Advanced 5km Training Plan

The Sixteen Week Course



Rate of Perceived Exertion is number between 1 and 10, 5 being jogging along happily and 9 being a near death experience. So 7 would be fairly hard going but you could hang on for longer. 8 is super hard, with an urge to slow. 9 is that dash for the line after you've already been hanging on to 8 for a while, that feeling at the and of Parkrun when you've attempted a personal best run. You can never reach a 10 because there is always a bit more to give.

After using RPE for a while you'll get an understanding of what your heart rate monitor is telling you in relation to what your body is saying. If your RPE is at a sensible, sustainable level and all the indications are that you are at a comfortable pace but your heart rate monitor is telling you you're working super hard, then you can ignore your heart rate monitor because you're probably just nervous, a bit hot or cold or stressing about the situation (or an number of other things that can push up your heart rate but not affect your running). You will have a better control of your running if you use RPE rather than heart rate.

This is the advanced training programe for runners with many months of running in their legs. It works on your endurance and speed to bring you a faster 5km or 10km time. It's hard work so be honest with yourself, if it's a bit much for now maybe try our Intermediate Plan as an introduction to targetted training. If you have found your Parkrun PB's have mostly stabilised, you can get close on a good day, maybe go a few seconds faster if everything works in your favour but on the whole, things have settled and you're on a plateau, this will help you move on. If can cover a 10km distance at a casual pace with relative ease and are mostly injury free then this is the program for you. If you can't then you should fix your base fitness first by going out and putting in the miles. You will need a sports watch, app on your phone or some way of telling what speed you are running while out. Downloading the Strava App on your phone and creating an account is probably the cheapest way but I prefer a sports watch because phones are bulky.

When you first started running you probably ran for 30 seconds then rested and repeated several times. As the weeks went by you increased the amount of time you ran and reduced the amount of time you rested until you could join the running together to clock 5k. Getting faster is pretty much the same thing, you need to spend time running faster than you usually do, recover and repeat and over several sessions reduce the rest and increase the running interval. Lets work out your current average pace.

Calculate Your Current 5km Pace

Enter a recent 5km time:




Lets Begin

Write that number down (or get your average speed from Strava), you'll need it for the plan below. A 5km is an endurance event, you can't just run as fast as you can and expect to last the distance. Therefore there is no point sprinting our intervals, we have to set the pace just right. We need to work our aerobic system and get our 'cruising speed' up and teach our legs to work faster. Some sessions are tough and some are easy, all are relevant to our mission.

There are three types of session; white, yellow and red. The yellow sessions are done in the real work, out on the streets and trails. The red sessions are hard and used to measure progress or set pace in subsequent sessions. For the white sessions you'll have to find somewhere flat where you can run and concentrate on your speed and the distance you are running, a treadmill would be good for these. For BVAC members, Norman Park or Sparrows Den are ideal. It's a good idea to know your run and jog points before you start the session, you could use Map My Run or Google Earth to measure the distance of your interval section and look for a landmark to run to. It makes it easier to concentrate on running when you know where you're going.

Even if your aim is to get faster at half marathon, marathon or longer distances it would be beneficial to get faster at a shorter distance before attempting to get faster at longer distances. Getting faster at 5km is more manageable and will carry through and make you a faster marathon runner when you decide to increase your distances.

Session Explanation

The first session is a PB attempt at 5km, you could use a recent Parkrun time if it reflects your current ability. Use that time in the calculator above to set the pace for the sessions below. The second session says:

  Session RPE Pace
2 600m intervals, 400m jog x 5 7 5km

You will need to find a lap to do 1000m repeats (600m x 400m = 1000m), luckily Norman Park is approximately 1.9km using the winter course and Sparrows Den is 2.2 around the edge which is close enough with a bit of corner cutting. You will run 600 meters at your 5km pace which has an Rate of Perceived Exertion (or Effort) of seven. RPE 7 is a hard pace, it's about as hard as you can go without needing to slow down to recover, use your watch to make sure you're running at your average 5km pace. At the end of 600m you back off the pace and jog for 400m to recover. Repeat that five times but try to keep your 600m pace constant, don't do the first one at a super fast pace then fade in the later intervals. The point of this session is to learn what your 5km pace is to avoid erratic pacing during an event. You can speed up at the end of the last interval if you want, always finish strong. Obviously a treadmill makes it all very easy, especially if it has an interval button and an athletics track is ideal. Use whatever you want or mix up the courses to keep it interesting. Whatever you want to do to get it done is good.

That's about it. Some sessions are below your 5km pace and some above, some vary the pace and some are constant. The difficult sessions come a bit later in the plan so don't worry if it looks tough, you'll gain fitness as you progress through it. You can cross train if you want, swimming is an excellent recovery session for tired legs. Remember to rest, it's just as important as running.

Establish Training Pace

Block 1   Session RPE Pace
Wk 1 1 5km Benchmark, record your time and calculate your speed and pace 9 5km
2 600m intervals, 400m jog x 5 7 5km
3 30 min hill run 6 5km - 3km/h
Wk 2 1 1500m intervals, 500m jog x 3 8 5km - 0.5 km/h
2 400m intervals, 60 seconds jog x 6 8 5km + 1 km/h
3 30 min hill run 6 5km - 3km/h
Wk 3 1 1500m intervals, 500m jog x 3 8 5km
2 600m intervals, 400m jog x 5 8 5km + 1km/h
3 30 min flat run, kilometer 2 to 4 at 5km + 1km/h 6 5km - 3km/h, 5km + 1km/h
Wk 4 1 1.6km intervals, 2 min jog x 4 (plus 3km at 5km - 3km/h) 7 5km - 1 km/h, 5km - 3km/h
2 400m intervals, 2 min jog 9 5km + 2km/h
3 6km: 1st kilometer at 5km - 3km/h, increase speed by 1km/h for each kilometer 8 5km - 3km/h, -2, -1, 0, +1, +1km/h

Build Endurance

Block 2   Session RPE Pace
Wk 1 1 30 minute distance time trial 9 5km + 1km/h
2 600m intervals, 1 min jog x 6 (plus 3km at 5km - 3km/h) 7 5km
3 5 mile road run, 5 mins at RPE 6, 3 mins at RPE 8, repeat until complete 7  
Wk 2 1 2 x 5km, 5 mins rest between 8 5km - 2km/h
2 600m intervals, 1 min jog x 6. Increase pace by 0.2km/h for each 8 5km
3 As week 1, session 3 but 5 min easy, 4 min hard 7  
Wk 3 1 30 min hill run 6 5km - 3km/h
2 800m intervals, 1 min jog x 5 8 5km
3 As week 1, session 3 but 4 min easy, 4 mins hard 7  
Wk 4 1 30 minute hill run 6 5km - 3km/h
2 800m intervals, 1 min jog x 6 8 5km
3 As week 1, session 3 but 3 mins easy, 5 mins hard

Develop Road Performance

Block 3   Session RPE Pace
Wk 1 1 Fartlek run: 5 min at RPE 5, 3 min at RPE 7, 1 min at RPE 9 5, 7, 9  
2 8 mile steady run 5  
3 5 mile TT loop, negative split 6, 8  
Wk 2 1 1 mile loop done at pace, 3 mins jog x 4 8  
2 600m intervals, 1 min jog x 10   5km
3 5 mile time trial 9  
Wk 3 1 8 mile easy run 6  
2 5 mile TT loop, negative split 6, 8  
3 30 minute hill run 6 5km - 2km/h
Wk 4 1 800m intervals, 90 sec jog x 10   5km - 2km/h
2 30 min steady run   5km - 3 km/h
3 5 mile TT loop PB attempt 9  

Comfortable High Intensity Training

Block 4   Session RPE Pace
Wk 1 1 2 laps of 5 mile loop, negative split by 30 secs 6, 8  
2 60 minute run for distance 7 5km - 3km/h
3 Easy 10 mile run 6  
Wk 2 1 1800m intervals, 200m jog x 5 8 5km - 1km/h
2 40 minute hill run 8 5km - 2km/h
3 90 minute run for distance 8  
Wk 3 1 Easy 5 mile run 6  
2 60 minute run for distance 7 5km - 2km/h
3 10 mile time trial run 9  
Wk 4 1 30 min hill run 7 5km - 3km/h
2 1800m intervals, 1 min jog x 5 8 5km - 1km/h
3 Race or 90 min run for distance 7/9  


Lots of running to do and lots or work ahead. I've followed this plan in the past and my 5km time went from 23:50 down to 20:21 so it's very effective. Obviously, there's little chance of you following every single session exactly as it says on the plan, real life just isn't like that. But follow the spirit and essence of the plan and you will become a stronger, faster runner. Good luck.