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1544 Views 3 Replies Latest reply: Apr 17, 2011 8:00 AM by RobNadeau13
DancinProf Rookie 1 posts since
Sep 18, 2010
Currently Being Moderated

Apr 4, 2011 8:51 AM

From newbie to competitor?

Hi everybody!  I am a female, age 38, who completed C25K a year ago.  I've run about a half-dozen 5Ks since then; my PR is (don't laugh, now) 30:07. I've just been focusing on "running my race" and not worrying about time.  But my New Year's resolution for this year was to finish in under 30 minutes.  Since that's already within reach, I have started to think about actually being competitive in my age group.  When I look at the standings for the races I've been to, the top 3 finishers my age are in the 24-26 minute range.


I am in good shape and I think I'm capable of getting to that level, but not entirely sure how.  For one thing, running is not my main activity; I am a ballroom & ballet dancer so I'm in the dance studio 2-3 days a week, leaving room for 4 runs a week at most if I want one rest day per week.  Also, I am flummoxed by the language of training.  I looked at Hal Higdon's intermediate 5K training plan ( and I understand his explanation of a tempo run but I can't quite get my head around "5x400" and similar.  5 repetitions of 400 meters, probably?  How much rest in between?  If I am running on a track, how do I know how long 400m is?  For exercises that are run at such-and-such a pace ("80% of race pace" or whatever), how can I easily I figure that out?


Higdon says "it helps if you have an understanding of the concepts of speedwork."  I think my problem is that I do not have such an understanding!


I hope someone will not mind breaking this down for me and also perhaps weighing in on whether my goals are reasonable.  I don't have a time frame in mind for this little project; I just want to keep improving and it seems like it's time to make the leap from just trying to run into trying to run fast!



  • lenzlaw Community Moderator 10,539 posts since
    Jan 18, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Apr 5, 2011 10:19 AM (in response to DancinProf)
    Re: From newbie to competitor?

    Maybe this will help.




    -          Intervals: This is the "4x400", etc, said four by four hundred. That means doing four repeats of four hundred meters (1/4 mile) at a fast pace. Warmup for a mile or so. Do the first fast "repeat" of 400 meters, followed by a slow recovery "interval" (where the name comes from) of about the same time as the repeat. So if the repeat takes 2:15 (minutes:seconds), so should the recovery. Do this three more times for a total of four (thus 4x400). All of the repeats are preferably done in the same time or possibly getting slightly faster (a second or two) as you go along. Intervals are best done on a track, or on a precisely measured course, the flatter the better.  See the McMillan Running Calculator (link below) to find out how fast you should be running the repeats, based on a current race time.

    -          Hill repeats are something like intervals, except you run up a hill (150 to 300 meters) for the hard part, then down easy for recovery, repeat.

    -          Tempo Runs: Warm up for a mile or so. Do a specified distance (or time) at "tempo" pace (I'll get to that). Cool down for a mile or so. The tempo distance/time is usually a minimum of 2 miles or 20 minutes, and it goes up from there. To some extent it depends on what you're training for: shorter for short races, longer for long races. Tempo pace (also called "lactate threshold" pace) is a fast (race level fast) pace you can hold for about an hour. So a 10-mile race pace is frequently used (1/2 marathon pace for faster runners). The pace can be figured from other length races (5K or 10K for instance). The McMillan Running Calculator can figure paces for these workouts based on a recent race time.  I find the paces tend to be a little fast.  Read through the explanations below the results to find out how to use the pace chart.


  • Chase Kerlin Expert 39 posts since
    Apr 20, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    2. Apr 5, 2011 6:35 PM (in response to DancinProf)
    Re: From newbie to competitor?



    I have multiple workouts on my website that are free to everyone designed to help you increase your speed and run faster times!  I didn't become competitive at the professional level until after high school and now have become comsumed with trail running and ultra marathons.  Here is a link to my running workouts page on my site where all of my interval workouts and tempo runs are:


    Let me know if something doesn't make sense and I would be happy to explain it better or make something personalized for you at no charge if you promise to kick butt in your age group ; )



    Visit my website for the latest in gear, workouts, and injury advice all for free!

  • RobNadeau13 Rookie 3 posts since
    Apr 16, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    3. Apr 17, 2011 8:00 AM (in response to DancinProf)
    Re: From newbie to competitor?

    "If I am running on a track, how do I know how long 400m is?"


    Typically, on an outdoor track - 400m is 1 lap.

    04/16/11 - Devildog 5K - 19:15

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