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Specific Training To Master The 5K And 10K

  • By Jeff Gaudette
  • Published Nov. 11, 2013
  • Updated Nov. 11, 2013 at 9:32 AM UTC
With some proper training, your 5K or 10K PR will likely fall in your next race. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Physiological Demands Of The 5K And 10K

Most runners equate 5K and 10K training with speed work, but racing these distances has more to do with your aerobic strength and speed endurance than it does with absolute or pure speed.

Speed Endurance
Speed endurance is your ability to hold a specific pace for an increasingly longer period of time. This is the key to running a fast 5K or 10K

Let’s use an example to demonstrate how this works in the 5K. What is the average pace you need to run to break your 5K goal/PR? If you were to run a mile as fast as you could, how much faster would you be able to run than your average 5K pace?

I am willing to bet you can run significantly faster.

Thus, the problem isn’t that you don’t have enough pure speed to run faster for 5K; it’s that you lack the endurance to run three miles at this pace without stopping. Therefore, the key to racing faster is improving your speed endurance.

Aerobic component
While getting faster and improving VO2 max is a large component to improving speed endurance, perhaps the most important piece is your aerobic capabilities.

Consider the energy demands and the aerobic contribution to a 5K race. It’s pretty clear that while us distance runners see the 5K and 10K as “speed work,” these distances are still aerobically dominated events. As such, we can’t ignore the aerobic system in training.

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Jeff Gaudette

Jeff Gaudette

Jeff has been running for 13 years, at all levels of the sport. He was a two time Division-I All-American in Cross Country while at Brown University and competed professionally for 4 years after college for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. Jeff's writing has been featured in Running Times magazine, Endurance Magazine, as well as numerous local magazine fitness columns.

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