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. Jeff says:

    Sorry for this question but I still struggle with the abbreviations. On Wednesday during the recovery week, it says Tempo Run, inc. 3m @6:40. I’m confused on what “inc. 3m” means. Thanks

    • Julez says:

      For the tempo run it means 3 miles at 6:40minutes per mile. A tempo run is supposed to supposed to technically be just below your lactate threshold. This seems like a short run though. Usually the tempo runs I’ve seen are supposed to be longer. I would push this out to like 30 minutes.

  2. Kyle Munro says:

    It worked! Thank you Matt! Never broke 20 minutes until now, even in peak marathon training. Did about 2.75 cycles of this over the late winter and today ran 19:28 5k on a fairly ideal course. This is a great training plan.

  3. Nick Seger says:

    Checking back in after a long while. I followed this plan (loosely, as I was marathon and half marathon training) for the past year or so. I finally had the opportunity to run a really flat 5k time trial on a nice morning. I clocked in at 19:34 and feel like I have more to give on a day when I feel a little better and have real competition. It’s nice to be getting better at 35. Thanks for the plan, it works!

    Moving on to the sub 18:00 plan. Yikes!

  4. Jeff Stearns says:

    Matt, love all of these programs, extremely helpful! Started last spring with the 26 minute plan then the 24 minute and the 22 minute, good progress all the way! Lost a little over the winter so back to the 24 minute plan this spring, feeling good. The plans get me to run more often with more variety and more enjoyment also so they are great all around! Never run the intervals before and always avoided hills and sprinting but not anymore. Have a Garmin watch so that helps also, makes it easy to see the improvements in cadence and stride length when you incorporate the varied workouts. Would love to break 20 minutes one of these days for a 5K. At 55 years old not loving my chances of doing it but it’s fun to keep working at it.

  5. yannis says:

    Thank you mat… this was a quite well structured program…a little tough though…but it led to an almost 1 min improve from 20.34 to 19.35 for a 5k run, after a couple of weeks. Not bad i think for a 46 year old man…
    Once again thanks for the care to upload all this staff and make it publicly available…cheers from quarantined athens, greece….

    • Rebekah says:

      I hope it works for a 46 year old woman too! I have a 20.40 5K at the moment and would love to get sub 20

    • Rebekah says:

      I hope it works for a 46 year old woman too! I have a 20.40 5K at the moment and would love to get sub 20.

  6. james hall says:

    Hi matt do you offer any sort of online coaching? I just wondered if i can do 2 x 1km at 4m km but then i struggle afterwards is this ok or would you aim to keep all the splits the same? Also should the recovers be run or walk? also why is the long run sub 1 hour? Would it have a negative impact if i do 2 as i like the social with friends on a Sunday. Thanks for any help:)

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