Train smarter, run faster: Your new 5k training plan

Whether you want to start running to build your general fitness, train for a race, shave a minute or two off your personal best, or tear it up at Parkrun, there are a host of factors that will help you push your 5k time in the right direction. 

As experienced runners ourselves, we know that every runner is unique and that the best way to train is to have a solid 5k training plan that not only aligns with your running preferences, but also caters to your objectives and schedule.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about 5k running: how to choose the right 5k training plan, how to pace a 5k, what to eat, how to use strength training strategically, and more. 

How to train for a 5k

A 5k is a popular running distance that’s 5 kilometers or approximately 3.1 miles. 5k road race events are very popular and attract large crowds of runners of all skill levels, from beginners to elite runners. 

A 5k race can be a standalone event or it can be part of a larger running event, such as a half marathon, a marathon, or a triathlon; many charity runs are either 5 or 10 kilometers long (or feature both races). 

A 5k is often used as a starting distance for beginners who have little to no experience with running: With the right training, it’s achievable for nearly everyone. However, it's also a common choice for more experienced runners who want to put their speed to the test and improve personal records. 

A key element of training for a 5k is staying consistent and holding yourself accountable. Some of the best ways to achieve this are to:

  • Build a weekly running routine and get used to running a few times a week, every week
  • Add running sessions to your calendar to integrate them into your schedule
  • Sign up for a 5k race; having a deadline can really help you stay on track
  • Run with others! Join a running club or run with your friends or a running buddy

To help you with all this, we’ve built Runna, a dedicated running coaching app that you can use to build your own personalized 5k running plan that adjusts all training sessions to your goals and schedule.

Our personalized 5k training plans

No matter whether you’re a complete beginner or are looking to set a new personal best, one of the best ways to level up your running game is to use a personalized 5k training plan that adapts to your goals, current level, and schedule. 

A tailored 5k plan will enable you to prepare for your next – or first! – 5k race safely and efficiently, keeping injury risk at bay and helping you become a better runner overall. 

With Runna, your running coaching app, you get a personalized 5k training plan that:

  • Sets out all training sessions for you
  • Automatically adjusts your mileage and types of runs to your goals
  • Incorporates strength training sessions adapted to the equipment you have
  • Helps you manage your recovery and nutrition

In short, having a balanced 5k running plan will help you stay on track and enable you to improve your running game week after week.

Whether you are just looking to get started with running or are an elite runner with countless races under your belt, we have the right running plan for you. Pick the one that best suits your goals and level: 

Beginner’s 5k training plan (couch to 5k)

If the only marathons you’ve done are on Netflix but you’d love to swap the popcorn for sneakers (but can still run 5k in under 60 minutes), this running plan is for you. With Runna, you can start training for your first 5k race to get your 5k time down from 60 minutes and improve your general fitness level.

Our personalized training plan will help you make the leap to running a faster 5k in a safe and efficient way and help you get in shape with different types of runs. You can even add strength training sessions to the mix!

Intermediate 5k training plan 

If you can already run a 5k but are looking to be more consistent and train in a more structured way, or if you’re taking up training after an injury, Runna’s intermediate 5k training plans are the perfect choice. 

Our intermediate plans include a slightly higher weekly mileage than the beginner plans, with more complex workouts to help you prepare for your first – or next – 5k.

Advanced 5k training plan (faster 5k training plan)

If you’ve completed a number of 5k races and want to level up your running game so that you can speed up past the competition without much effort, Runna’s advanced 5k training plans are the perfect fit.

They feature longer and more complex runs to improve your speed, pacing, and race strategy, and help you achieve a faster 5k. 

Elite 5k training plan 

Ready to set a new personal best? Our elite 5k plan is the right choice for those who have run dozens or hundreds of 5k races and want to set a new record. 

It features more intense workouts aimed at improving your endurance, speed, and pace to help you unlock your full running potential. 

Elite Plus 5k training plan

The Elite Plus plan takes things a step further, adding extra weekly mileage to the Elite 5k program to help you get the most out of your training and set a new personal best. 

It’s for the most advanced runners out there and is the most intense running plan we have at Runna to help you improve your 5k time.

8 week 5k training plan

When you train with Runna, you’ll have the option to choose the length of your training plan. 

Ideal for most runners, including beginners, with this 8-week 5k program, you’ll nail all the components of successful training – different types of runs, strength training, pacing, and nutrition – to prepare for your next 5k race.

10 week 5k training plan

If you’re looking for a 10 week 5k training program, you can simply do two extra weeks of training with our 8 week plan, which includes different types of runs and strength training, plus plenty of advice on pacing and nutrition. 

12 week 5k training plan

If you want to start extra slow, you can follow our 8-week training plan and then do four extra weeks. This will enable you to gradually increase your weekly mileage and run a faster 5k. Different types of runs, combined with strength training sessions will help you prepare for your first 5k race safely and effectively.

Take your running to the next level

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5k nutrition

Regardless of whether your goal is to get faster or to simply reach the finish line of your first running event, training is only one part of the equation. To optimize your running performance, you also need to take care of your nutrition by properly fueling your recovery and making healthy choices on a daily basis.

For this, you need to:

  • Keep your protein high to help with muscle recovery
  • Eat slightly more carbs before your tougher sessions 

If you’re looking to step up your speed, you might also want to give caffeine a try. 

While carb-loading is not necessary for 5k runs, carbs are still a great fuel choice, so before you lace up, make sure you eat a meal or a snack that’s rich in carbs. 

No need to go overboard with sugar, though! Complex carbohydrates, such as oats, whole grain, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and fruits, are ideal for fueling your 5k training sessions.

Race day nutrition

Before you set out for your race, eat a carb-rich meal, preferably a few hours before you start running. This allows your body enough time to digest it and keep you fueled and fresh during the actual run. 

In this meal, you should limit protein and fat intake, because they slow down digestion and might make you feel heavy. It’s a good idea to reduce fiber, too, which has a similar effect on your digestive system.

Remember: Don’t try anything new on race day. Stick to tried and tested combinations that you’ve used to fuel training sessions in the past.

5k cross-training and strength training

Adding cross-training and strength training to your training schedule will help you achieve two things: reduce injury risk and improve your performance, thus enabling you to prepare to run a faster 5k safely. 

Cross-training helps add variety and keep things interesting when you’re training for a 5k race. There are many good options, such as cycling, swimming, rowing, elliptical, and more, but what’s key here is to choose a sport you enjoy. 

Strength training is also a great way to improve your running performance and speed. It improves your running economy by 8-12%, enabling you to run faster 5ks. Strength conditioning also helps protect against injuries by helping your body manage muscle loads better.

With Runna, you can build a fully customized strength training plan that fits seamlessly with your running sessions. You can tailor it to your strength level, equipment, and schedule to make the most of your training.

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Take your running to the next level

Your personalized running coach with tailored training plans to achieve your goals, from running a faster 5k to finishing your first marathon.

Download on the App Store.Get it on Google Play.
First week free. Cancel anytime.

Types of runs to help you run a faster 5k: speed work, long runs, easy runs

The best way to prepare for a 5k race is to vary your workouts and use different types of runs.

Speed work

To run a faster 5k, you need to practice running at faster speeds with:

  • Interval sessions: Interval training involves running faster for shorter periods and walking between laps. This helps your body adapt to running at a higher speed and enables you to improve your pace for the entire 5 kilometers.
  • Tempo sessions: Tempo sessions involve running slightly above your usual pace but for longer stretches, between which you jog (rather than walk). This way, you build up your tolerance for faster running and improve your speed endurance.

Long runs

“Why do long runs when training for a shorter goal such as a 5k?”, you might be thinking. Well, it’s still important to build up your endurance along with training for speed performance. In fact, learning how to run longer distances at slower speeds will help you run faster for shorter distances, too.

Easy runs

It might seem counterintuitive, but running slowly actually helps you improve your speed and run a faster 5k.

Fast runs can be quite demanding and require longer recovery times. And if you aren’t giving yourself enough time to recover between more challenging sessions, or if you push yourself too hard each time, this will increase your risk of injury, too.

Еasy runs help build your strength and endurance while also being less taxing on your body. For the best results, use the 80/20 rule when preparing for your next 5k race: Spend 80% of your time on easy runs and only 20% training at or above your threshold pace.

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5k pacing

Wondering how to improve your 5k time? Pacing is a key piece of that puzzle. To optimize your 5k performance, it’s important to adopt the right pacing strategy.

A 5k is short enough to take a more risky approach: As you gain experience, you might decide to really push yourself, in which case a 5k might even start feeling like a long sprint. However, we still advise you to create a pacing plan to get the best out of yourself. 

Goal time

Firstly, work out your goal finishing time. Be realistic! If you have already run a 5k in 25:45, then going for a sub 25-minutes run is a good goal but we wouldn’t advise aiming for a sub 24-minutes goal (just yet!). The faster your current time is, the less time you should aim to shave off. 

To run 5k in 25 minutes, you'd be aiming to run at 4:59 per km. For longer distances (+10k), we’d advise defining a pace range, but for a 5k, you can directly go for your target pace from the start. Why? Given that it’s a short race, you won’t have as much time to make up for variations in your pace. 

Here’s the approach that coach Steph would use to pace a 5k:

  • The first 2 kilometers: Try to hit your target pace right from the start; you should feel the effort but try to not go overboard. If you are 1-2s quicker, that’s ok, but try not to slow down. Your first kilometer might be faster because of the excitement of starting your race, but try to not go more than 3s faster than your target pace; for the 25-minute runner, this means not going faster than 4:55/km. 
  • From 2-2.5 kilometers onwards: The next kilometer or so will really feel challenging, so be prepared for that. Remember that each step is bringing you closer to the finish line. Push hard and dig deep. Try to speed up your pace as much as possible.
  • The last 1 kilometer: With 1km to go, you can really go all in and empty the tank as you reach the finish line.

If you are running in a hilly location or on a trail-like surface, you can adjust your pace to those conditions. If you’re looking to set a personal best, then a flat and fast route is your best option.

Take your running to the next level

Start your plan today for just $17.99 / £15.99 per month.

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First week free. Cancel anytime.

5k recovery: sleep, mobility work, sports massages

Shorter distances such as 5ks typically don’t require a long recovery period, but remember to take it slow for a few days after your race. Cross training at low to medium intensity is ideal.

While training for a race, recovery and downtime are key for optimizing your performance. Remember to:

  • Get enough sleep: Sleep is essential for a smooth recovery. Try to get 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Incorporate mobility work into your training: You can do yoga, pilates, or simply stretch. 
  • Do sports massages: You can use at-home massage tools such as foam rollers or go to a sports massage from time to time to help with recovery.
  • Listen to your body: Be flexible whenever needed and don’t hesitate to switch up training sessions or take an extra day off. 

5k gear: shoes, clothing, and more

The gear you use during training and on race day is an important element that can help or hinder your performance. Here are our top tips for your 5k gear:

  • Shoes: Shoes are essential, because they protect your body from the impact with the ground. Get a good pair of shoes, ideally from a specialized shoe shop with an in-store treadmill.
  • Clothing: Cotton is best avoided, as it retains moisture and can cause chafing. Get high-quality performance fabrics that wick moisture to stay dry and comfortable during your run. 
  • Running watch or GPS tracker: You can use your phone or a running watch like Garmin or COROS to control your pace and keep an eye on the distance; both will be essential during training and on race day. Runna integrates with Garmin, Apple Watch, Coros, and Strava to help you get most of your training plan.
  • Accessories: You might want to use a running belt or armband to carry your phone, keys, and other essentials.
  • Sun protection: Don’t forget to use high-SPF sunscreen, even on cloudy days.

And remember: Don’t try anything new on race day. Stick to tried and tested shoes, clothing, and accessories.

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Review stars

“Very grateful I stumbled across this game changer! Out of years of different running programs, this is by far my favourite; it’s been so enjoyable”


“The plan has given me an achievable goal to work towards which has kept me motivated and I actually look forward to my running days!”


"Training program really adapted to my goals that got me motivated to run again and get ‘back in my groove’."


"Only into week 2 and loving It already. The structure is great and the app is so easy to use - also big appreciation for the playlists. V happy to be on a runbuddy plan for the next few months!"


"Great personalized running plan so I can really be intentional with my training! The Runna team have all been super responsive and helpful making sure the plan and paces are right for me, and there to answer any questions. Great value, would highly recommend!"


"Excellent app, so easy to use! The training programs are fantastic. Can’t recommend enough!"


All you need to know about 5k running

5k distance: How long is a 5k in miles?

How long will it take me to prepare for a 5k race?

Which 5k training plan should I pick?

What 5k finishing time should I aim for?

5k training and injuries: What should I do if I’m recovering from an injury?

I only have 5 weeks to prepare. What should I do?

How can I improve my 5k time?

5k and general fitness: Do I need to do strength training to run a 5k?

How can I progress from 5k to a half marathon?

Graphic with two phones and a smartwatch featuring Runna app.

Take your running to the next level

Your personalized running coach with tailored training plans to achieve your goals, from running a faster 5k to finishing your first marathon.

Download on the App Store.Get it on Google Play.
First week free. Cancel anytime.