5K Training : Intermediate

About the Intermediate Program

This Intermediate 5K Training Plan is designed for experienced runners, who have run 5K races before and want to improve their time by adding more mileage and introducing some speedwork into their training mix. In deciding which training program to use, consider the season. 5K Intermediate would particularly be effective in the spring or summer as a prelude to a 12-week or 18-week endurance-based program leading to a fall full or half marathon. Speedwork can best be accomplished when the weather is warm or mild. Whatever program you choose, we can help you run faster. Consider also purchasing a copy of Hal's book, Run Fast, available on Amazon and in most major book stores.

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At a glance

Author: Hal Higdon Length: 8 Weeks Typical Week: 5 Run, 2 Day Off Longest Workout: 7 miles

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Hal on his Intermediate Program

IF YOU HAVE RUN A NUMBER OF RACES AT THE 5K DISTANCE, you probably are not going to be content to merely finish your 5K race. You’d like to finish it with grace, in style and maybe improve your time (known as setting a Personal Record, or PR). This training schedule will take you to PR Territory. This intermediate Program is one step up from the novice program, but not quite as difficult as the advanced program.

To set a PR, you need to improve your endurance and your speed. You can do this by (1) running more miles, (2) running faster, or (3) some combination of both. In order to achieve full benefit from this program, you probably need to have been running 3-4 days a week for the last year or two and averaging 15-20 miles weekly, It helps if you have an understanding of the concepts of speedwork.

Run: When the schedule says “run,” that suggests that you run at an easy pace. How fast is easy? You need to define your own comfort level. Don’t worry about how fast you run; just cover the distance suggested–or approximately the distance. Ideally, you should be able to run at a pace that allows you to converse with a training partner without getting too much out of breath.

Fast: For several of the Saturday runs, I suggest that you run “fast.” How fast is “fast?” Again, that depends on your comfort level. Go somewhat faster than you would on a “run” day. If you are doing this workout right, you probably do not want to converse with your training partner, assuming you have one. It’s okay now to get out of breath.

Long Runs: Once a week, go for a long run. Run 5 to 7 miles at a comfortable pace, not worrying about speed or distance. You should be able to carry on a conversation while you run; if not, you’re going too fast. Don’t be afraid to stop to walk, or stop to drink. This should be an enjoyable workout, not one during which you punish yourself.

Interval Training: To improve speed, you sometimes need to train at a pace faster than your race pace for the 5K, about the pace you would run in a 1500 meter or mile race. Run 400 meters hard, then recover by jogging and/or walking 400 meters. Before starting this workout, warm-up by jogging a mile or two, stretching, and doing a few sprints of 100 meters. Cool down afterwards with a short jog.

Tempo Runs: This is a continuous run with an easy beginning, a buildup in the middle to near 10K race pace, then ease back and cruise to the finish. A typical tempo run would begin with 5-10 minutes easy running, continue with 10-15 faster running, and finish with 5-10 minutes cooling down. You can’t figure out your pace on a watch doing this workout; you need to listen to your body. Tempo runs are very useful for developing your anaerobic threshold, essential for fast 5K racing.

Rest: You can’t train hard unless you are well-rested. The schedule includes two designated days for rest: Mondays and Fridays. The easy 3-mile runs scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays are also to help you rest for hard workouts on other days. The final week before the 5K also is a rest week. Taper your training so you can be ready for a peak performance on the weekend.

Stretch & Strengthen: An important addendum to any training program is stretching. Don’t overlook it–particularly on days when you plan to run fast. Strength training is important too: push-ups, pull-ups, use of free weights or working out with various machines at a Health Club. Runners generally benefit if they combine light weights with a high number of repetitions, rather than pumping very heavy iron. Tuesdays and Thursdays would be good days to combine stretching and strengthening with your easy run, however, you can schedule these workouts on any day that is convenient for your business and personal schedule.

Racing: Some racing is useful in helping you to peak. Consider doing some other races at 5K to 10K distances to test your fitness. The following schedule includes a test 5K race halfway through the program. You could race more frequently (once every two weeks), but too much racing is not a good idea.

The schedule below is only a guide. If you want to do long runs on Saturdays rather than Sundays, simply flip-flop the days. If you have an important appointment on a day when you have a hard workout planned, do a similar switch with a rest day. Feel free to make minor modifications to suit your work and family schedule. It’s less important what you do in any one workout than what you do over the full eight weeks leading up to your 5K. Also, consider signing up for the interactive program for more detailed information on what to run each day and tips for your training.

RUN FAST: For more detailed information on training for 5K races (including other training methods), order a copy of my book, Run Fast. It includes detailed information on form, flexibility, speedwork and strength training. This book will make you a faster runner.

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 Rest 3 mi run 5 x 400 3 mi run Rest 3 mi run 5 mi run
2 Rest 3 mi run 30 min tempo 3 mi run Rest 3 mi fast 5 mi run
3 Rest 3 mi run 6 x 400 3 mi run Rest 4 mi run 6 mi run
4 Rest 3 mi run 35 min tempo 3 mi run Rest Rest 5K Test
5 Rest 3 mi run 7 x 400 3 mi run Rest 4 mi fast 6 mi run
6 Rest 3 mi run 40 min tempo 3 mi run Rest 5 mi run 7 mi run
7 Rest 3 mi run 8 x 400 3 mi run Rest 5 mi fast 7 mi run
8 Rest 3 mi run 30 min tempo 2 mi run Rest Rest 5K Race


Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 Rest 4.8 km run 5 x 400 4.8 km run Rest 4.8 km run 8.1 km run
2 Rest 4.8 km run 30 min tempo 4.8 km run Rest 4.8 km fast 8.1 km run
3 Rest 4.8 km run 6 x 400 4.8 km run Rest 6.4 km run 9.7 km run
4 Rest 4.8 km run 35 min tempo 4.8 km run Rest Rest 5K Test
5 Rest 4.8 km run 7 x 400 4.8 km run Rest 6.4 km fast 9.7 km run
6 Rest 4.8 km run 40 min tempo 4.8 km run Rest 8.1 km run 11.3 km run
7 Rest 4.8 km run 8 x 400 4.8 km run Rest 8.1 km fast 11.3 km run
8 Rest 4.8 km run 30 min tempo 3.2 km run Rest Rest 5K Race


Additional 5K Training Programs



Rated 5 out of 5
February 7, 2021



This is Perfect

Rated 5 out of 5
January 28, 2021

I have struggled to find a running plan that is congruent with where I am at in my running and the intermediate plan is exactly what I was looking for. Not too hard, not too easy, challenging enough while still enjoying to run.

Benjamin Goudy

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