Ready to run more than 5km? Here’s how to get it right

With a stretch in the evenings, you might be inspired to take on a longer distance

Long distance running is not just about ticking boxes and getting the medals. It does take mental strength, as well as physical

Long distance running is not just about ticking boxes and getting the medals. It does take mental strength, as well as physical

 

If you have been running the same 5km route all winter long you might be getting itchy feet to try something new. I notice a lot of runners get drawn towards longer-distance goals as soon as March arrives. Maybe it’s the stretch in the evenings or the prospect of warmer days ahead that gets us inspired to run longer. Whatever your reason, if you see 10km or longer in your running future, it is worthwhile taking a little time to plan ahead and set the right goal for you.

The road to 10km

Assuming you have been running three times per week over the last few months, you don’t need to make big changes to your training plan when you move towards 10km. In fact, you can still train three times per week. I recommend you extend your weekend run by five minutes each week and keep your other two runs at 5km distance. That way over eight weeks you gradually build towards 10km without too much impact on your current routine. Slow your pace in your weekend run as you build the distance and focus on adding the minutes rather than rushing the pace until you are comfortably at 10km.

Longest run of your life

If this is your first time to move up from 5km to 10km, you will get to experience that wonderful feeling of running the longest run your life each week for the next 6-8 weeks. These weekly distance milestones are energising and empowering. Having a weekly target helps you stay focused on the week you are in and not look too far into the future. The buzz from your weekend run keeps you motivated all week and you find yourself looking forward to the next weekend run. Noticing your distance and confidence increase week-on-week will really keep you on the right track.

Heading to half marathon

If you are already comfortably running 10km and are tempted to run longer, a half marathon is the next distance goal. Over 10-12 weeks you can move safely and gradually up to half-marathon distance. Ideally four training runs per week will get you there, but just like the 10km plan you only need to increase your distance in the weekend run. Add no more than 10 minutes to your “long run” each week to give your body time to adapt to the extra steps. As your mileage increases, let’s keep our fingers crossed that the 5km-from-home radius might be extended to allow you to vary your running loops. With all the extra steps at this distance it is really important to also consider balancing your running with strength and mobility training, and even dabble with the basics of sports psychology to help train your head for the extra time on the paths.

Put pen to paper

Like any great plan, it really helps if you can get it down on paper, put dates in your diary and tell someone else about your goal. Having support along the way is key to keeping you focused. Maybe a running buddy (virtual or local) might join you along the way. Set a date for your final run and plan a treat for yourself for when you cross that finish line. We all need something to look forward to these days and even if the finish line is virtual you have a chance now to have a focus for these next few months. If you need help with your training plans, take a look at our Get Running 10km Training Plan or our Get Running Half Marathon plan.

Still on the fence?

While you might be getting bored of your usual runs and are looking for a change, running longer is not always the answer. If you are new to running, I would recommend staying at 5km for at least 6 months before running longer. Don’t feel pressure to run further just because others are doing it. Long distance running is not just about ticking boxes and getting the medals. It does take mental strength, as well as physical, and we need to be comfortable and confident in our running before we embark on that journey. But if you have been running for a few years and feel you might be in a rut, a change of distance is certainly worth the risk. You can even try it for a month and return to your comfortable distance if you are not enjoying it.

Alternatives to long runs

Sometimes we don’t need to run longer at all; we just need to add in more variety to our training. A lot of runners follow the same path at the same pace over the same distance in every run. Staying at 5km can be made more exciting by adding speed intervals, hills, mindful runs or indeed a change of route direction. You can aim to better your technique, work on your breathing or indeed simply refresh your running playlist if you do run with music. Running longer distance doesn’t make you a “better” runner, it’s just a different focus. There is nothing wrong at all with staying at 5km if that’s what you enjoy. If you would like some structure to your training, our Stay on Track plan is the one for you.

The final lockdown

I’m being optimistic here when I suggest that these next few months might be our last to have empty diaries and more flexibility in our schedules. Once the world reopens there will be temptations everywhere to move our attention away from fitness and wellbeing. We now have a window where the world remain on hold for us. We have a chance to use this time to build on our winter running base and emerge into early summer feeling proud of what we have achieved. I can only guide you in the right direction. You have to be the one to decide what you are doing to do.

Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. Mary’s book Get Running published by Gill Books is out now. 

Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!). 
First, pick the eight-week programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: A course to take you from inactivity to running for 30 minutes.
- Stay On Track: For those who can squeeze in a run a few times a week.
- 10km Course: Designed for those who want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!

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