Thursday, July 29, 2010

Running a 5K in under-20 minutes.

Just as a good movie plot will have sub-plots to keep one occupied, I find that my main objective of attaining a six-pack has resulted in many sub-objectives. For example, I am now determined to do a muscle-up,  single-legged squats and other tough exercises which I had previously considered beyond my capabilities. While I am not so sure whether I will ever be able to achieve those objectives, there is one objective that I feel I can aim for - and achieve; with proper training and diet.

This new objective is to complete a 5 kilometer run in under 20 minutes. You may wonder what is special about running a 5K in less than 20 minutes. Let's just say it's pretty darn hard. World class runners run the 5K in around 13 minutes, professional runners will need 14-15 minutes while college-level runners will need 16-17 minutes. For amateurs, a sub-20 minute run is indeed an achievement. This interesting thread on discusses the challenges and achievements of those who could do the sub-20 minute run, and those who wish to achieve this objective.

When I first started running, I was very happy when I could do a 5K run in 30 minutes (meaning I was running at 10kph for the entire duration of the run). I slowly managed to reduce the time till I was comfortable doing the 5K in 25 minutes (running at 12kph). Once I started the HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), I found that I could decrease the time required to complete the 5K - especially after I started with the Asafa Powell training. Just 4 days back, I finished the 5K in a personal best time of 22:39. And yesterday, I bettered that by running it in 22:14. Cutting another 2 minutes and 14 seconds is not going to be easy. It will require specific training (think more HIIT), and mental preparation because you need to run at a constant 15kph for 20 minutes to complete the 5K in exactly 20 minutes. Currently, I am lucky if I can hold the 15kph pace for more than 1 minute.

What makes the 5K run special for me is the nature of this distance. It is not too long that you will get bored by it - and it is not too short that it gets over too quickly. It requires a perfect balance between speed and endurance to complete a 5K run. Start too slow, and you will have difficulty in doing the run in a decent amount of time. Start too fast, and you will burn out after 1 or 2 kilometers. You need to mentally prepare yourself to run at a specific pace and stay on that pace no matter what.

My new sub-objective is to run the 5k in under 20 minutes before the end of this year. Hopefully, I would have completed the main objective of a six-pack around the same time.


  1. thats awesome. i currently am trainging for a duathalon for college... 3.5k run 15k bike and 1.5k run
    im finding running the hardest but the most rewarding as i complete the distance

  2. I enjoyed reading your page. I have the same goal of running the 5K in under 20 minutes this year! I have had this goal in the back of my mind for many years, probably for at least 15 years or so, but am serious about it this year.

    Similar to you, it's a goal related to other goals. Meaning, I am finding this 5K in 20 minutes goal very helpful in my goal to lose weight. My fastest 5K was a little over 21 minutes 20 years ago. I also was 30 pounds lighter at that time. To reach my 5K/20min goal, it would be best for me to not have to carry the extra weight in the run. This fact has made me much more conscious about eating healthy and exericing harder which helps both the 5K/20 min goal and the losing weight goal.

    Good luck on your goal! Let me know if you are able to do it!