On Thanksgiving Day of 2017, after more than 7 years of 5k races, I finally ran a new personal record time in a 5k road race. I had been trying to break this record for the past 7 years! I didn’t win the race and I didn’t receive a trophy, but I have never felt so elated post race in my life. Here’s how I finally broke through and achieved a new record.
Back in June I decided to run a local 5k race, so I trained for it the way I had always trained for races. Race day came, I ran as hard as I could and I finished in the same time that I had run for years (22:15). I couldn’t help feeling somewhat disappointed as I came to the realization that I hadn’t made any progress with my running in years.
I ran on the cross country team in college, and it’s been 8 years since I graduated. Since then, I have run many 5k races, a few 5 and 10 mile races and one half marathon. Every year I wanted to run a faster 5k, but hadn’t changed my training to achieve this (isn’t this the definition of insanity, doing the same thing and expecting a different result?). After the race in June, I was frustrated and decided it was time that I get serious and train to run a new personal record (PR). I looked back in my archives and found that in 2010 I had run a 5k in 21:24 and decided that was the time to beat.
I don’t know about everyone else, but the best motivation for me to get out and go for a run is to sign myself up for a race. I picked a local 5k that was about 6 weeks away and signed up. Then I stepped up my training. Although I had been going for runs here and there and trying to do a speed workout each week, I knew that I needed to increase my weekly mileage and also increase the mileage of my weekly speed workout. In order to prevent injury, I tried to only increase my mileage by 10% per week. For example, I had probably only been running about 10 miles per week, so the following week I would do 11 miles total, then the next week 12-13 and so on. I knew 6 weeks wasn’t going to be long enough to get myself into shape to meet my goal, but I thought doing a 5k in 6 weeks would provide motivation, and also be a good way to measure my progress. By the time the race rolled around, my weekly mileage was up to about 25 miles per week. I ran a 21:40 at the race. I was really happy with this time and I felt that the PR I was aiming for was within reach. Again, I picked a 5k race 6 weeks out and signed up!
I decided at this point that I needed to come up with a concrete running plan. I watched a lot of youtube videos on how to improve your 5k time and everyone said, “increase your mileage”, which is great advice, but it left me wondering how many miles I should run per week. It seemed like no one wanted to put a number out there, so I turned to my dad who is now in his 60s and can probably still whoop me in a 5k and he said, “run 30+ miles a week. 30 is the magic number, you will see drastic results if you get in at least 30 miles a week.” So I had my answer. I made myself a schedule which looked roughly like this:
Sunday: 5 easy miles
Monday 5 moderate miles
Tuesday: 5 mile speed workout (1 mile warm-up, 3 miles of speed, 1 mile cool-down)
Wednesday: Weekly 5k run club at local pub
Friday: 10 miles
Saturday: 4-6 miles
Following this schedule would put me at 32-34 miles a week with a variety of runs, some easier, some faster, some shorter and some longer. I was able to get 5 consecutive weeks of this schedule in before the next 5k race. I was really nervous for the race because I felt like I was finally putting in a solid effort, running 6 days a week and I wanted it to pay off. I am happy to report that I absolutely crushed my prior PR of 21:24 by running a 20:29 which allowed me to finish as the first female loser (2nd place). I was elated. I felt like I was working just as hard during the race as I had been when I was running slower times, which means the training really paid off. I would like to note that my husband also ran the race, and he too ran away with a new PR. Matt had been only doing 3 runs a week, one of which was the track workout with me, which goes to show just how important the speed workouts are for improving your 5k time.
Now that I have a new PR, I have a new goal: to break 20 minutes in a 5k. My hope is that by continuing with my running schedule and focusing on improving my form during workouts, I will be able to run my next 5k in under 20 minutes. Follow me on my running journey by subscribing to my blog.
Do you have a running goal for 2018? Let me know in the comments!