26 minute 5k Training Plan

Target Race Pace:  8:20 per mile / 5:12 per km for a 26 minute 5k

A 26 minute 5k requires you to run at a target race pace of just under 8:20 minutes per mile pace for 3.1 miles (5:12 per kilometre).

Your Speed/Distance Training Zones: 26 minute 5k

Pace per Mile/KmTreadmill Pace400m / 800m Splits5km Race Pace
08:20 / 05:127.2 mph / 11.5 km.h2:04 / 4:0926min 00s
*for speed/distance conversation allow for a small amount of rounding up/ down.
26 minute 5k

Follow this 5k training plan for a sub 26 minute 5k

Before starting this training plan it is recommended that your 5k PB should be below the 28 minute 5k mark already and you are able to run at a pace of 8:20 per mile for at least 1km.

Over the course of this 26 minute 5k training plan you will be running at a slightly faster pace than 8:20 for short durations so you need to ensure that you can run at this pace for at least 1km before we start to think about maintaining it for 26 minutes.

If you are not quite ready please take a look at one of our other 5k training plans before building 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 Training Plan

Your 26 minute 5k training plan

Please read before starting a training plan:
Frequently Asked Questions
Signs of Overtraining
DayWeek 1Week 2Week 3Rec. Week
Monday30min easyRest/ cross-train30min easyRest/ cross-train
[email protected]:12 per km/ 8:20p/m (90s rec.)
[email protected]:02 per 400m / 8:10p/m (60s rec.)
[email protected]:12 per km/ 8:20p/m (90s rec.)
Rest/ cross-train
Wednesday30min easy30min easy30min easy30min easy
Thursday4x800m [email protected]:09 per 800m/ 8:20 p/m
(200m rec jog)
Tempo Run
inc 3 miles at circa 08:35 per mile pace
Rest/ cross-train
FridayRest/ cross-trainRestRest/ cross-train30min easy
Saturday30min easyRest/ cross-trainFatlek
Rest/ cross-train
SundayLong runRest/ cross-trainLong runRest/ cross-train

Time commitment: You should be looking to commit roughly 3 hours of work a week over the course of the 26 minute 5k training plan in addition to any time spent cross training.

Breakeven Sessions – 26 minute 5k

These sessions are used for maintaining fitness & recovery. Preparing you for breakthrough sessions:

  • Steady Run – this should be no quicker than 09:45 p/m.
  • Long Run – slow and steady pace, this should be less than 1 hour.
  • Fartlek – unstructured training. Example Fartlek sessions.

Breakthrough Sessions – 26 minute 5k

These sessions are meant to be challenging intense efforts, treat them as mini-milestones towards your target:

  • 400m Reps – these need to be at 8:10 p/m pace (2:02 per lap) with a 60sec standing recovery.
  • 800m Reps – should be reps at 8:20p/m pace (4:09 per 800m) with a 200m jogged recovery.
  • 1km Intervals – hit 8:20p/m pace (5:12 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.

The core work for the 26 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 2/3 months of using the training plan that you take a break and treat yourself to a couple of weeks of low-key training. This should start with 2-3 day’s off from running completely and continue with a nice short easy run every other day.

50 Responses

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  1. Takis says:

    Hi! What exactly easy run means?

  2. Tommy Cox says:

    58 years old. Started running in July not on a training program to run a 5K. Ran August 6th a 5K race in 28 mins flat. Found the training programs here after that and worked on the 26 minute program for two iterations and got to 25:30 by September 14. It helped me with injury prevention, interest (I normally hate running, but this has variety!) , and allowed me to focus on technique instead of over training and going as hard as I can every time out. Have learned so much in a short time! Love it!

  3. Tommy Cox says:

    Really enjoying this.. just wanted to mention that in the break through section on the 26 min 5K, it doesn’t really explain the “tempo run”.. I searched the site and found it explained elsewhere.

  4. Andrea says:

    I did the 3 x1 km speed workout today. Trying to get back down to a 22 minute 5k after a herniated disc and rotator cuff tear, I ran the intervals in around 5.16 per KM and my garmin says that’s equivalent to 8.08 minute mile pace, not 8.20.?

  5. Jess Williams says:

    Hi, I am able to complete all of the speed work in the 28min km but I am really struggling with the speed for this plan. I would like to aim for a medium of 27 min 5k. Would you advise finding a mid way time for the speed work? What sort of time should I am for? Is it better to do as fast as I can manage but have to walk between the intervals to start with or slightly slower but jog in between? I have found your plans very useful so far, thankyou.

    • Matt Matt says:

      Hi Jess, my recommendation would depend on how many cycles of the plan you have tried already. I found I had to persevere with some of them even when I wasn’t making the speed session target times at first, after a few cycles I eventually got there. I would keep going rather than trying to find a medium as this might just overcomplicate things a bit.
      With regards to intervals both methods have their benefits in my view so neither is better than the other; key is to be hitting the target race pace so if you walk between intervals and this leads to a quicker recovery then this option is probably one to go for given a choice. Good luck and hope that helps.

  6. Rico says:

    Adding my thanks and a little success story, from a middle-aged guy. Started this 26-min program when my PB was around 27:20. Went through one 4-week cycle which dropped the PB (at the start of week 4) to just under 27:00. Started a second cycle, and yesterday (Tues of Week 3) achieved 25:28. Satisfying! During that run, felt fatigued for about 500m between the 3km and 4km points, but pushed through. The 3x 1km reps in the program had taught me that even when I am feeling tired and slow, if I just keep moving my 1km time would vary by only a few seconds — very helpful.

  7. Kevin says:

    Thanks so much for this program, today just achieved 25:46 and shaved off 2:10 from my time. great program.

  8. Belinda says:

    Hello! Great plans, thank you for providing them. I would really appreciate your advice on timing. I have about 5 weeks until a planned race, and I just did a race about a week ago with a time of 27:22. I have done no running since then. I would like to get a little faster for the next race, but I am sure 26 is not realistic for me in this short time, so I have adjusted the training paces accordingly. Do you have a suggestion for how I could train the first week of the second cycle if I were to do this race on the Sunday of that week (i.e., at 5 weeks)? Thanks!

    • Matt Matt says:

      Hi Belinda,
      If I have got the dates/info correct then it seems like your race is around the 13th/14th November. So as you say you could complete one full cycle of the training plan and then your race would be at the end of week one of cycle two. My approach would be to make the recovery week slightly shorter in that you would do your week 1 speed sessions a day or two earlier (Sunday and Tuesday or Monday and Wednesday for example). Then the days leading up to your race you can do easy runs or a bit of cross training in preparation. Hope I’ve understood and that makes sense. Good luck and let us know how it goes! Cheers.

      • Belinda says:

        Yes it does make sense, thank you! And yes, the race is on the 14th. I’m looking forward to doing this one and then completing a couple cycles of your 26 min plan for real before doing another race. Thanks again!!

  9. Chandler says:

    Do you have thoughts on replacing the 30 minute run days w bike rides? I feel that it saved pounding on my 50+ year old knees and ankles.
    Do you see any downside?

  10. Jurgen says:

    Hi Matt, as well as simply trying to better my 5k time ill be looking to improve fitness for when i get back to playing football, with this could I replace the fartlek training with more sport specific Sprint training?

  11. Tom says:

    Can you please explain the tempo run, “inc 3 miles at circa 8:35 per mile pace”? It sounds like a 3 mile run at 8:35 per mile pace.

    • Matt Matt says:

      Hi Tom, for this I would normally do a mile warm up to get into my running then run 3 miles at tempo pace (8:35) and then a mile or so slower on the end to wind down.

  12. Tom says:

    Can you please explain the tempo run, “inc 3 miles at circa 8:35 per mile pace”? It sounds like a 3 mile run at 8:35 per mile pace.

  13. Virginia says:

    Just to add my data here, I started at about a 28min 5k and ran this plan for two cycles and ran a sub 26min 5k in week 3 of the second cycle! Really enjoyed the plan, I loved that which days of the week I got off moved around

  14. L says:

    What is the tempo run? I don’t understand?

  15. BC says:

    How might you suggest altering this program to work for the beep test? Your 5k runs seem to cover pretty much all aspects that the beep test covers but I’m wondering if there’s anything you might change.

  16. Ian says:

    Thanks for this plan. I have been following for 6weeks with my 10year rold daughter. She’s a sprint swimmer and not a runner but needed a lockdown challenge. She’s enthused by the different breakthrough sessions (and the 4th week off) and seen massive improvements. She may even hit 26min 5k by the time the pool opens in Sept but no pressure just Dad encouragement. First 5k in March was 35min. Thanks again. 🙂

  17. Dave gannon says:

    Hi Matt, my challenge is that there is nowhere flat to do 5k, or even 1k near me. Is this a problem, shall I ignore the challenge of hills and just push through ?

    • Matt Matt says:

      Hi Dave, it certainly makes it more challenging to follow the target race paces for interval sessions etc. Depending on how aggressive the hills are around your area I would be inclined to push through but with a view that you are potentially not always going to be able to make the target paces so allow yourself some leeway there. Hopefully by the time you come to do a 5k on the flat you’ll have a very pleasant surprise.

  18. Alana says:

    Hi there! Thanks for these great plans! If O was using this plan to lead up to a goal race, where would you suggest putting the race in terms of this schedule – the end of week 3 (after the work) or in or at the end of week 4 (recovery)? Thanks!

    • Alana says:

      Oh gosh, nevermind – found the FAQ page

      • Matt Matt says:

        Hi Alana, no problem. If it’s not clear after reading the FAQs just let me know and I can reply to original query.

    • Laura says:

      Hi Matt, I started this plan mid December desperate for some help to boost my 5km performance which had felt stuck for over a year. I’ve tried 2 repeats of this plan and my 5km time has come down from 27.13 to 26.10 last Friday ! The variety and challenge of the plan has really helped me not only improve my speed but has also kept me motivated during lockdown. Thank you

      • Matt Matt says:

        Hi Laura, thank you for the feedback and I’m really chuffed that you made the plan work for you. You did all the hard work and it was a great reduction in time. Well done! Cheers

  19. Jason says:

    Hey Matt, Thanks for putting together these great training plans.

    I’m struggling with the 3x1km breakthrough session. I can push through 4x800m and 10x400m without much issue. The 3x1km is a plateau for me for some reason. Any tips on how to get past this? Would you suggest a modification to the program or should I just keep trying to grind it out?

    • Matt Matt says:

      Hi Jason, by plateau do you mean it’s become a little easy and you are not feeling any change or benefit? If so then I would suggest you add another rep on rather than adjusting the speed. Good luck with the training. Cheers.

      • Jason says:

        No, I used the term plateau incorrectly and phrased my question horribly.

        What I mean is 4×800 is doable. 10×400 is doable. But I cannot for the life of me do 3×1000. It’s like I have a hard limit at 800m and can’t figure out how to get past it. I can’t do a 1000m interval or figure out how to complete that breakthrough workout. I fall apart between 800 and 1000m every time and I have no idea how to progress.

        I hope the question makes more sense this time. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

        • Matt Matt says:

          Hi Jason. No probs, I understand now. Well you have the speed, it sounds like it’s just a little bit more speed endurance that is required. I don’t see the benefit in you dropping back to the 28min plan or changing things around too much, a suggestion could be drop one of the 1x3km sessions in favour of another tempo run with the intention of including a block of distance at threshold pace, i.e., 1 mile warm up, 3 miles hard (15-20 seconds slower than your target race pace so this would be around 08:35-08:40 p/mile), 1 mile warm down. The tempo runs are great for developing speed endurance. Hope this helps and good luck!

          • Jason says:

            Thanks Matt,
            I’m so glad you didn’t say drop back to the 28 min plan. I’ll give your suggestions a shot on my next cycle starting this week and report back with results. Thanks so much!

          • Matt Matt says:

            Good luck with it and let us know how it goes. Cheers.

  20. Tony Roberts says:

    Hi Matt, I am looking to return to sub 19 by the end of the year when I turn 55. I have had several illnesses over the last two years but now with my good health I’m up for my 5k challenge. I have been running for a few weeks and clocked 25:47 for 5k. I came across your 5k training plans and like what I see. I am going to start with the 26 minute one first just to ensure I am in the right place. Any guidance to achieve my goal would be much appreciated.

  21. Peter C says:

    Hi Matt.
    Thanks for your training plans. I was training with the 26min plan and I just did a PB of 24min 59secs so I’m stoked. Next plan is the 24min

  22. Richard Akcal says:

    Hello, I have two 90 min floorball sessions and 1 match in that period. How should I implement this workout to my routine? Which one should I replace? Thanks in advance!

  23. Jose says:

    Hi Matt,
    How many miles per week on average is this training plan and can easy run be more than 30 min? Also, I dont really ride a bike for my cross-training. Instead, I do calisthenics 4 days a week with 2 days of leg work-out and 2 days upper body. One leg day with plyometrics and light weight. The second day with heavy weights. Is that good enough? Thanks.

  24. Julie B says:

    Hi Matt, I’m enjoying the variety of workouts in your program, but have a question. In week 3, how far and what pace is the tempo run? When training for half marathons, tempo pace was usually half mara pace, so is it 5km pace? Thanks in advance.

    • Matt Matt says:

      Hi Julie, for the tempo run look to try and hit 5k pace for a couple of miles in the middle of the run. For 5k training I would tend to do a steady mile building up the pace, then a couple of miles at 5k target pace or close to, and then a steady mile to finish. Good luck!

  25. Ken says:

    Hi Matt. Are you using the terms ‘tempo run’ and ‘steady run: no quicker than . . .’ interchangeably on this 26 min 5Km program? Also, when next you’re doing some editing, could you supply both mile and Km pacing please so I don’t have to do the conversion from ‘no quicker than 8:55 per mile to Km pacing? Thanks for a very helpful and supportive site.

    • Matt Matt says:

      Hi Ken, “tempo” and “steady” runs are quite different; tempo should be a brisk pace, close to your aerobic or anaerobic thresholds and steady is just that, a nice easy relaxed pace where you don’t worry too much about the pace but make sure it’s not too fast. I will take a look at the conversions and make an update, thanks for the pointing it out.

  26. Aituaje says:

    Hello! I read that long runs should be no more than an hour: is there a goal pace for these? Is there a goal distance? Thank you!

  27. Ismail Rashid says:

    How long do you run for the long runs?

    • Matt Matt says:

      Hi Ismail, largely up to you but if you are focusing solely on 5k training then I wouldn’t run longer than an 60-80 mins tops for a long run.