One-Hour Workout: Descending 5K/10K Run Ladder

While your muscles are inevitably going to catch fire toward the end of a short race, you can train your body to slow down the burn.

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Every Tuesday we’ll feature a different coach’s workout you can complete in 60 minutes (or less!). This week’s track workout comes from running coach Mario Fraioli, the senior editor at Competitor Magazine.

He describes the purpose of the workout below:
While half marathons and marathons are a matter of resisting fatigue during the later miles, 5K and 10K racing is like fighting off a lactic acid firestorm for the final third of the race.

No matter how comfortable the early pace may feel to you, about two thirds of the way into a fast 5K or 10K a spark suddenly catches fire and starts to spread rapidly as your legs begin to lock up and your stride shortens ever so slightly. Your quads are screaming at you to stop and your upper body tenses up as you seemingly start going backward while you struggle to maintain pace or stick with the runner in front of you.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this at the end of a hard race, of course; it simply means that you’re doing it right. While your muscles are inevitably going to catch fire toward the end of a competitive 5K or 10K effort, you can train your body to slow down the burn and better handle the demands of the race in training. One of my favorite ways to do this is with the descending ladder workout.

RELATED: Interval Workouts To Try On The Track

15–20 min of jogging followed by 6×20 sec strides

After your warm-up is complete, run for 10 minutes at your current half-marathon race pace followed by 5 minutes of recovery.

Note: If you’ve never raced a half marathon and are unsure of how fast to run this part of the workout, add about 15 seconds per mile to your 10K race pace or 30 seconds per mile to your 5K pace. The McMillan Calculator is also a handy tool that can help get you in the ballpark. The goal here is to inject some fatigue into your legs without totally wiping you out just yet.

Main Set
Begin a descending ladder of pickups. The recovery between each pickup is an easy jog for half the duration of the preceding interval, so 2:30 after the 5-minute pickup and so forth.

6 min at your goal 10K pace (no faster)
3 min jog recovery
5 min at 10K race pace
2:30 jog recovery
4 min at 5K race pace
2 min jog recovery
3 min at 5K race pace
1:30 jog recovery
2 min at 3K race pace (roughly 15 sec per mile faster than 5K pace)
1 min recovery
1 min at 1-mile race pace

RELATED: The 30-20-10 Run Workout

Easy as needed

This session is tough, but then again 5K/10K racing is too, so if you want to simulate the burning your legs are going to feel in the final mile or two of a race, then try descending the ladder in your next workout!

Read the full workout with an alternate option at

More one-hour workouts.

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