan:

    1. what´s the target pace for rec during interval section?
    2. what´s the target for gentle pace during a long run training section?

    tks

    • Matt says:

      1. No set target pace, just recover with a sensible jog. Not too fast, but don’t walk.
      2. This can vary slightly depending on your base endurance and experience in running longer distance, as a guide I would suggest somewhere between 06:20 and 06:40.

  24. Bob says:

    Is this for a sub 18? Or just anywhere in the 18’s

  25. Landon says:

    Hey Matt, just wondering, I’m a 17 year old and I have 2 and a half months before xc starts, my fastest time was 19:25, by doing this training plan is there enough time to get the 18 minute 5k?

    • Matt says:

      Hi, yes I would think so. If you have 10 weeks left before then that definitely sounds like enough time to get to the sub 18 5k plan. Good luck!

  26. Andrea says:

    How do you read this?

    Tempo Run
    inc. 3m @6:00 p/m

    Does inc mean include? And is it 3 minutes? 3 miles? @ 6:00 p/m

    • Matt says:

      Hi Andrea, apologies if it’s slightly ambiguous; I will update the page to be more specific.
      It means that for your tempo run you should try and aim for 3 miles of running at 6 minute mile pace in the middle of a jogged warm-up and warm-down.

  27. barry hughes says:

    matt,

    i work on a ship and can only do the treadmill based training, im following the sub 18 min 5 k program what settings and distance do you suggest i put in the treadmill for the hill sprints and fartlek training

    thanks
    barry

  28. Danny says:

    Hi matt what pace would you run your easy run at? Thanks danny

    • Matt says:

      Hi Danny,
      I would go for something like 6:30 pace. It doesn’t need to be a exact, but definitely no quicker than 6:20.
      Cheers

    • Kevin says:

      Hi Matt – still wondering about the long run? A pace of no faster than 6:20 is very quick. My understanding of the long runs are mostly for time on your feet and legs. Am I reading this correct or can we do the long runs at around 8min per mile not allowing ourselves to go below 6:20p/mile. Appreciate and thanks!

      • Matt says:

        Hi Kevin, yes that’s correct; no quicker than 06:20p/mile. If you are at the level of training for a 18 minute 5k then I would advise somewhere around 7 mins per mile for a long run, but certainly no quicker than 6:20 though. In my view the ‘time of your feet’ theory has merit, but perhaps less so for 5k specific training than for 10k and above. The distance and speed of the long run is very much down to personal preference, just go with whatever feels right (just don’t make it too quick!) 🙂
        Cheers.

  29. Nikos says:

    hello 🙂 Thank you very much for the perfect plan 🙂 One Question please .When you say 30 minutes easy run you mean ,Steady Run ?If this is correct you mean 30 minutes no quicker than 06:20 p/m. ? Is this correct ? Thank you 🙂

    • Matt says:

      Hi, pleased you like the plana and hope you find it useful with your trainning. Yes steady/ easy run are one and the same, so no quicker than 06:20 for this one.

  30. Kester says:

    Thank you very much Matt I really aprreciate it!

  31. Kester Hilot says:

    Hey Matt I am a triathlete can I still achieve the goal if I mix it up with swim and bike?
    Thanks

    • Matt says:

      Hi Kester, yes you certainly can. You may need to look at doing two sessions per day on some days though. If you are pushed for time you could consider swapping the cross-training sessions in this plan for your swim/bikes. Make sure you keep the running speed interval sessions in though as these are key to getting your time down. If you are interested I can share my own traithlon training plan with you and you can tailor that to suit. Let me know.
      Cheers.

  32. Mark Jacobson says:

    what do you suggest for training the week before a Saturday morning 5K race

    • Matt says:

      Hi Mark,
      I find that tapering is quite a personal thing to each athlete and depends on distance and importance of the event to your overall training goal. In this instance I would be looking to train normally up to about Tuesday and then ease off before Saturday; I wouldn’t do any major speed sessions after Tuesday and then before Saturday look to do one or two gentle runs with the odd brisk mile thrown in. Personally, I would take the Wednesday and Friday off running completely (and swim), do a gentle run or low-gear spin on Thursday and you should arrive at the line on Saturday morning with your legs itching to start running.
      Hope that helps!
      Cheers

  33. Noobar says:

    Should you run 800*6 in faster pace than 400*10? I think it should the same pace as 1000*4.

    • Matt says:

      Hi, I have made a slight modification to the timing for the 800m sessions. I wouldn’t recommend doing these at the same pace as your 1km reps, but slightly quicker at 5:40 per mile which is 2:49 per 800m or thereabouts. The variations in speeds between the sessions should now give you a good range that’s easy to remember.

  34. Malcs says:

    This is exactly what I’m looking for Matt, many thanks! Quick question about the Steady and Long runs. You say no quicker than 6:20 pace for the steady – is it intended to be a fairly hard run then? What would be the ideal pace? And what about the long runs? When marathon training I’d do these slow so 7:30-8:00 p/m. Same here too?

    Maybe you explain this in the ‘Breakeven and Breakthrough’ section but the link above just comes back to this page.

    Thanks again!

  35. W says:

    Why 4×1000 and not 5×1000?

    • Matt says:

      Hi, thanks for posting.
      There is already a 6×1000 further on in the training block and by doing the 4×1000 here you’ll have plenty in the legs still for the 6x800s to come in a couple of days.

  36. Stephen says:

    Hey Matt why do state that the long run should be less than 1 hour? Many similar plans say a long run of 75-90 mins.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Stephen,
      Most plans quite often just state a generic ‘long-run’ based upon an arbitrary assertion that your long-run must be a certain % (usually 25-40%) of your weekly mileage. I’ve found that for 5k focussed training going longer than an hour/hour and a quarter has no real benefits. Sure, if you are doing 10k’s as well then longer is fine, but for 5k an hour is plenty to get all the benefits that your body will derive from the long run. Use the extra half hour as recovery so you can get the most out of the high-intensity sessions! Good luck.

  37. R44 says:

    “6x800m
    [email protected]:44 per 800m /5:45p/m (200m jog rec.)”
    I am wondering how to read that?
    2:44 per 800 m is 5 30 per mile not 5:45 🙂

    • Matt says:

      Hi, apologies for the typo there. I have now corrected it, you were quite right it should be 5:30 p/mile. Thanks for letting me know and hope the training is going well.