QUESTION: I am 50 years old and have been running 5-K races for a year now. I usually run in free runs in a local park, attracting usually about 200-300 runners, all of differing age and ability. I have managed to improve my time from 23:12 down to 20:58. The fastest runners generally finish around 17:00. (I usually place Top-30.) I absolutely love running, working out three times a week, averaging about 20 weekly miles. I interval-train at the beginning of the week and often race on weekends. My main goal is to actually win one of these races, which means I need to achieve a time of 17:00. I appreciate that most people would think this is not realistic given my age, but hey, why not aim high? Is it a case of doing more miles and making sure they are quality runs? Is it worth doing weights to improve leg strength?
HAL’S ANSWER: I can't promise you another three minutes of improvement. The closer you get to your maximum fitness level, the tougher it becomes to chip seconds away, much less minutes. But you certainly still have room for improvement. What you might consider is taking your focus temporarily away from those 5-K races and train up for a longer distance. Even a 10-K might offer some shift in your training approach, but consider aiming at a half marathon, if only to add some workout miles. You don't necessarily have to take this longer race seriously, but use it for motivation. Then, back to the shorter distances. I believe 20 miles is more than enough for improvement at the 5-K, but it depends on what you do with those fewer miles.
"Q&A with Hal Higdon" is now available in the Kindle Store. Now you can download into your Kindle a year’s worth of question-and-answer columns by Hal Higdon for only 99 cents!
Hal uses TrainingPeaks to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans. Check out more of Hal Higdon's training plans here or on his website.