How to run a time trial

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How time trials can improve your running.

Time trials come in varying lengths and at Runlab we regularly do a 3km version. But what is the benefit of a time trial?

Here we outline a couple of the outcomes of performing a time trial and how to best execute them.

How will time trials improve your running?

Firstly time trials provide the following training stimulus:

  • Increased V02Max
  • Increased Anaerobic threshold
  • Improved nervous system patterning of muscle fibres for improved form at increased speed
Secondly they prepare you for running under race conditions and thirdly, they allow a baseline to be established and regularly referred back to.

All of these are really important and the reason why they are included into your training plans.

We want to help you get quicker, become more comfortable at challenging yourself and provide a reference to see how you are tracking over time.

How to do a time trial


Not only will you likely run the risk of having to slow down, but if your not warmed up well you could be more likely to pick up an injury.

Perform a warm-up, which gradually increases in intensity, and possibly include some running drills too. I recommend doing some shorter efforts of up to 400 metres where eventually you are running at a speed faster than you intend to run in the time trial, before you actually commence the time trial. This gets you ready for the test ahead.


This can be as simple as making sure you run the same route based on landmarks or better still, using an accurately marked out track. Inaccuracy makes it impossible to compare future efforts and could lull you into a false sense of security.


If you just rock up and do a time trial solo you are unlikely to perform at your best. Having someone to measure your time or a friend to run with will instantly fire-up your competitive instinct.

Better yet; making it as race-like as possible means you will likely get a better outcome and be less nervous on race day.


You will get better at these the more you do them, however as most time trials will range from 3-5km, holding your optimal pace over a long period will get you the best result, but that’s all in the learning and art of doing it, so give it a go.

Personally I like to track all my sessions in a running diary I keep online, the key ones I will refer to as markers in my training build-ups.

Even I get slightly edgy before a key session, but it also makes me realise how important it is and the feeling of satisfaction you take out of completing a good time trial keeps your motivation up. I like the 3km-5km time trial range as it can be treated as one of your weekly sessions, doesn’t require a taper and you will recover relatively quickly meaning there are no long interruptions in your build towards a bigger goal.

READ MORE: Training series- running drills

Vlad Shatrov is one of Australia’s leading Marathoners and the founder of Runlab, a leading provider of group interval training sessions, group functional strength classes and personalised running analysis and programming.

Got a training question for Vlad? Ask him here