The training for 5k and 10k? Trying to figure out the differences between training for a 5k versus a marathon? Here we'll talk about how and what exactly is different about the training for a 5k/10k versus a half marathon or marathon.

Running Your First Race

There's a good chance that if you're new to running and racing a 5k will be your first race. Running your first race is exciting! and I'm here to give you some tips that will help you catch the racing bug.


Everyone Can Race

No matter your age, ability level, or anything else you can thing of you can run and it is NEVER too late to start! Racing isn't reserved for just speedsters, racing is for everyone who wants to race. Races are fun and exhilarating. Don't feel intimidated going to your first race, there will be all sorts of people from back of the packers, to mid-packers, to the speedsters at the front of the pack. You'll always have someone to run with no matter what pace you're running.


Plan Your Training

As with any length race you'll need a proper training plan to run a 5k, especially if you plan on doing it without stopping or running a PR. Your training plan length will be dependent on your current activity levels and will vary from person to person. 5k training plans can vary anywhere between 5 to 12 weeks. If you think you want help figuring out your training then you may want to consider hiring a coach. 

Currently accepting athletes of all abilities to my team. If you're interested in joining here's the link to my coaching page!


Stick to It

Everyone struggles when they first start running. Motivation can come and go, but you just need to stick to it! A consistent runner makes a good runner. Its perfectly normal to feel intimidated by a new training plan or workout regimen, but it's important to do your best to stick to it. Sticking to your plan will lead you to a more fun and successful race!

Get the Right Gear

Having the right running gear will make you feel more motivated to get out the door. Its good to have a good pair of reliable running shoes and a set of clothing that works for whatever the whether may throw at you. You don't have to accumulate all of your gear at once though! Its a good idea to slowly build up your running closet because buying everything all at once can get really expensive! 

Set Reasonable Goals

If you're running your first race, its good to not have any time expectations, it might be good to ignore your time entirely, the goal of your first race to have fun while finishing the race. Although some ambition runners may want to set a time goal for their first race. If this is you, make sure your time goal is reasonable. You can make sure it is reasonable by basing it off of the times you've been running during your workouts. 

Test Your Kit

Like any distance race you should test out your race kit before the day of the race. Wear your race kit during your longest training run. This will give you a chance to make sure everything is comfortable and that you don't start chafing in unexpected places during your race. Also, don't wear new shoes on race day, wearing new shoes can lead to blisters you weren't expecting in the middle of a race. Make sure everything you are wearing is tried and true.


Don't Eat Too Much Before the Race

A 5k race doesn't require the same kind of carb loading that a longer distance event such as the half or full marathons require. Just eat what you would normally eat the night before the race. On race morning eat your breakfast long before the start of the race, typically 2 to 4 hours before the race. This will give you enough time to digest what you've eaten before the race. 

Make a Day of It

Turn race day into a special event. It's not a lot of fun to try to return to regular chores or errands after your race, take some time to enjoy your accomplishment. Even if you don't have time to give yourself the whole day, you can still try to give yourself the rest of the morning. Plan to meet up with friends for brunch after your race or even give yourself a spa day to unwind after a race. There are all sorts of ways to make your race day feel special.

Have Fun

Most importantly your first race should be fun. Smile during your race (trust me it'll make for better race photos). Don't be too focused on a time goal or the remaining distance, especially at your first race! As I like to say, the race is a celebration of your training!

Improving Your 5K Time

Once you've caught the running bug its hard to stop! At this point you're probably a seasoned runner who has several races under your belt. Running the race itself may not be providing the challenge you want anymore and you're thinking how do I get faster? There are a lot of steps that comes with improving your 5k time. Here are some tips that could help you!


Integrate Speed Sessions Into Your Training

If you don't already include speed sessions into your weekly routine, you might want to consider starting now. Most runners don't prefer doing track or speed workouts but, they are super beneficial for all runners no matter your preferred distance, or pace. Speed workouts such as intervals can help you adapt to faster speeds and improve your running economy and form. If you want to learn more about why you should incorporate speedwork into your routine ready my article about speedwork here


Over-Distance Your Long Runs 

The key to increasing your fitness and endurance is to increase your weekly mileage and overall volume. With races such as the 5k or 10k and even then half marathon it is beneficial to have your weekly long run be longer than the distance of the race. With longer races such as marathons or ultras, this is not recommended though. Experienced runners looking to improve their 5k PR can gain endurance through long runs that surpass the race distance. When I train for 5k, I have my long runs anywhere from 8 to 10 miles long. 


Don't Try to Run Too Fast on Easy Runs

Its important to make sure you don't race your easy runs. Running your easy runs too fast can leave you too fatigued to hit your paces for harder workouts. It can feel like running your easy pace is a boring slog, but remember that it is supposed to feel slow. Typically rules of thumb are to keep your easy run pace 90 seconds to 2 minutes slower than your 5k pace and to keep 80% of your weekly mileage at easy pace. 

Tackle Those Hills

Hills make you a stronger runner! Although most runner's don't prefer running up hill, you can't deny how beneficial hills can be on you performance. Frequently running hilly routes will build strong legs and make running a flat race course feel easy. Uphill running will also force you on your forefoot, raise your knees, and drive your arms, which forces you into good form. 

Don't Ignore Your Strength Training

Strength training is important for trying to improve your race PRs. Strength training benefits runners a many different ways including: improving running economy, improving or fixing existing muscle imbalances, and helps you retain lean muscle mass. You can read more about the benefits of strength training for runners here

Focus on Your Breathing

It sounds silly to make sure that you're breathing right, but its important to get proper breaths in while you run. On easy runs and tempo runs make sure your breathing is controlled and steady. Deep, long breaths that come from the stomach are more effective than shallow, quick breaths from your chest. Diaphragmatic breathing is better for efficient and maximum oxygen uptake. Finding rhythm in your breathing may also help endure hard workouts such as tempos because it gives you something else to focus on other than the pain of the workout. 


Don't Forget to Taper

You normally hear more about tapering for longer distance races such as the half marathon and the full marathon, but its important to taper for a 5k or 10k too if it is your goal race. The taper for a 5k or 10k is shorter than the taper for a half or a full marathon. The taper for a 5k or 10k can range from 4 days to a week. Tapering longer than this for a shorter race may leave you feeling sluggish rather than fresh. The taper should decrease the volume about 60 to 85% of your peak volume and your last hard session is typically performed 4 to 7 days before the race.   

Pace Your Race

With all of the race day adrenaline it can be easy to go out to fast on race day, but try not to! Make sure to follow your pacing plan and try to negative split the race (running the second half of the race faster than your first half).It's also a good idea to know how race pace should feel before race day. You can make sure you know what your race pace feels like by running a couple workouts before the race at your goal race pace. 

Be Prepared to Hurt

Let's be honest, running a 5k at full effort is going to hurt. They are fast especially in comparison to running a marathon. The later stages of a 5k can feel very uncomfortable as the lactate levels in your body are rising. The best thing to do is embrace and expect the pain towards the end of the race. It'll all be worth it to catch that PR!