Everyone has to start somewhere, and most will embark on their running careers with a 5k or a 10k. Then, the chances are, you will be keen to step up the distance to half marathon or a marathon.
We offer a guide to building up to your next longer race.
Slowly but surely
The key to staying injury free and motivated is to build up your training slowly but surely. Never add more than 10% in terms of distance and effort to each week of your training programme.
If you are planning to run a longer race you will need to focus on increasing the mileage of your longest weekly run. Most people follow a training plan of several shorter, faster runs each week and then one longer run at a weekend. Remember the “no more than 10% rule” but aim to give carefully increase the mileage of that longer run each week.
Short and faster
Running shorter but faster interval based sessions will help if you want to run a good time for a longer event. Think about the pace that you would hope to run each mile or kilometre in a Personal Best-timed race. Running set repetitions of 1km or one mile at your hoped-for pace (tempo pace) will help, in the end, to improve fitness and offer a guidance to pace when you run the event.
The general rule is to increase mileage and intensity for three weeks and then include a recovery week. Recovery does not mean doing nothing, it means that you should step back the mileage and intensity a bit for the fourth week before you embark on the next three weeks of build up. It’s important to include easier days in each week of training, too. Recovery days and weeks allows the muscles to rest and grow stronger.
Listen to your body
This doesn’t mean you can find lots of excuses for missing a training session but if you feel really tired and awful let yourself have an easier session or give it a miss and try again the next day.
If you are planning to run a longer race you need to be realistic about your expectations. Look for a training programme that is suited to you previous 5k or 10k times. Also think about the amount of time you have to spare each week for training.
Once you have tried a couple of longer races you can start to think about running a faster time. You will have experienced the race and you will know, in yourself, what might be possible.
Ask an expert
If you have your heart set on a particular time for a race or a PB you could employ a coach to help you, or join a club. Running according to a programme detailed by a specialist, or with others who have more experience, will help immensely in your progress towards a longer-distance race.
Find a friend
If you find that running longer distances is a bit dull find a friend who can run with you. Chatting while you run will keep the pace within the right comfort zone and will help the time to fly by.
Mix it up
All running and no other forms of exercise has the potential for repetitive-use injuries. Try to add in sessions of yoga for flexibility, gym work for strengthening and recovery days of other activities, such as swimming or cycling.
There are many sports aids to help runners including GPS gadgets keep track of mileages and speed (this helps with motivation) and foam rollers and massage balls, plus Hyperice products (this helps with recovery). Don’t be afraid to make use of modern technology as you build up to a longer race.
Good luck with your training this year if you plan to step up to a longer running race.