Sub 20 5K Training Plan | 14:18 5K Athlete Tips

November 17, 2022

Are you seeking a strategic and new sub 20 5k training plan to help you finally get to 19:59? If so, welcome to Nutrition Geeks. I think that the resources that you find here will help set you up for success. You will need to sustain 6:26 per mile for 3.1 miles or 4:00 per kilometer for 5 kilometers in order to run under 20 minutes. So, pace sustainment and improving your body's lactate tolerance is vital.

Easy running is still important. You have to jog easy on your recovery days in order to adapt to the harder, anaerobic workouts you are doing. That being said, to run under 20 minutes for 5km you have to work on your speed. The 5k is a highly anaerobic race compared to the half or full marathon which are aerobic in nature. Yes, you still need to work on your speed even for longer races too.

Pacing is essential to run a sub 20 minute 5k. I always advise my athletes and those that visit both and our sister site,, to run a negative split. So, focus on running the second half of your 5k faster than you run the first half. Also, do not try to make a major move in the race until you have passed the first mile. So, make it an all-out 2.1 mile rather than 3.1 mile race.

How Long Does it Take to Train for a Sub 20 5K?

I would always recommend a longer build up over a shorter one. One of the major reasons why is that it takes time for the body to adapt to the stresses you are placing on it. In fact, it takes between 3 to 4 weeks to gain the physiological adaptations. So, trying to cram all your training in a matter of 4 to 8 weeks will be challenging. Remember, a sub 20 minute 5k time is not average. It is a highly competitive time that many runners around the world are seeking to achieve.

So, our sub 20 5k training plan focused on training below goal race pace more often. In addition, running faster, varied paced long runs. A lot of runners run long, slow and easy every single weekend. One of the best ways to gain additional strength and stamina is faster long runs. Of course, you should not be running a portion of your long runs fast every single weekend.

I would alternate a faster, varied paced long run one weekend followed the next with an easy, relaxed long run. Again, adaptation is vital and we want to see results. So, you have to allot sufficient time for the body to adapt to the hard training you are putting it through. The proper time frame to train for a 5K is 12 to 16 weeks in length.

How Do You Train for Sub 20 5KM?

Follow a sub 20 5k training plan that focuses on periodization. You don't want to rush your fitness. So, check out the training plans that are available here and on Perhaps you are seeking a running course or online monthly coaching. If so, we have those options as well. I would highly recommend investing in a heart rate monitor if you haven't already.

I use the Garmin 245 myself on a daily basis. It helps me to stay in the correct heart rate zones. In addition, that I am not over training. Heart rate monitors are a great tool for beginner to elite level runners. So, you focus on heart rate rather than worrying about your splits. Remember, as you get fitter your heart won't have to work as hard and your splits per mile or kilometer will quicken.


Is a Sub 20 Minute 5K Fast?

I think it is and I have run 14:18 for 5K and 2:19:35 for the marathon. Again, you need to sustain 6:26 per mile for 3.1 miles or 4:00 per kilometer for 5 consecutive kilometers in order to run a 19:59. So, I would strongly suggest training at paces that are faster than 6 minute mile pace or around 3:30-50 per kilometer pace. Of course, you may only be able to sustain these types of paces for couple minutes.

That being said, you will be improving your body's lactate tolerance training faster than sub 20 min 5k pace. Again, we want to sustain goal race pace longer than our competition. Easy running is important for recovery. That being said, you have to train more often at or below your lactate threshold. Our anaerobic threshold is running between 85 to 89 percent of our maximum heart rate.

You can get an estimate of what your max heart rate is by subtracting your age from 220. Once you have that you can based your training around that max effort. For example, tempo runs are runs spend at or close to our anaerobic threshold. I would work to get that tempo run out to around 4 to 6 miles in length. Of course, you need to first adapt to what a 2 to 3-mile tempo run feels like first. So, be patient during your training build up.

How Hard is it to Get a Sub 20 5K?

I think if you follow the strategies discussed in this post your chances of breaking 20 minutes will rise. I think you should implement strides into your training week twice per week. Strides are short, 50 to 100 meter gradual sprints. No, you don't need to run these strides all out from start to finish. So, it should be a slow and gradual increase in pace throughout the stride. I would so 4-6x100m strides twice per week.

The good news is strides won't build up any significant amounts of lactic acid. So, you can do these acceleration drills on top of your other workouts throughout your week. Again, we always want to be focusing on improving our leg speed. Remember, the faster you can run the 5K the more competitive you are going to be at the longest distances. A sub 20 5k time equates to a 1:32:04 half-marathon and a 3:11:44 marathon.

I have seen runners break the 3 hour marathon who have broken 20 minutes for 5K. So, you are definitely going after a highly respectable 5k time. Consistent and persistent, smart work will get you to 19:59. No, it isn't going to be easy to break 20 minutes. That being said, others have done it so why can't you?


How Many Miles a Week Should I Run for a 20 Minute 5K?

I think 25 to 50 miles a week is sufficient in order to break the 20 minute 5k barrier. Again, the focus should be on quality versus quantity. High mileage is not a guarantee that you will dip under 20 minutes for 5km. You can be running too much of your mileage too aerobically and never hit your goal. Also, you could be running too much of your mileage too fast and not be rested enough in order to achieve this goal.

So, a sub 20 5k training plan has to be focused on periodization. Periodization is focusing on a specific intensity for a period of time before moving to the next intensity. Again, we have to teach the body to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up. Easy running, although important, will not do this but faster running will.

The faster we run the more oxygen is required (anaerobic). Also, we recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers running at faster, more explosive efforts. The more of these we can recruit the more effective we are going to be in our races. I also recommend practicing relaxation. The world's top sprinters, middle to long distance runners always look relaxed for a good reason. One, they have trained considerably faster than goal race pace in training. In fact, they run around 35 to 40 percent of their mileage at or below their anaerobic threshold effort.

Jog On Recovery Days

Top runners know that there is only so many times you can stress the body. You can't run fast all of the time. So, you have to make sure you are taking it easy on your recovery days. I would advise giving yourself at least 48 hours of recovery jogging between each hard workout that you do. The sub 20 5k training plan options I created on have this philosophy built in.

You can check out our training plans, running courses or monthly coaching options by clicking any of the green buttons you see on this post. Also, start paying attention to mental training. You have to prepare the mind for a sub 20 minute 5k time just as you prepare the body. The problem is most runners only focus on physical preparation. So, they are really only doing 50% of the work.

Closing Thoughts

Remember, you will relish those easy days because the hard workouts will test your physical and mental limits. So, make sure you are jogging and recovery on those easier days. Mental training is big.

So, start visualizing daily getting across the finish line with 19:59 or faster on the clock. Be sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel.

I focus on making at least 2 to 3 new videos there each week to help runners such as yourself get to the next level. I have done my best to create legitimate sub 20 5k training plan options. So, hope the resources you see here and on will be of assistance to you.


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