Sub 20 5k Training Plan

Target Race Pace: 6:25 per mile / 3:59 per km for a sub 20 5k

To consider following this sub 20 minute 5k plan you should already be able to run at a target race pace of 6:25 for at least a mile (3:59p/km) and/or have a PB under 22 minutes.

If you are not quite there yet then take a look at the 22 minute 5k training plan instead and then come back to this one once you are in a position to run at this pace.

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

Please read before starting a training plan:
Frequently Asked Questions | Signs of Overtraining

Your Speed/Distance Training Zones: 20 minute 5k

Pace per Mile / KmTreadmill Pace400m / 800m Splits5km Race Pace
06:25 / 04:009.3 mph / 15.0 km/h96s / 3:1220min 00s
*for speed/distance conversation allow for a small amount of rounding up/ down.

Your sub 20 5k training plan

DayWeek 1Week 2Week 3Rec. Week
Monday30min easy30min easy30min easyRest/Cross-train
Reps@4:00 per km/ 6:25p/m (90s rec.)
Reps@93s per 400m/ 6:15p/m (60s rec.)
Hill Sprints
Wednesday30min easy30min easyFartlek
Tempo Run
inc. 3m @6:40 p/m
Reps@3:12 per 800 / 6:25p/m
(200m rec.)
Reps@4:00 per km/ 6:25p/m (90s rec.)
FridayRest/Cross-trainRestRest/Cross-train30min easy
Saturday30min easy6x800m
Reps@3:12 per 800 / 6:25p/m
(200m rec.)
30min easyRest/Cross-train
SundayLong runLong runLong runRest/Cross-train
Article Name
Sub 20 5k Training Plan
Sub 20 5k training plan tailored to your specific required race pace (6:25 p/mile). Speed Intervals sessions, hill sprints, tempo runs & more.

Sub 5k Training Plan Components

Breakeven Sessions – Sub 20 5k training plan

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

  • Easy/ Steady Run – this run should be according to how you feel, don't worry about the time, make sure it's no quicker than 08:25 p/m. Concentrate on recovery and form.
  • Long Run – slow & steady run, this should be less than 1 hour.
  • Fartlek – unstructured training. Example Fartlek sessions.

Breakthrough Sessions – Sub 20 5k training plan

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

  • 400m Reps – these need to be at 6:15 p/m pace (93s per lap) with a 60sec standing recovery.
  • 800m Reps – should be reps at 6:25p/m pace (3:12 per 800m) with a 200m jogged recovery.
  • 1km Intervals – hit 6:25p/m pace (4:00 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.

About this Sub 20 minute 5k Training Plan

Remember that to consider following this sub 20 minute 5k plan you should already be able to run at a target race pace of 6:25 for at least a mile (3:59p/km) and/or have a PB under 22 minutes.

The core work for the sub 20 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 sub 20 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.

374 Responses

  1. Kyle M says:

    Just wanted to thank you for putting together a great program! I’m 41 and have always been in decent shape but NEVER considered myself to be a runner by any stretch of imagination. That is until COVID struck and running became an outlet to maintain my sanity. Between March and October, I got my legs underneath me and was able to put together a PB of 21:37. I began following your program before Halloween and just finished the Knoxville Turkey Trot in 19:17!

    I’m now looking at 18 minutes the same way I was looking at sub-20 when I initially found your website….possibly possible! It will take longer than 5 weeks, no doubt, but I’m excited to get after it! Thanks again!

    • Matt says:

      Hi Kyle, thank you for your comment. It’s always nice to hear positive feedback on the plans. Really chuffed you have found them useful. We’re the same age and I can just about still manage the 18 one now so you should go for it! 🙂 Good luck and let us know how you get one. Cheers!

  2. David S says:

    Thanks for the great resource. Previous PB for the 5km was 21:47 but after a couple cycles I saw huge gains and ran a 19:48 yesterday. Another satisfied customer! 🙂

  3. Pedro Caraslindas says:

    Dear Matt,

    My name is Pedro and I’m a Tennis Coach and a Personal Trainer and by the end of the month of August, I’ve decided to participate in a 5K Charity Virtual Race with a personal goal of running it with a time below 20min.. The race date was anyday during the first week of October meaning that I had basically one month to get ready for it!

    With a basic training my PB was 20:46min.. but then I did some research and I found your website and your specific training sessions for the Sub 20 Minute 5k.

    I’ve started your Sub 20 Minute 5K training plan with three weeks to go.. I’ve managed to do 3 weeks of the training plan and with 2 days to go I’ve hit a 19:39min mark (PB). Two days later, on the race day, I did a time of 19:52min.

    I was so happy with my marks as this race meant a lot to me and to my cause and I end up winning the all thing with the fastest time!!

    So, I would like to send a BIG THANK YOU as I couldn’t do it without your knowledge and your specific training sessions.

    Congratulations on your website and thank you for putting all this together. I’m an athlete, I love training and I found this plan very enjoyable:)

    Thanks again and best wishes,

    Pedro Caraslindas

    • Matt says:

      Hi Pedro, that is fantastic news, well done. I’m pleased the plans worked well for you and I hope you raised lots of money for a very worthy cause.
      Well done.

      • Pedro Caraslindas says:

        Thanks very much Matt! We end up raising the most funds with a total of £1,225!!

        Best regards,


  4. Dimitris says:


    I am a 40 year old male and in August I run my first 5k at 25m 56sec. I did some some more runs and I managed to improve my time up to 21m 53s. At that point I start the following the sub 20 training program and last Saturday, after the completion of one training cycle, I attempt a test run and my time improved by almost 50sec. So new PB now is 21m 04ssec. I am very happy with the result and I will do 1-2 more cycles and after that I will attempt to run again the distance.
    I believe that the program is really helpful so thank you very much. I think that I will be able to run the distance in under 20 minutes.
    What I understood from my running is that I have to improve my endurance in order to sustain the 4min/km pace.
    My times for each km were: 1. 3:52:5, 2. 3:59:4, 3. 4:19:1, 4. 4:28:6 and 5. 4:24:7

  5. Dimitris says:

    I am a 40 year old male and my first 5k run was at August and the time was 25m 56s. I managed to improve my time up to 21m 53s almost a month ago. At that point I understood that I have to follow a specific program in order to achieve my target (sub 20m 5k).
    I start working at this program and when I completed one cycle, I tried yesterday a test run and I managed to improve my time by 50 sec (new PB 21m 04s).
    I will continue with 1-2 more cycles and I will try again. It is getting a litttle harder now…Thanks

  6. Patrick says:

    I’m a 25 year old male – followed this plan with some minor adjustments for 2 months, (didn’t have a baseline 5k time but ran a 5 mile (~8km) race at the start of the cycle at 36:52 , so baseline 5k was probably around 22:30ish. I ran a little in school and have jogged to keep fit over the years but never really took it seriously until the pandemic gave me a lot more free time!
    Followed the plan with some adjustments. I ended up with a 20:45 in a time trial on the track (on my own – no other races going on where I live). I think in a race with some adrenaline And competition I could probably hit 20:35ish or maybe a bit faster.
    I can hit the speed sessions at a little faster than race pace (3:04 average time for 6X800), 3:55 average time for the km repeats with the rest intervals as prescribed by yourself. I’ve progressed to running about 30 miles a week (4-5 times, longest run being ~10 miles, but have had a few longer runs). I thought at this level I’d have been able to break 20 but I knew quite quickly in my time trial it wasn’t gonna happen. I came through 1km at 4:01 feeling fairly tired and then slowed quite significantly for km 2-4 before hitting a 3:55 in the final Km – certainly felt like a race effort by the end, I was totally gassed. so it seems I have the speed but not the stamina. I’ve incorporated some tempos into my workout but was just wondering what distance and pace I should be going at for those? I’ve tried all different types (3 miles at 7 min/mile, 5 miles at 7:30) 2 X 2 miles at 7min/mile. Just wondering what area of my training you think I can specifically target to try and break it within the next cycle or two?

    Thanks! Looking forward to trying a sub 40 10k plan once I finally get over this hump !

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