It’s warming up and you might have decided it’s time to reach or test your physical fitness, and there’s no easier way than one of the thousands of running events that will be happening over the coming months. If you’ve never trained for one of these events before, however, there are a few things you should keep in mind as you prepare.
5k and 10k Training
There’s a gap between 5k & 10k training and half marathon & above training. With the shorter distances, there’s no need to make major adjustments to your diet or to build up a consistent weekend long run over a period of months.
With the 5k/10k distances, if you can comfortably run a couple miles at a conversational pace before starting to train, and have six to eight weeks before the race date, you have a good foundation of fitness to run these races competently.
You will still need to put in 2-4 hours a week of running, increasing in distance and intensity as you get towards your race date, but if you’re not gunning for a new personal best time, there’s not much more you’ll need to do.
Half Marathon Training
The 13.1 miles (21k) that a half marathon covers jumps past the fairly straightforward schedule of 6-8 weeks for 5k/10k races to one that is definitely more challenging, spanning 3-4 months.
As we noted above, the biggest changes when you get to this distance of training are:
- change in diet: you are going to want quality protein and whole-grain carbs after your runs, and 300-400 calorie snacks after long runs
- change in distance: you are going to want to do long runs each weekend of training, peaking at close to your 13 mile total in the final weeks before your race
You’ll need to think about this more as a part-time project you’re taking on for a few months, rather than just a muscled-up version of your regular exercise routine.
Strength Training and Injury
Whichever level of race you plan to take on, strength training is going to help you, but remember to match the intensity of those workouts to what you’re doing running-wise.
If you do get injured, either running or in strength training, you don’t have to give up your race: consider swimming or cycling to keep your fitness level while allowing the injury to heal. As a rule of thumb you should never run injured.
Cause and Support
You might really enjoy running a race for a particular cause you want to support, or you might enjoy running with your family or a band of brothers to build some camaraderie, or you just might want to push yourself out of your comfort zone and prove you’ve still got plenty in the tank. There are plenty of websites like Runner’s World that offer detailed (and free) training guides for each level of runner and desired finish times.
Most importantly, remember to be patient and take your time: you’re building your running body and adapting it to new challenges and demands. Rushing it generally won’t lead anywhere good.