In the past I've felt faster after a month or two of marching with a backpack at a fast pace like +4 mph. Now I'm interested in actually being fast in a 5k and quickly expand it to a marathon distance.

Will speed walking help me pick up my cadence and strengthen those small muscles that I need to be able to run fast in contrast to interval training or something else?

I want to win a 5k though Im just approaching 21 min.

  • Just a note for anyone who might read this. The speed walking world records for 20km is just above 6 min/mile which is about 18 - 19 min for a 5k and requires an Olympic effort to walk fast. Fast cadence slow runs are better than walking from my experience over the last year.
    – Jason
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 14:42

2 Answers 2


If you want to win a 5k, walking is a great start, but will probably not get you there on its own.

Fast walking will help you build a strong base level of aerobic fitness. Your heart and lungs will develop and improve your capacity for running. After you build this base, your cardiovascular system needs to learn to function efficiently as you approach (or exceed) your Lactate Threshold. Your muscles need to develop enough power and speed to propel you to the front of the pack, and enough stamina to sustain the effort for the 5k distance. There is no better way to do this than to get out and run.

For a 5k, you will want to spend time training with intervals, sprints, strides, fartlek runs, and on hills. These will help you develop the power, leg turnover, and stamina you need to be competitive. If you keep these sessions focused and intense, you shouldn't need more than three a week. On the remaining days, you can mix it up with slower and longer runs, walking, cycling, yoga, and other light forms of exercise.

Since you mentioned wanting to run a marathon, keep in mind that competitive marathon training and 5k training are very different. If you focus on 5k training, prepare for a very different challenge if you attempt a marathon. If you train for a marathon, you won't necessarily have a very competitive 5k time.

A popular approach with many amateur and regionally-competive athletes is to train and race shorter distances earlier in the season (spring) and then use the summer months to prepare for a fall marathon. If you tried this approach you would probably find that your walking regimen would be far more helpful in marathon training than 5k training.

If you want to dig into the science behind this answer, or need specific training advice, here are a couple of great books on the subject:

  • I got Greg Mcmillan's book and its helped alot in combination with studying running form and technique. Got to 19:22 and still have much room to improve from what I've learned!
    – Jason
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 14:39

I've tried some sort of speed walking (~8km/h, 5mph) as a complement or substitute for training. Up to the point of making some muscles hurt. And there is definitely a relation between that muscles and running.

Just walking should strengthen that muscle and improve your general running, but I doubt that it is a time-efficient training for either 5k or even marathon. Nonetheless, for mountain races, where steep hills that are almost impossible to run over are common and most people just walk them, a good walking pace may make you earn significant time. At least, it has worked for me in ultra-marathons.

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