Say your training in the same conditions as a recent race, you have completely recovered from the race, and the distance is a half marathon or less. What pace should you train at when running the same distance as your goal race distance?

So a 19:30 5k race would mean what training time for a 5k distance in order to improve race time.

2 Answers 2


Endurance racing such as 5k and longer is all about putting in the base and the time. 19.30 is a respectable time, so you've got something good to build on.

So lets break this down. I'm assuming that for your 5k, you're putting in at a minimum 30 miles per week, and have been doing so for some time. Your time is about a 6.17 pace per mile, I'll use that as a reference. You should include two types of workouts, interval and threshold. Intervals are done faster than race pace, with long recovery between. Threshold are done a little slower than race pace, with short recovery. Intervals will increase your top end speed, and threshold workouts will enable you to stay at your race pace longer.

Here is how I would structure a sample week, mid season:

  • Monday - Rest day
  • Tuesday - 4 miles, steady pace. Aim for around 7, 7:15 per mile pace.
  • Wednesday - Interval day: 1-2 mile warmup, 12 x 400, 1 mile warmdown. Your 400's should be all at 1:20 or faster, go every 3 minutes. (That should give you 1:40 to recover between each one). If you find you can't make them, or start to fade the last ones, either increase the time a bit (1:25 or so), or shorten the workout slightly.
  • Thursday - 5 miles, steady state
  • Friday - 5 miles, steady state, throw in some :30 second pickups (Slowly increase to race pace over 30 seconds) throughout the run. Aim for 5-8 depending on how you feel.
  • Saturday - Threshold day: 1-2 mile warmup, 4-6x800 at 3:20 pace, :15-20 seconds recovery. That's a little slower than your race pace. If you can't quite make the last one, increase the recovery a little bit.
  • Sunday - 6-10 miles, easy pace, slower than steady state.

The biggest mistake that most uncoached runners make, is that they go way too hard on their steady, easy days and not hard enough on their hard days. And, as noted, that is a mid season type workout. Early season, you should be concentrating on just getting in miles for base, lots of easy pace, steady running. Tapering for races is more art than science, you will have to experiment and know your body to find what kind of taper schedule works for you.

And, each time you run a race, use that time to recalculate everything. Macmillan Running has a nice calculator, and Cool Running has a good pace calculator as well, where you can play with times to see what kind of pacing you would need.

  • How'd you determine the 7, 7:15 pace? Is that just a rule of thumb 10-20% slower?
    – Jason
    Sep 21, 2016 at 0:20
  • @Jason - yes, my easy pace was usually 75-80% of race. It isn't a rule that I know of, just something I have had success with as athlete and coach.
    – JohnP
    Sep 22, 2016 at 2:08

Training to prepare yourself for the race is different, and training to beat the time is different. During recovery, your muscles need to gain back the condition they were in. If your focus is to condition your muscles and keep your body prepared, then you don't need to run the whole distance to make it happen.In order to beat the time, you need to keep your last performance in mind. If you have covered the whole thing in 19:30, then it should be around that. Bettering the time doesn't mean you have to beat it every time you run, but to have a day or 2 in the training where you aim to do that. If you are able to finish around the targeted time, then you'd have the level of confidence to get yourself through. Remember, training yourself for marathons is not just limited to training the body, but mind as well.

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