Preparing for a 5K in 2 Weeks

Runners Legs in Race
Werner Dieterich

Two weeks is not a lot of time to prep for a 5K, but it’s possible to still get yourself mentally and physically ready for the race. If you have been exercising at least a few times a week (even if you haven’t been running), you can probably get yourself ready for a 5K that’s two weeks away.

If you haven’t been doing any cardio exercise at all, it’s likely not a good idea to run 5K, although it might be possible to walk it. If you can consistently walk at a moderate pace for 30–45 minutes, you should be able to walk the 5K course. If walking seems more doable to you, aim for four days a week with a total weekly walking goal of 165 minutes.

2-Week 5K Training Plan

If you’re intent on running in the 5K and have been exercising a few times a week, the following two-week training plan uses the last two weeks of this 5K beginner four-week schedule. There are three running days of various lengths each week, with the other days reserved for rest days or cross-training.

Week 1

  • Run 1: Run 20 minutes at a comfortable, conversational pace. Walk for 1 minute, then run for 6 more minutes.
  • Run 2: Run 24 minutes at a conversational pace.
  • Run 3: Run 26 minutes at a conversational pace. 

Week 2

  • Run 1: Run 28 minutes at a comfortable, conversational pace. Walk for 1 minute, then run for 6 more minutes.
  • Run 2: Run 30 minutes at a conversational pace.
  • Run 3: Run 20 minutes at a conversational pace. This keeps your body from being too taxed just before the race.

Don't Cram in Running

Don’t try to make up for lost training time by running hard or long every day. You still have time for a couple of long or hard workouts before the race, but make sure they are followed by a rest or easy day so your body has time to recover. You'll only wear yourself out or risk getting injured if you try to run long and hard almost every day leading up to the race.

Rest the Day Before

No amount of running you do the day before the race will improve your performance. And if you do too much, you'll pay for it on race day when you're feeling tired. So just take it easy so your legs are rested and fresh for the race.

You also don't want to do strength-training or any intense workout in the two days before the race, as you'll still probably feel sore on race day. If you're feeling antsy, go for a short walk and do some gentle stretching, but try to resist the temptation to run hard to prove to yourself that you're ready.

Prep for a 5K Run/Walk

If the training plan above seems too challenging and you don't think you can run the full 5K, try a run/walk strategy. One method is to run a mile then walk for 30 seconds when you hit a mile marker.

Many runners are surprised that their pace is actually faster when they take a 30-second walking break every mile, rather than trying to run all the way through. A short walk gives your running muscles a break and can even provide a huge mental boost.

If you don't want to do timed intervals for walk breaks, you can still work them into your races by walking through the water stop or during the uphill portions of the course.

Practice on the 5K Course

If you’re doing a local race, get out there and run parts of the course leading up to race day. You’ll feel a lot more mentally prepared if you know what to expect. This is especially important if you typically run on the treadmill—you'll want to do at least a couple of runs outside leading up to the race.

If there’s a big hill on the course, run several hill repeats (but not the day before the race!) as a strengthening and confidence-boosting workout.

Plan Your Race Outfit

An important rule for racing a 5K (or any race distance, for that matter) is, “Nothing new on race day.” Don't plan on wearing your brand-new running shoes or the race shirt you'll get when you pick up your race bib. If you experiment with some "lucky" new clothes or shoes, they might end up feeling uncomfortable and lead to chafing or blistering.

Clothing made from wicking material will be more comfortable and reduce chafing. Your race day attire should be running shoes, socks, and clothes that you've already run in, so you know what to expect and you don't get any surprises. Make sure you lay your clothes out the night before your race, so you’re not scrambling and trying to find your race gear in the morning. Save your new race shirt to wear after the race and during future training.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I eat the week of a 5K race?

In the week leading up to your 5K, you should increase your intake of complex carbohydrates to ensure your glycogen stores are replenished so that you have enough energy. Choose whole grain food sources like bread, pasta, and brown rice, starchy vegetables, and legumes. And of course, be sure to drink plenty of water and electrolyte beverages to stay hydrated.

As race day approaches, you should consume small meals every 2–3 hours, and avoid heavy foods like processed meat or foods containing too much salt, added sugar, or saturated fat in the evening. This is especially important the day before your race.

What should I do the day before a 5K race?

In addition to taking the day off from exercise, eating healthily, and staying hydrated, it's also important that you get a good night's sleep the day before a 5K race. Being well-rested not only ensures you'll have the energy to race, but you'll also be more likely to arrive to the event early to familiarize yourself with the course and do a proper warm up.

A Word From Verywell

A two-week training program or a 5K is doable for many people, but don’t overdo it if you're not quite ready. If you don't think that you're prepared to run the entire distance, you could always try walking, run/walking, or even postponing the race in favor of a later event.

Whatever you decide to do, be sure to listen to your body. If running causes you any physical pain, stop immediately and try walking instead.

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  1. Long LL, Srinivasan M. Walking, running, and resting under time, distance, and average speed constraints: optimality of walk-run-rest mixtures. J R Soc Interface. 2013;10(81):20120980. doi:10.1098/rsif.2012.0980