Training for a 5K

While you can’t train for a marathon overnight, you can make incremental increases to your stamina, conditioning, speed, endurance, strength, and will, to some day run in a marathon.

The same holds true for 5K races.  A 5K race is 3.1 miles.  While that may pale in comparison to the 26.2 miles of a marathon, the truth is, if you haven’t trained for it, you will have challenges running it.

During the fall season, 5K races can be found in just about every town, every weekend.  The weather is set perfectly this time of year for a 5K race, or any type of race for that matter.

If you’ve never raced in an event before, don’t let the mileage of the 5k fool you.  Some may see the 3.1 miles as laughable and easily attainable, until it’s time to actually run the race.  Don’t be the one who walks to the finish line 50 minute after the start time because you took the mileage for granted.

If you’ve never run in a race before, or if you simply have not run in some time, the first thing you need to do is jog for distance.  Get to a track and see how far you can actually jog.  Some may be surprised they can only run a mile or so before they tire out.  No matter the distance you’ve run, you now have your baseline for your training.

Next, set you training schedule.  A training schedule forces you to commit to the rigorous of training to accomplish the task at hand; in which case is to run the 5k.  Whether your training schedule is run every night, every other night, or four nights per week, it needs to be a schedule you follow if you expect to achieve the goals you set for yourself.

Whatever your training schedule is, you need to be sure it is at least four nights per week.  Anything less than four nights and you probably won’t achieve your goals.  You may be able to run the race, but it still may take you in excess of 40 minutes to do so.

Once your training schedule is set, your goal with each run is not to run 3.1 miles the next time out, but to run the distance of your baseline, plus at least another 0.2 of mile.  Slightly increasing your total mileage per run will provide you the incremental adjustments your body needs to compete in a 5k race. 

Attempting to reach 3.1 miles within your first few training runs might not be attainable, especially if you achieved anything less than two miles in your baseline run.  By setting unreasonable expectations on yourself, like running 3.1 miles by end of week, may lead to discouragement.  So continue to only increase your mileage slightly with each run.  Before too long you will be covering the 3.1 mile distance.

Your next training goal, once you have cracked the 3.1 mile mark, is increasing your speed.  Time your start and end time to determine your minute-per-mile rate.  For example, if it takes you 31 minutes to run 3.1 miles, your rate is a 10 minute mile. 

Continue training by running the 3.1 mile distance and track your minute-per-mile rate with each run.  You will not see record time being slashed from your rate; however, you will see incremental increases in your speed.  Continuing to run on a set schedule will continue to help you to increase your speed, as well as increase your endurance, stamina, and conditioning for the race. 

No matter how well you feel, or how much time you are shaving off your minute-per-mile rate, do not increase your total run distance beyond the 3.1 miles however.  The temptation is now that you can run the distance you will want to increase the distance.  Continue on the 3.1 miles mission until your race is complete.  The race is a 5k; continue training for a 5k.

On race day, you probably want to position yourself somewhere in the middle to end of the pack.  The experienced runners, and the runners who want to win the race, will be positioned in the front.  Your goal for this race is to beat the time you set for yourself in your last training run, although don’t be discouraged if you don’t.  Some things you probably didn’t take into account during your training will be presented to you in the race, like running in packs, the terrain, the number of people, etc.

Now that the race is complete, compare your official results to your initial baseline results.  You will see tremendous increases across the board, not to mention the improvement in the way you feel too.

Continue on your training by setting new goals and new milestones; maybe a 5 mile run, then a 10 mile run.  Use the same training methods you used to train yourself for the 5K.  Set goals for yourself and work for incremental and attainable increases. 

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