The final month of your training is all about fine-tuning. You’ve got a good base of running under your belt – probably 200+ miles, dozens of quality sessions, and a good sense of race pacing. That’s a decent list of accomplishments so far, and a good reminder that good training is about accumulation. One workout will never decide the fate of a season. But a season’s worth of workouts certainly will.
1) Intervals. Week 1: 3 x 1600m(1 mile) at goal 5k race pace with 3:00 rest. Week 2. 3 x 1600m at goal pace with 2:30 rest. Week 3: 3 x 1600m at goal pace with 2:00 rest. Why the decrease in rest? Couple of reasons. One is to evaluate your ability to maintain that pace as rest decreases. It’s a technique Roger Bannister used to break 4:00 for the mile, and certainly good enough for us. Another reason is that it will help attenuate you to race-day demands, at the pace you intend to run. Not to say it’s going to suck, but it certainly might. And you never want to save the suffering for race day. Week 4: Race week. Take it easy. 6 x 400m at goal pace with plenty of rest, no less than three days out.
2) Long Runs + Tempo Work. This month we combine the two, in a little Matt Fitzgerald technique for late-season adaptation. I won’t get into the science because a) I don’t fully grasp it as a Humanities major and b) it’s probably more than you care to know. Weeks 1 and 2: 80-90 minutes, with the last three miles at tempo pace. Week 3: 80-90 minutes
3) Race Week: Ensure you do the intervals prescribed above. There’s this dumb idea engrained in our heads that week of a race, you should rest completely. As in no running. Call it “peaking,” “tapering,” whatever. It’s bollocks. For 5k, there’s really no such thing as a true taper like there is in a marathon. In fact, taking complete rest is counterproductive because after a few days, your body will begin to discard the gains you’ve made over the past four months. If you’ve ever taken a week easy before a race, then shown up to the line with flat legs, it’s likely because you haven’t stimulated your system enough the week of the race. Enough said on that. Day before the race, do a short run and finish with a couple of easy wind sprints.
Show up to your goal race, and kick some ass. Race with confidence in your training, and leave nothing on the course.