A few months back I wrote a post called “So you wanna do a 5k?”
I’ve had so many people ask me about how I started doing races and share their insecurities about starting their own running journeys with me. I always respond the same way: “Insecurities that may be floating around in your head should never come in between you and your goals!” Like I’ve stressed before, don’t wait until the “perfect” moment because that perfect moment is NOW!
One of the most common insecurities I hear comes from friends and readers that have just completed their first few 5ks and would like to try more. The urge for a greater challenge is in their minds, but so is that dreaded self-doubt that comes along with being a beginner or atypical runner:
- What if I can’t finish by the cut-off time?
- What if I slow down other runners on the course?
- What if I just end up being in the way?
- What if I can’t finish at all?
- What if I get hurt?
If the idea for trying a longer distance race is something you’ve been thinking about, wash out those negative notions! You CAN do a longer or more challenging race if you set yourself up for success! Here’s how.
The first step?
1. Choose a race. What distance would you like to tackle? You know you’re able to complete a 5k, so let’s look at your options:
- 5 mile- Some races offer a 5 mile run (like Miles for Moffitt in Tampa).
- 10k (6.2 miles)- This distance is a popular one and a great step in adding a little more of a challenge.
- 15k (9.3 miles)- This distance is a bit tougher (think three 5ks!), but with the right training and mindset, it’s totally doable!
- half marathon (13.1 miles)- Definitely a goal I never dreamed I could complete, but again, with time, training and a positive attitude, you can too!
- full marathon (26.2 miles)- I wouldn’t suggest tackling this distance right away. Full marathons take a lot of commitment and training, but it is something you CAN work your way up to if it’s something you’d like to cross off your bucket list (like my friend Nanci did!).
Once you’ve decided on a distance, start doing some research. You’ll want to look for races 3-4 months in advanced to ensure you have given yourself enough time to train and prepare. Some things to consider when searching for a longer distance race are:
- Location and race course. Time of year (think temperatures/rain!), bridges, hills, shade/no shade will all affect how you will need to train, so keep all of these factors in mind.
- Time limits. How long will you be given to complete the race? What is the minimum pace you’ll need to maintain? If you’re planning to walk (or even walk/run in intervals) look for races that allow an 18:00-20:00 minute mile minimum pace. *And remember- it’s OK to walk at any race!
- Cost. Always consider the cost of races and how the price will fit into your budget. Longer distance races tend to be a bit more expensive than 5ks so take this into consideration when searching for a race. The good news? There are many websites (like Groupon or Living Social) and healthy living bloggers that partner with race organizers to provide discounts to users and readers. A quick web search will point you in the money saving direction! Another tip- race registration prices typically increase the closer you get to race day. Register early if possible!
- REGISTER. Once you’ve chosen your longer distance race, the next step (of course) is to register! The great thing about hitting that “complete my registration” button is that once it’s done, you’re in! The commitment has been made and now you’re goal is set. You gain instant motivation knowing that you have a reason to keep pushing through workouts and your training plan. Go you!
Once you’ve officially inked a race onto your calendar…
2. Begin training. Start by choosing a training plan that will work for you. Depending on the distance you’ve chosen, you may be selecting anywhere from a 10 week to 16 week plan. In addition to the varied time lengths of the plan, you’ll also find that plans vary in context (weekly mileage, number of workouts, etc). Research each plan and figure out which one will fit into your work and home schedule best. A good beginning longer distance training plan should begin with something close to a 5k (3.1 miles). If it starts with anything higher, it may not be a doable plan for you.
If you are planning to walk or do a combination of walk/run intervals for your first longer race, I suggest taking a look at the Galloway method training plans! His beginner half marathon plan prepared me for my first 13.1 miles earlier this year, and even helped me meet my goal of finishing under 3:45!
In addition to a race training plan, make sure to consistently continue (or start!) non-running cross and strength training. It’s a great way to supplement your runs, and helps you fight off fatigue! Think swimming, cycling, using a rower, or elliptical. *And don’t forget the importance of rest days!
Once your training is all squared away…
4. SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS! Signing up for your first longer distance race is something you’ll want to tell the world! Not only will that help cement your new goal into your mind, but it will also give you a great opportunity to meet potential training partners and run groups, allow you to build your collection of tips from experienced walkers and runners who have done distances longer than a 5k, and even collect some recipe ideas to help you fuel and nourish your body as you train.
Now that you’re ready to start training, let’s discuss…
5. Essentials! Clothing, footwear, food and hydration. Have a plan for it ALL. Just like a 5k, it’s important to make sure you have the proper footwear and to make sure you wear the same running shoes (and socks!) during your training that you plan to wear on race day. Ditto for the clothing. Comfortable, breathable, moisture-wicking, and fitted (not too loose, not too tight) are the rules all good walkers and runners live by.
Hydration, as I’m sure you already know from completing 5ks, is of the utmost importance, so have a plan for your training and for race day. Longer races will offer lots of water (and even Gatorade stops sometimes) along a course. But you can also invest in a hand held water bottle or race belt with water bottles attached around it to stay hydrated as you train. Just make sure to train with these items if you decide to use them so that you’re accustomed to walking or running with them on your body.
Same goes with nutrition. Think about what will work for you, especially in regards to refueling during the race. I know some walkers and runners use things like Gu or electrolyte jelly beans to refuel as they train and on race day. Others I know pack snack bags of dried fruits and nuts, protein bars, and even things like beef jerky! Whatever you decide, make sure to fuel your body on race day the same way you did during your training. Nothing new- ever! Stick with what works and don’t give your body any big surprises on race day.
I hope this post will inspire you to take the leap into longer races! Remember- if it’s something you want to accomplish, then go for it! Don’t ever let anything, especially insecurities, get in your way. The race community is SUCH a welcoming, inspiring and supportive community. You’ll find your place in it as soon as you decide to try! As always, if you would ever like to connect, I’d be happy to give you any additional tips or motivation you still might need to set this goal of going for a longer race. You can contact me through Twitter @Orangespoken or on FB by following the link on the right side of my blog page.
Also! If you’re a beginner or plus-sized/curvy runner just beginning your journey to your first 5k or longer, please click on the link and submit your story! I’ll be featuring someone fabulous each week to help inspire and motivate! Click here for the form.
Looking forward to hearing some of your AMAZING goals and AMAZING success stories!