A Faster 5k

Speed Work for a 5K: No Track? No Problem!

Running a faster 5K isn’t just about clocking in miles; it’s also about how fast you run those miles. While training on a track can provide a convenient and controlled environment for speed work, not everyone has access to a track, especially if you’re traveling or live in an area where tracks are scarce. In such cases, there are alternative ways to fit speed work into your training plan effectively. Below are some strategies that you can incorporate into your training regimen to improve your 5K performance.


Striders are short bursts of speed that range from 80 to 100 meters. These are not full sprints but rather controlled runs where you accelerate smoothly up to about 95% of your maximum speed and then decelerate. Incorporating striders at the end of an easy or moderate run can help improve your leg turnover and neuromuscular coordination, ultimately aiding in speed development.

How to do Striders:

  • Find a flat, straight stretch of road or path.
  • After your easy or moderate run, start with a slow jog and smoothly accelerate to near top speed.
  • Maintain your speed for about 80 to 100 meters.
  • Slow down gradually to a jog or walk.
  • Take 1 to 2 minutes of recovery before repeating.
  • Perform 4 to 6 repetitions.


The word “Fartlek” is Swedish for “speed play,” and it’s an unstructured form of interval training. Instead of following strict timings and distances, you mix periods of faster running with periods of slower running or jogging. The beauty of Fartleks is their flexibility—you can tailor them according to how you feel on any given day.

How to do Fartleks:

  • During a moderate run, pick a landmark (like a tree, lamp post, or mailbox) in the distance.
  • Run faster to that point, then slow down to a jog or walk to recover.
  • Pick another landmark and repeat.
  • Perform these speed bursts for a set duration or throughout your run.

Hill Repeats

Hills are natural resistance providers that can improve both strength and speed. Hill repeats involve running up a hill at a fast pace, followed by a slow jog or walk back down for recovery. The incline adds resistance, which can boost your leg strength, while the speed element aids in your overall 5K pace.

How to do Hill Repeats:

  • Find a hill that takes around 30 to 60 seconds to ascend.
  • After a warm-up, run up the hill at a fast but controlled pace.
  • Walk or jog back down for recovery.
  • Perform 6 to 10 repetitions, depending on your fitness level.

Tempo Runs

Tempo runs, also known as threshold runs, involve running at a steady, “comfortably hard” pace for a set duration or distance. They help increase your lactate threshold, which is crucial for running a faster 5K.

How to do Tempo Runs:

  • After a warm-up, run at a challenging but maintainable pace for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • You should be able to talk in short phrases but not hold a full conversation at this pace.
  • Cool down with an easy jog.

Using GPS or Apps

If you’re worried about pacing without the markers on a track, you can use a GPS watch or running app to monitor your speed and distance. These tools can help you maintain your desired pace during tempo runs, measure the distance for your striders, and even track your elevation gain for hill repeats.

The Garmin Forerunner 245 is a GPS running smartwatch packed with advanced training features to help you take your performance to the next level. It evaluates your current training status so you know if you’re undertraining or overdoing it and offers adaptive training plans from Garmin Coach. With advanced running dynamics, incident detection, and up to 7 days of battery life in smartwatch mode, the Forerunner 245 has the stats and safety features serious runners need. Customize your watch face, download apps, and sync your workouts with Garmin’s online community. At just 42mm, it’s lightweight yet durable enough for daily wear. With personalized training guidance, coaching plans that adapt to your goals, built-in sports apps, wrist-based heart rate, and VO2 max estimating, the Forerunner 245 gives you everything you need to understand and improve your running. If you’re a runner looking to train smarter and unlock your potential, the Forerunner 245 is an excellent choice.

Speed work is a critical element in running a faster 5K, but you don’t necessarily need a track to work on your speed. Incorporating striders at the end of your runs, engaging in Fartleks, doing hill repeats, and incorporating tempo runs are excellent strategies to improve your 5K time. Technology can also lend a hand, so don’t hesitate to use a GPS watch or running app to keep your training on track—no pun intended. By combining these elements thoughtfully into your training regimen, you’ll be on your way to a faster and more efficient 5K performance.

See Also: 10 Tips for First-Time 5k Runners

Speed Work for a 5K