Final Surge Podcast Episode 79: Mario Fraioli

In Episode 79 of the Final Surge Podcast we talk to author and coach Mario Fraioli. This episode is all about training and racing the 5k. We talk race strategy, why the 5k is unique compared to other distances, discuss training volume, the types of workouts a 5k runner should be doing, and Mario lays out a sample week of training that he would give an athlete.

Welcome to Episode 79 of the Final Surge Podcast. Today we dive deep into training with coach and author Mario Fraioli. We spend a half hour talking nothing but the 5k. We dive into how to race a 5k and how you structure your training for that race. If you are interested in coaching for the 5k you can reach out to Mario on his website or check out our training plans at

Listen to the podcast on iTunes or listen to it on Stitcher or Google Play if you have an Android device.

Stream it right here:

We have a special training episode today where we are going to talk about 5k training. But before we do that I want to spend 2 minutes catching up. We had you on last year, people can learn more about you from Episode 27. I think most of our listeners know about your Morning Shakeout Tuesday newsletter, but recently you added the Shakeout Podcast. I loved your recent episode with Shalane. What made you decide a podcast was where you wanted to go next?

  • Growing medium
  • Way to dig deeper

5k Training/Racing

The 5k is unique because it is the shortest race most non-elite winners will do. It's also my favorite race distance to coach personally because it's a great mix of endurance and speed. What do you personally like or not like about the 5k?

  • Racer's race
  • Can't back off like longer races
  • 5k runners are there to race and push themselves to an uncomfortable place
  • Blend of good endurance and speed
  • Foot on gas the entire time
  • Distance Thunder article

For this, I don’t want to focus on the couch to 5k. There are plenty of plans and podcasts about that. I want to focus on someone who is really interested in racing a 5k. And that could be someone looking to break their 24-minute PR or go sub 19 or even sub 15. We usually talk about training and then get into racing. But today I want to work backwards. I want to start with racing the 5k to understand what we need to work on in training. You take on a new athlete what general racing advice do you have for a road 5k runner?

  • It is going to be uncomfortable
  • You won't feel good even if it is going well

Racing a 5k is tough. As I tell my athletes you need to learn to enjoy that ride on a pain train. If you are going for it then from 800-5k meters you are probably going to hurt. Do you find there is work you can do to get them used to that feeling or do they need to race to experience it?

  • More experience to race because there are no breaks

If you have someone, maybe a competitive age grouper, not going for the win. How do they race it? Do you like even splits on a flat course for optimal racing?

  • Even splits are a nice goal, but not going to happen often and that is ok
  • Will often negative split with a fast finish

There is usually a big pack early through maybe 2k then it starts thinning out. Is this because too many people go out to fast?

  • You need to keep it close
  • Need to maintain contact with the group in front of you

No, of course you mentioned experience racing is the best teacher for racing a 5k. You can be in great shape and still fall apart in a 5k so how do you ride that line between going for it and blowing up?

  • Pay attention to breathing in the first mile
  • Want to get through the first mile in good shape by paying attention to your body

If you have an athlete who says I have this key 5k I want to crush how long is your recommended program and what should the base look like before they even start that?

  • Depends on the athlete and where they are
  • Could be 6-8 weeks could be or could be a lot longer up to 6-months

What type of base should they be coming off, what should the training look like before the training cycle?

  • Not a fan of just base
  • Should be doing some intensity and hills
  • 10-15 second hills and then working longer

If someone had a 12-week block how much racing can they do before their A race?

  • Start with a 5k as a benchmark
  • Maybe one a few weeks later
  • Do not want to over-race
  • If you can find a 1-2 mile race that would be great, something faster to help sharpen you

You mention faster than race pace work, how do you structure those in?

  • Once every ten days or so, one ever three workouts or so

Walking through a training week:

  • Monday - Rest/Recovery
  • Tuesday - 6-7 x 800 at 5k pace close to equal recovery
  • Wednesday - Easy recovery on longer side
  • Thursday - Distance run with strides
  • Friday - Key workout, 2x 2 miles at 10k pace with some faster 200/300 at mile pace
  • Saturday/Sunday a long run and a recovery run, up to athlete which is when

We talked about racing on that edge, how many workouts do you do that take you there?

  • Once every 4 weeks
  • Do not let them know before it is coming
  • Don't tell them when last rep is coming

What percent of the total volume for the week is your long run in 5k training?

  • 20-30%, 50 miles a week maybe 10-13 mile long run
  • It is important to keep the long run in your training

How do you work in workouts that may be specific to the course?

  • Need to look at turns, hills, up and down
  • Pacing won't be consistent like on track
  • Take intervals off track to simulate
  • Mimic race course as much as possible

Interested in getting coached by Mario, check out his website

The Morning Shakeout Newsletter
Distance Thunder article
Mario on Twitter


Team Final Surge

Share this post