It's easy with the Boston Marathon this weekend to think you’ll never run a marathon! Well, everyone has to start somewhere, and where better than a 5k?
It’s a fun distance, it’s easily trained for, and you don’t have to give up a lot to do it! One great thing about a 5k is that, like fitness programs such as Ultimate Bootcamp, they can be for all abilities. It can be your goal to finish it, maybe finish it without stopping, maybe even finish it in the fastest time you’ve ever done! Regardless of your competitive nature – or level – running a road race is a very rewarding way to take your fitness out to the streets!
To get started, the first thing to do is commit. By committing, you’ll give yourself the best chance to participate in it. The best way to commit? Sign up! Start by picking a race in your area so you can get there easily. Pick a date at least 5 or 6 weeks out, giving yourself the time to train. Websites like active.com and coolrunning.com have full race listings.
Once you’ve signed up, tell people! By telling others, you’ll find it much harder to back out! Plus – who knows – you might even get a friend to sign up with you, giving you a training partner!
So how do you train?
It might seem a bit overwhelming, but it really doesn’t need to be. Plan on running three to four times a week. If you’re newer to running, focus on time, not mileage. If you set out to run a particular distance, and you can’t, it can be discouraging. Instead, run for as long as you can without stopping.
For the next 2 or 3 runs, run the same amount of time, with the plan of increasing that time a little every other run or so. Remember – your goal is to reach the finish line, not to get there in record time! If you’re so exhilarated when you do cross the line that you can’t wait for the next one, then that’s when to start thinking about how fast you’re running it!
To get a sense for where you are in terms of your ability to finish, see how long you can run for. Then measure that distance on an online measuring site like mapmyrun.com - their IPhone and Android fitness apps make it easy. That way you’ll know what’s ahead of you. It will also give you a sense for how long the total 5k race (3.1 miles) will take you, and that in turn will help your training.
If you absolutely have to insist on being a clock-watcher, to increase your 5k pace add an interval run once a week to your 5k training program. Try running three separate one-mile intervals, rather than a single three-mile interval. Run for one mile at a pace that’s faster than your regular runs. Rest, and repeat three times. That will help you to improve your 5k speed much more quickly than some of the other interval training methods. Sites like runnersworld.com offer pace-measuring tools that help you to track your progress and understand what your pace is.
Remember the most important thing – have fun! Taking your fitness out of it’s regular surroundings and applying it to a road race should be a rewarding and enjoyable experience! You’ve got your whole life ahead of you to take it more seriously if you wish. Who knows – maybe this time next year you’ll be training for a slightly different race…the 2012 Boston Marathon…?
This article was written by Ultimate Bootcamp Co-Founder Peter Lavelle. In addition to many race types and distances, Peter has completed three Boston Marathons, most recently in under 3.5 hours. His wide variety of sport-specialist training has included many running athletes and running clubs alike.