Nick Bester's Journey to a Sub-15 Minute 5K

Competitive runner Nick Bester talks to F3 Events about his sub 15-minute 5k attempt at the F3 Events Dorney Lake Race in December 2020 and his journey to achieving this elusive result.

Tell us about yourself and your running background

I’m Nick Bester, also known as @JustalilBester on Instagram. I’m currently living in South West London where I have been for the past 4 years. I’m originally from South Africa but am planning on residing in the UK for the indefinite future.

I started running in 2013 in prep for the iconic Comrades Marathon. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Comrades, it’s a 90km ultra marathon in South Africa.

Since completing my first marathon in 3:17, I haven’t looked back and have completed 30 marathons since then, with my most recent being a PB of 2:28. I’ve always wanted to improve as a runner and coach, and still am. I haven’t peaked yet and I’m working hard to see where my full potential and capabilities lie.

My first ever 5km took me just over 25 minutes. With consistency in training, I’ve been able to shave off 10 minutes. My current PB 5km time is 15:06. I would love to break 15 minutes so I’m on the search for 7 seconds!

What do you eat to fuel your training?

For a big training day/race day I eat peanut butter on toast for breakfast plus a pre-race bar. I then have an energy gel for every 30 - 45 minutes of running. Post-race I drink a recovery drink and eat pizza!

I try to keep the weeks clean with reduced ‘bad’ carbs and increased good protein. Prior to big sessions I have things like sweet potato, whole wheat pasta, and brown rice.

What does a typical training week look like for you?

I keep the easy days easy, allowing me to push really hard on the harder days.

A typical training week would look something like this:

Monday – Recovery run

Tuesday – Track/interval work

Wednesday - Recovery run

Thursday – Hill repeats or tempo

Friday – Recovery run

Saturday – Parkrun or hard 5km time trial

Sunday – Longer run

With my morning routine every day.

How are you training for a sub 15-minute 5k?

The main changes I’ve made within training to adjust for this goal is:

1)    Increase the intensity of my track/interval sessions.

2)    Decrease mileage slightly, so my legs are fresh and can go harder at these sessions.

3)    Bigger focus on strength, conditioning, and flexibility

4)    Daily drills to improve form.

To break 15 minutes for 5km you need to average under 3 minutes per km. I knew if I stood any chance at breaking it, I would need to do a lot of my training at sub 3 minutes per km and get as comfortable as possible at that pace.

What does a typical training session look like for you?




Track session 1

16 X 400 meters

60 sec

Track session 2

5 X 3 minutes, 6 X 30 seconds

90 sec between the 3-minute reps, 30 seconds between the 30 second reps

Track session 3

8 X 800 meters

90 sec

Track session 4

8 X 2 minutes

75 sec

Track session 5

14 X 500 meters

75 sec

Track session 6

(1 minute, 2 minutes) X 6

60 sec between the 1- and 2-min reps, 75 sec between sets

Track session 7

7 X 1km

120 sec

Track session 8

12 X 1 minute, 8 X 30 seconds

60 sec for the 1-minute reps, 30 sec for the 30 second rep

Track session 9

5 X 200 meters, 6 X 800 meters, 5 X 200 meters

30 sec rest for 200 meters, 90 sec rest for the 800 meters

Track session 10

6 X 3 minutes

90 seconds

Track session 11

4 X 1.6kms

120 seconds

Track session 12

6 X 2 minutes, 8 X 1 minute

75 seconds rest after the 2-minute reps, 60 seconds rest after the 1-minute reps

Track session 13

20 X 300 meters

60 seconds

Track session 14

2 X 3 minutes, 3 X 2 minutes, 4 X 1 minute

90 sec rest for 3 min reps, 75 sec rest for 2 min reps, 60 sec rest for 1 min reps

Track session 15

10 X 600 meters

90 seconds

Track session 16

15 X 200 meters

30 seconds

Having achieved a time of 15:06 for your last attempt, what would you do differently next time?

Honestly, I wouldn’t change too much. With a few more consistent weeks of training, I believe I could find those elusive 7 seconds. 15:06 was the best I could have done that day.
Already I feel like I’m in slightly better shape so I’m itching for the next opportunity.

When the margins become so tight, a lot of work goes into finding another 7 seconds.

I’d still go out hard from the start and give it my all to keep my average pace below 3 minutes per km.

Why choose F3 Events races?

F3 events are very well organised and world class! As soon as I arrived at the venue (Dorney Lake) I was greeted by the lead bike rider who was very helpful.

From when I initially entered the race until I got my result, the process was smooth and I couldn’t recommend F3 events more highly.

Definitely not the last I will do and I’m looking forward to the next F3 event and a shot at a sub 15 minute 5km.

Tags: training