How to finish your first 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon or ultra
By Scott Forrester | Contributed
Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner
Certified Personal Trainer
While the process of looking ahead to a goal may seem daunting it is good to remember a lesson that we can learn from a natural element – water.
Although water can be seen as a substance without power that trickles out between your fingers when you try to hold onto it, the force of flowing water created the Grand Canyon and the river that now flows as much as 5,000 feet below the surrounding terrain.
Even though the process took a very long time, unimaginable quantities of rock were moved to create the canyon. This is nature’s way of stating the principle that anything can be accomplished over time. Persistence, patience and incremental training are powerful forces of the process which can empower us to reach our goals.
If you have never completed a 5K or have not run in a very long time, a good way to start is by using the walk/run method. It is one of the best methods to use initially to build running endurance and is easily adaptable to each individual.
You might start by running for 30 seconds, then walking for 2 minutes. Complete cycles of 30 seconds/2 minutes until you have completed 1 mile. Two other times in the week include another session of walking that is more brief than the one mentioned above.
On the second week you can increase your endurance by beginning to run for 45 seconds, walk 2 minutes and also increase the distance to 1 ½ miles. This is your long run. Again, add two easier sessions during the week.
On the third week you might be able to increase your running time to 1 minute and stay at 2 minutes walking and a distance of 1 ½ miles. Eventually you will find yourself at intervals of 2 minutes of running and 2 minutes walking.
Allow yourself around 3 months for the build up to the first 5K. By then you could have increased to 4 minutes of running and 2 minutes of walking. You will thus be running two thirds of the time.
Awareness, even above persistence, is key to success. I have seen people who could easily do more than this and I have definitely seen people who needed to start with less and needed much more help with their running form.
Pay attention to how you feel and modify this incremental approach to suit your needs. Adapt to doing less if necessary, even if it seems that you are starting very small. You will be amazed at the long term results if you really pay attention to yourself and not to other people’s expectations. Persistence won’t last if you don’t listen to the body’s cues.
You can definitely use this approach for longer distances. I once ran a half marathon in 2:08 by running 6 minutes and walking 1, running about 85 percent of the time and walking briskly. As the distances get longer this method becomes even more valuable. Almost everyone walks some in the longer ultras, at very least pausing at the aid stations.