By: Courtney Murphy

If you google “train for a 5K”, you will get an overwhelming amount of results. I have four boys and my brain is…well, let’s just say lacking a bit of the sharpness that it once possessed. And I’m fairly certain that it will never return to full capacity, so instead of dwelling on this fact, I focus on keeping everything simple when it comes to explaining just about anything. Who has time for fluff when your already busy schedule now also includes training for a race?

So, you’ve never run a 5K before…

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If the thought of running a mile is daunting to you right now, start smaller. Use a walk/run method to start out. You have a lot of time before August, so if you start now, you are sure to be running 3.1 miles by race day. Pick three days a week that you want to dedicate to running. Go out for about 30 minutes each time. Start with the first sequence and then move to the next one as it begins to feel comfortable.

5 minute walk warm up, 2 minute run, 3 minute walk, 5 times

5 minute walk warm up, 3 minute run, 2 minute walk, 5 times

5 minute walk warm up, 4 minute run, 1 minute walk, 5 times

5 minute walk warm up, 6 minute run, 1 minute walk, 5 times

5 minute walk warm up, 8 minute run, 2 minute walk, 3 times

5 minute walk warm up, 10 minute run, 2 minute walk, 3 times

5 minute walk warm up, 10 minute run, 1 minute walk, 3 times

Eliminate those walk breaks if you can!

The most important thing to remember is that everyone has been a running newbie at one point in time. Everyone has to start at the beginning and it actually IS a very good place to start. You will have easy days and tough days but if you are consistent in running three days a week, you are on your way to running your first race and that’s something to be proud of.

Start at the beginning and work forward. You can do it!

So, you’ve ran a 5K and want to get faster….

All running requires stepping outside of your comfort zone. If you can run 3.1 miles without any real effort you may want to try to push yourself to get a little faster. If you are still running three times a week, mix up your runs into three different workouts. Our muscles remember (much better than my brain) and they will get bored quickly, causing your results to plateau if you stick to the same route and the same speed every time you run.

Speed Work Day:

  • Interval Training: The above walk/run plan can be used to increase your pace during the run intervals. I have used this post-injury and post-pregnancy and it has really helped get my pace up at the same time that it has allowed time for mid-run muscle recovery.

  • Track: Run a mile warm up and cool down before and after your speed work. Try shorter repeats for a 5-K. Consider doing 6-8 400-m or 800-m repeats with a 400-m jog or walk in between. Run outside of your “conversational pace”. I tend to sprint at the track. Sprinting is not necessary, but track work is not supposed to be “easy”.

  • Hills: Hills are also a good way to increase speed and endurance. Again, start with a mile warm up and end with a mile cool down. Find a solid quarter mile hill and run up it as hard as you can 10 times. Jog or walk back down the hill.

Tempo Run: Tempo runs once a week can help as well. Run a timed 3.1 miles to get a baseline time and compare that to your race goal time. Make progress towards that pace each week by shaving time off your tempo runs. If you don’t have a running watch, of course, there’s an app for that. My favorite is the “MapMyRun” app. The cost is at my personal app price ceiling (free) and it will track your run to help you determine your splits (pace per mile) and total time and pace.

Long, Slow Distance: Run one slower longer distance run of 4 – 6 miles. This will help increase your endurance for race day.

Just run!

No matter your goal for the K5K or any other race, the important thing is to lace up those shoes and just run. Running begets running and every run makes you stronger. Hit the pavement now and the pavement will return the favor on race day. After you cross that finish line, you’ll be looking for your next race sooner than you think!

*And as always, check with your doctor before starting an exercise plan!*

AuthorNathan Daughtrey