In the world of elite 5K runners, very few workouts are as famous as Prefontaine’s 30-40 workout. With one adjustment, anyone can tailor this famous 5K workout to improve their running.
For those who are unfamiliar, Steve Prefontaine is somewhat of a god with track nerds. Regarded as one of the best American distance runners ever, Pre (short for “Prefontaine”) set American records in every distance from 2,000 to 10,000 m before his life was cut short at the age of 24 in a car accident.
Despite wanting to focus on the mile, Pre’s best event was considered the 5K. His personal record, set in 1974, was a smoking fast 13:21 — a pace of 4:18 per mile for 3.1 miles! One of his staple 5K workouts (given by Pre’s track coach, the famous Bill Dellinger, at the University of Oregon) was 3 miles of alternating 200m runs in 30 seconds followed by 200 m in 40 seconds.
The 30-second 200m was roughly at Pre’s mile pace. The workout became known as Pre’s 30-40 workout.
Pre’s 30-40: Float Workout for Runners
On target pace, the Pre 30-40 workout results in a 14:35 5K. A daunting goal, even for today’s elite runners. While it’s highly unlikely most runners would be able to run even the first 200 m in 30 seconds, that doesn’t mean this workout isn’t suited for you — with some pace adjustments.
The great thing about any running workout is if you understand the underlying purpose, you can adjust it to suit any level runner. In the case of Pre’s 30-40 workout, Coach Dellinger used a concept called “float workouts.”
Float workouts are designed so the recovery portion of the workout is run at a moderately quick pace, or float, hence the name. This small tweak on the traditional interval-style recovery helps your body deal with and clear lactic acid while still running at a quicker pace.
Prefontaine Workout: Adjusting 30-40 for You
To adjust Pre’s 30-40 workout to suit any ability, run the faster 200s (or 30s in Pre’s workout) at your 1-mile to 3K race pace. Then, make the slower 200s 10 seconds slower than that.
Repeat for 3 miles, or 12 laps around a track. If you don’t know your mile or 3K race pace, you can use a 5K, half-marathon, or marathon race pace to determine it using this race predictor calculator. This workout is best done on a track because of the clear 200m markers.
To make things a bit more interesting and put some pressure on your pacing abilities, try adding this: If your pace is slow on two consecutive 200s, stop the workout immediately and cool down.
Don’t worry, this technique of suddenly stopping the workout if you’re slow is a common practice of elite coaches. It’s like a trip switch to prevent excess damage when the workout becomes too hard.
It also assures you pay extra attention to your pacing.
Pre’s 30-40 Workout
- Warm up 1-2 miles starting at an easy pace, and then gradually pick it up to a moderately hard pace.
- Run 200 m at your mile to 3K pace followed by 200 m 10 seconds slower. (You can use this calculator to find your mile to 3K pace.)
- Repeat the above for a total of 3 miles (12 laps on a track) or until you can’t hit the pace for two consecutive intervals.
- Cool down 1-2 miles at an easy pace.
What Is the Pre 30-40 Workout?
The Pre 30-40 workout is a track workout Steve Prefontaine would do to prepare for the 5K. It consists of running 3 total miles by alternating between a 30-second 200m and 40-second 200m. This later became known as the Pre 30-40 workout and is a 5K test among elite distance runners.
Who Is Steve Prefontaine?
Steve Prefontaine, or “Pre” for short, was an American distance runner who competed in the 1972 Summer Olympics in the 5,000m. He held American records in every distance from 2000 to 10,000 m. He attended the University of Oregon before running for the Oregon Track Club. Prefontaine’s life was cut short at age 24 in a car accident.