In this article, I’ll present the two workouts that I find are the best during race week — the seven days leading into your 5K. These workouts take the guesswork out of what to do during race week. I use them with the Olympians I coach as well as competitive runners of all levels to help prepare the mind and the body for the demands of running as hard as you can for 3.1 miles.
3 X 3 X 4 (3 SETS OF 3 X 400M)
This first workout is performed five to six days before your race. Here’s how it flows:
Run 3 x 400m repeats at your goal 5K pace with 100m jog between. Jog 400m after the third repetition and before starting the second set.
Example: For a 17:00 5K (5:28 per mile), the goal would be 82 seconds per 400m.
Run 3 x 400m repeats at 2-3 seconds faster per 400m than your goal 5K pace with 200m jog between. Jog 400m after the third repetition before the final set.
Example: For a 17:00 5K (5:28 per mile), the goal would be 79-80 seconds per 400m.
Run 3 x 400m repeats at 4-6 seconds faster per 400m than your goal 5K pace with 400m jog between each repetition.
Example: For a 17:00 5K (5:28 per mile), the goal would be 76-78 seconds per 400m.
This workout accomplishes much, yet leaves you refreshed and excited to race. The first set helps you dial in race pace from the start, something that will be important come race day. The slight pace increases in sets two and three help the mind and the body prepare for the increasing effort level required as you pass through miles 1 and 2 of the 5K.
While the pace is increasing with each set, you’ll notice that the recovery interval between each repeat is also increasing. This workout is not designed to cause undue fatigue. Adding the longer recovery intervals as the pace increases keeps the stress level to a minimum. After all, you are running fast only for just over 2 miles so the total volume is very tolerable.
3 X 2 X 2 (3 SETS OF 2 X 200M)
If you normally do just one speed workout per week then skip this second workout. If, however, you are accustomed to running two workouts this will be your second workout of race week. Run this workout three to four days before your race to allow time to recover from it and get ready for the race. Again, perform this workout only if you regularly run two hard workouts per week.
Run 2 x 200m repeats at 1-2 seconds per 200m faster than goal 5K pace. Jog 400m recovery between the repeats.
Run 2 x 200m repeats at 3-4 seconds per 200m faster than goal 5K pace. Again jog 400m between each repeat.
For the final two 200m repeats, aim for 4-6 seconds per 200m faster than goal 5K pace with a 400m jog recovery between the repeats.
As you can see, this workout is short and quick but controlled. It will leave you refreshed and pumped for your race. It is important, however, to remember that the risk in this workout is to run too fast–getting carried away with your need for speed. In this workout, faster is not better as we don’t want to leave the race in the workout. Save something for race day.
While I’ve outlined these as track workouts, you can easily perform them off the track. Just surge fast for the appropriate duration and effort that is listed with commensurate recovery jogs between. A key coaching cue is to think “smooth and relaxed, light and fresh.” This keeps you from going too fast and leaving your race in the workout. Remember, this is race prep not race day. Give these a try for your next 5K and let us know how it goes. Good luck!
PS: For those of you who are true Endurance Monsters, you may find this to be too “speedy” for you. In your case, you may want to change Workout #1 to: 2-mile Tempo Run, jog 3 minutes then 4 x 400m at your goal 5K pace with 200m jog between.