5k improvement to under 20 minutes – how long will it take me?

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Mike Trees (Mr parkrun) – Interview Below

How long will it take me to do 5k in less than 20 minutes?

5k runners often have unrealistic expectations about how quickly they can improve. When you start out the improvement is dramatic. But the improvement slows quickly and the training effort required to improve increases. It’s really a statement of the fairly obvious but don’t forget it.

I reckon it will take you at least a year and probably 18 months to get from 23 minutes to sub 20 minutes with committed training. BUT you COULD do it in 9 months or less. Of course, this depends on VERY many factors like your age, sex, starting fitness level, training regime and the like.

I’ve done some basic research for this post by using a mate’s data. He went from a flat out 23 minutes 5k to an 18:30 5k in just under 4 and a half years. I’ve tried to smooth out his improvements and extrapolate some results but as you can see it went in fits and starts – probably dependent on finding a suitable PB-day with the right motivation.

I train with him a fair bit and I can assure you he trained at least 3 times and up to 5 or 6 times a week for the period in question. Usually in a fairly committed manner. You could probably do it faster.

He was in his late 30s when doing this.

Starting from being very averagely fit and with no specific running training other than the occasional jog here are the approximate dates and the time taken to achieve the next 30-second increment. It’s a bit all over the place until trying to go below 20 minutes, fatigue states are not recorded:

June/year 0 22:59 0 days (flat out)
June/year 0 22:29 2 weeks
August/year 0 21:59 2 months (6 weeks since start)
August/year 0 21:29 1 month (10 weeks since start)
October/year 0 20:59 1 month (14 weeks since start)
February/year 1 20:29 4 months (7 months since start)
April/year 1 19:59 2 months (9 months since start)
October/year 1 19:29 6 months (15 months since start)
March/year 3 18:59 18 months (2 years 9 months since start)
October/year 4 18:29 18 months (4+ years since start)

parkrun masterclass – Mike Trees on parkrun, training and STRYD

Must Read: STRYD Review

Having said all that I know the story of a 25-year-old male who went from 23 minutes to 21 minutes in 4 months. But 3 months on and he has not hit 20 minutes.  I have this strange suspicion also that if you are ‘getting on a bit’ then your running efficiency/form AND how fit you were in ‘the good old days’ each can play a significant part in your improvement around 20 minutes. Then again that’s just a personal opinion based on no science whatsoever.

From my own performances as well I remember that 20-19 minutes is not a trivial thing for anyone other than a 20-something male…and even then trivial would be the wrong word to use!

Sorry if that has disheartened you. If you are younger and work harder you’ll get there quicker! Look at some of the posts on this site referring to “sub 20 5k” and search on this blog for more tips on how to do it.

Top 100 5K Tips : How to get a PB / PR this weekend in your parkrun race

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