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. Michael says:

    My 5K Pb is 20:32, but my family and work life prevent me getting out as regular as your plan.
    What are the key areas to focus on? For example, will I benefit more doing the longer runs or the intense reps? Thanks on advance!

    • Matt says:

      Hi Michael, definitely make the speed interval sessions; they are key to the plan when you get to this sort of pace. Good luck.

      • Michael says:

        Thanks! I have since recorded a PB of 20:24 with the longer runs. Hopefully, I will see bigger gains once I start looking at interval sessions.
        Thanks for your reply!

  2. Shane McQuillan says:

    Do you have this plan set out in imperial distances per chance?

  3. Chris says:

    Hi Matt, I have been following the plan for the last two weeks (though shuffled the days around to suit work etc.) Looking at week three there are 3 interval sessions in 4 days. Isn’t there a risk of injury with that level of intensity?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. You are quite right, I had mislabeled the Fartlek session which isn’t a breakthrough (interval) workout for the week so have tweaked week3 slightly to accommodate this change. Cheers.

  4. 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 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.

  5. 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

    • Matt says:

      Hi Tobias, thanks for the feedback. Chuffed the plans worked well for you. Good luck with the next one.

  6. 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 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.

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