Sub 20 5k Training Plan

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

In order to achieve a sub 20 5k you will need to be able to run just under a target race pace of 6:25 minutes per mile pace for the full 3.1 mile distance. That’s 4 minutes per kilometer in new money.

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.
sub 20 5k

Follow our 5k training plan to have you running a sub 20 5k

To start this training plan it is recommended that your 5k PB should be below the 22 minute 5k mark already and you are able to run at a pace of 6:25 per mile for at least 1km.

This is because during the course of this sub 20 5k training plan you will be running at a slightly faster pace than this for short durations so you need to ensure that you can hit the 6:25 for at least 1km.

If you are not quite there yet have 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 sub 20 5k training plan

Please read before starting a training plan:
Frequently Asked Questions
Signs of Overtraining
DayWeek 1Week 2Week 3Rec. Week
Monday30min easy30min easyHill Sprints
[email protected]:00 per km/ 6:25p/m (90s rec.)
[email protected] per 400m/ 6:15p/m (60s rec.)
[email protected]:00 per km/ 6:25p/m (90s rec.)
Wednesday30min easy30min easy30min easyTempo Run
inc. 3m @6:40 p/m
[email protected]:12 per 800 / 6:25p/m
(200m rec.)
FridayRest/Cross-trainRestRest/Cross-train30min easy
Saturday30min easy6x800m
[email protected]:12 per 800 / 6:25p/m
(200m rec.)
30min easyRest/Cross-train
SundayLong runLong runLong runRest/Cross-train

Time commitment: You should be looking to commit roughly 3-6 hours of work a week over the course of the sub 20 5k training plan depending on the number of cross training sessions you get through.

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.

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.

359 Responses

  1. Ged says:

    Hi Matt, thanks for the free resource. I’m currently training for a half marathon and intend to do this plan once I have completed that. Would there be any benefit in keeping my easy runs and long runs at the same length as my current half training? 1hr easy and 2-2.5hr for long. Thanks!

    • Matt Matt says:

      Hi Ged, I don’t think there would be any great benefit there, it could perhaps detract from the focus on the sub 20k plan as you would be racking up the mileage. That said, I think if you looked after yourself, trimmed the long run down to 1.5hrs and you really focus on making the pace for the interval sessions which are key then should be okay. Good luck and let us know how you get on.

  2. Tobias says:

    The sub 22 minute plan worked reallly well for me. I did it for 4 weeks and hit 21.20 last night which was great. Cant wait to start the sub 20 programme

  3. tony random tony random says:

    My 5k PR is 22:20 and mile PR is 5:30 do you think i am able to run sub 20 in 4-5 weeks

    • Matt Matt says:

      Hi Tony, the pace for a sub 20 5k is 06:25 so I think you wouldn’t be far away if your PR for 1 mile is 05:30. Would say it’s certainly possible but depends if you can get a solid block of training in over the course of the next few weeks, etc. Good luck if you try it and let us know how it goes. Cheers.

  4. Murray says:

    Thanks Matt,what pace and incline would you recommend on the treadmill when doing the hill/s workouts?

  5. Murray says:

    Thanks Matt, will give it a try end of month, what paces and incline would you recommend for the hill sessions on the treadmill?

  6. Murray says:

    Can this plan be done on the treadmill?

    • Matt Matt says:

      Hi Murray, the speed interval elements are often best achieved on a treadmill as easier for pacing but I would be wary of doing too much mileage on a treadmill. My recommendation would be to complete the breakthrough sessions on a treadmill but try and get outside for the recovery/long runs as much as possible. Good luck!

  7. Allison says:

    Great plan! In four weeks, I went from 20:01 to 19:30. Thank you for providing such a great resource!

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