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I know it all depends on how hard anyone will work, but at the same time I don't want to kid myself. My 5k time is 31 minutes and I would like to have it around 27-28 so that I will place in the top ten for my age group. It's a little over 30 days away and I've been working on my speed as of this week. Is it possible to reach this kind of goal in such a short amount of time?
The newer to running you are the easier it is to make big jumps. Need a little more info, all you can do is train and see what happens. good luck!
I agree it's easier to shave time early in your running career. While speedwork can help, building a good base is just as valuable. Both take time. The other thing to consider is this: 27:00 might get you into the top ten in your age group in one race, but in another race it might not get you into the top 20.
Providing you are new to running and willing to put in the hard work shaving 3 to 4 minutes off your 5k time is very possible.
As for placing in the top ten of your age group that will depend on who shows up that day. Yesterday I ran a 5k and one of my goals was to finish in the top three of my age group. Finishing 8th overall I felt pretty confidant I had achieved that goal until the results were posted. Three of the seven people that beat me were in my age group. No age group placement for me, although in any other age group I would have finished either first or second.
I am running about the same pace as you (I ran just under 30 minutes at a 5k two weeks ago) and am hoping to improve similarly. The weather, my work schedule and other factors have not cooperated with me for the spring (also known as "Winter Part 2" this year) and have limited my outdoor running time. My goal is to run a 26 min 5k in two months from now and running 28 min at a race sometime between now and then. I think it is possible, but it just won't happen on its own. I intend to do more miles per week, more speed work and will try some "core" exercise (I think the relative weakness of my midsection is holding me back a bit. Stamina seems to be coming around and my leg strength is improving, but my sides and gut don't seem to be there yet).
"Whether You Think You Can or Can't, You're Right"-- Henry Ford
Upcoming races: Super 5k 2/3/13
Select Recent Results: Brooksie Way Half Marathon - 1:49:09 (Half Marathon PR), Open Door Julie Run 5k - 22:16 (2nd place age group, PR)
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The top three times in my age group of 40-50 in last years race in my area were : ??? 16:25, 17:21, 18:40. I wish they were 27-28! But, seriously, if you are a new(er) runner and train 4-5 times per week with mixed core workouts, sprint intervals and just some distance (3-5 mile) runs at your normal pace you'll drop your time like a rock and get a new PR. Forget other racers times and have fun.
The odds of successfully taking 10% off your 5K time also depends on how hard you are currently pushing yourself. For your current 5K time of 31 min - If that is the absolute fastest you can run, all-out, then the chances of dropping 3-4 min in a month are not good. However, if that 31 min is more like moderate or moderately hard, then you have room to push yourself harder in addition to whatever gains you make from the month's training.
By the way...I recommend never going into a race looking for a specific age group placement. In addition to your own performance (over which you have control), your placing depends heavily on who else in your age group happened to be doing the race that day (over which you have absolutely no control). I've run some recent 5K's at close to PR pace but barely scratched out 6th or 7th in my age group. I've also run recent 5K's on similar courses where I was going a bit slow but won my age group.
Heart of the City Run, Los Angeles, CA, 24:13
Downtown Anaheim 5K, Anaheim, CA, 24:32
Claremont Turkey Trot, Claremont, CA, 24:20
The Great Race - Old Agoura 10K, Agoura Hills, CA, 51:12
Fiesta Days Run, La Canada, CA, 49:31
LA Cancer Challenge, West Los Angeles, CA, 51:21
Long Beach International City Bank Half Marathon, Long Beach, CA, 1:54:31