In 2010 on a bit of a whim, I began training for my first marathon. Early in my training program, I ran a lot of 5K’s, and it wasn’t unusual for those training runs to find their way North of 30 minutes. With some training consistency and weight loss, I was eventually able to break 25 minutes, and since then, I’ve slowly moved my times down into the low 20’s, threatening a few times to break into the teens.

In 2017 at 44 years old and not getting any younger, I decided it was time to get serious about breaking 20 minutes. Using Hal Higdon’s 5K Advanced Plan, I came up just a little bit short, but with some good advice I received on Twitter (no, seriously), I managed to shave 39 seconds off of my PR for a 19:47.

The 5lothK Intermediate Training Plan is a Work in Progress, but it fairly closely approximates the training I did to break 20 minutes in the 5K.


As you can see from the first week mileage requirement, it’s important that you have a solid training base. You need to be running at least 12-15 mile weeks with the ability to run a 10K uninterrupted at Conversational Pace.

Weight training is a key part of the training plan so make sure you have weekly access to a gym that allows you to perform a variety of basic exercises in a safe fashion. As you are likely more runner than lifter, I can’t emphasize safety enough. You do not want to waste all of your effort with a weight lifting injury in Week 7.

If you want to workout safely at home, I strongly recommend a Power Rack. You can perform a variety of exercises safely using the spotters included with any decent power rack.

Training Program

Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Weekly Mileage
1 3m Tempo Weights 3m Mod Intervals 4×400 Rest 6m Easy Cycling


2 3m Tempo Weights 3m Mod Intervals 8×200 Rest 8m Easy Cycling


3 4m Tempo Weights 3m Mod Intervals 6×400 Rest 9m Easy Cycling


4 5m Tempo Weights 3m Mod Intervals 8×400 Rest 6m Easy Cycling


5 6m Tempo Weights 3m Mod Intervals 4×800 Rest 9m Easy Cycling


6 6m Tempo Weights 3m Mod Intervals 6×800 Rest 10m Easy Cycling


7 5m Tempo Weights 3m Mod Intervals 4×1200 Rest 10m Easy Cycling


8 4m Tempo Weights 3m Mod Intervals 4×1200 Rest 6m Easy Cycling


Race Week Rest 3m Tempo Rest 2m Easy Rest Race Day


Total Mileage


Types of Training Runs

Easy Easy training runs should be run at a Conversational Pace. That means you can carry on a conversation on the phone or with another runner without pausing in between each word for a breath.
Moderate A Moderate effort run would require gaps in conversation during the run. Use the first 1/4 to 1/2 mile to warm-up and then maintain the Moderate effort throughout.
Hard Hard training runs should be run at or near your current 5K race pace and would not allow you enough breath to carry on a conversation.
Intervals Warm-up with an Easy (1) mile (4 laps) around the track. Walk another 200 meters to catch your breath, if necessary, and then begin the first Interval. The Intervals should be run near maximum effort, sustainable throughout each interval. Recovery between intervals can be a walk or Easy run, and it should be, at most, the same distance as the Interval. Your effort during the intervals should cause your Interval times to get slower with each iteration. After your last Interval, run an Easy (1) mile cool-down.
Tempo The goal of the Tempo Run in this plan is to reach your 5K race pace and sustain it for approximately half of the run. For a 3 mile run, use mile 1 as a warm-up at your preferred effort and then accelerate to 5K pace for the next 1.5 miles. Use the remaining distance as a cool-down.
8×200 I’m not a fan of shorter intervals, but if you need to work on foot speed but do not have the endurance for 400m, 200m intervals can be useful.


Sunday cycling should be at least 30 minutes either indoor or outdoor. Longer is fine as long as your quads are not burning by the time you finish.

Use a low (easy/hill climbing) gear and work to keep a higher than normal cadence (over 100 rpm).

Weight Training

Exercise Sets Reps Weight Notes




Use Set 1 as a Warm-up without adding additional weight. If you cannot do a chin-up, use a lat tower to perform lat pulldowns and work your way up to body weight. Use a dip belt to go beyond body weight.
Standing Calf Raises




Be very careful with this exercise. Even with a Power Rack, accidents can happen. Make sure you keep your core engaged so that you don’t injure your back.
Dumbell Lunges




Feel free to substitute squats and/or raise the weight drastically. Past injuries limit my ability to train quads effectively without special equipment so consider this a minimum requirement.
Hamstring Curls




Start light on your first attempt at this exercise and work up slowly. You might end up raising the weight 5 or 6 on your first attempt before you find the right weight. Be slow and deliberate as not to pull your hamstrings.
Bench Press




Military Press








You can substitute other abdominal work as needed.




*** Substitute the deadlift for the other leg work every other week. Lifting bodyweight is not very much for most lifters, but it can be a lot for a runner. Take your time, engage your core, pay close attention to your form, and be safe. Even with my back problem, I dead lift, but it’s easy to exacerbate (or destroy) a back if your form breaks.