I often see runners make the jump over night from training for shorter races to training for a marathon. I have seen it first hand with friends and the result is not always pretty. I am a believer in building training plans for athletes based off their strengths and weaknesses. For example, the race schedule of a 5k runner is going to be totally different than the schedule of someone training for their 20th marathon.
Too often we compare ourselves to the person next to us. We are all different athletes. Most of us are not getting paid to train or do these races. This is our hobby and ultimately a sport we want to participate in for many years to come. I tell people all the time that there is no shame in training for short distance races. I encourage my runners to think of the longevity of their health and wellness when picking races. If you are banged up, training for a marathon is probably not the smartest option.
You don’t have to run marathons to be considered a runner. In fact, some of the best runners in the United States only focus on events like the 5k or 10k. Since we are all different, our bodies respond differently to the various types of training. So much factors into the success on athlete while training. For example, we all live lives outside of running. If we don’t account for other daily stresses we are missing out on training an athlete at their best.
On both ends of the spectrum, if you want to improve as a distance runner, you must stress different systems. A marathon runner must work on their speed and a 5k runner must improve their strength to improve at their respective distances. There are no secret numbers here. It’s about finding what works best for you. Consistency, smart training, and constantly challenging yourself is the way to go in my opinion.
This sport is supposed to be fun. You owe it to yourself to pick races that you genuinely enjoy to compete in. If you want to train for a marathon, that’s great. If you want to train to get your half marathon or 5k time down, that’s great too! Find a training program, racing schedule, and routine that fits best for your life and needs. Good luck!
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