Training with others makes training easier.
David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images
Training for your first 5,000 meter race places you in the company of those who've completed the most popular road-race distance in the United States. Over six million people completed at least one of these events in 2012, according to Running USA. At 3.107 miles, a 5K is accessible to both walkers and brand-new runners. If you're a runner who's starting from scratch and want to maximize your chances of having a positive 5K experience, allow yourself six months to train.
If you're new to goal-directed running, you need some key skills to get you to through the training program. Whether you're in your 40s and 50 pounds over your ideal weight or you're in your early 20s with a significant athletic background, patience is an absolute requirement in distance running. Start any program by consulting with your physician if you are over 40, completely sedentary or 20 or more pounds overweight. Set a scheduled time to work out to ensure you get your exercise in as you commit to a six-month training program. As you train, expect to have days when you feel awful, and don't rush -- use the full six months to train.
The First Two Months -- Finding Your Running Legs
The early stages of your training are -- paradoxical as it may seem -- the most important. Although you'll do far less running overall than in the months closer to your goal race, getting over your initial self-doubt, lack of running fitness and general familiarity with the activity is a monumental achievement in itself. "Runner's World" advocates taking one day off a week altogether in your first two months and reserving two others for easy 30-minute walks, except in the final few weeks, when you replace one of those walks with a mixed walk-run workout. On the other four days, combine running and walking in a mix that is challenging, but not overwhelmingly difficult; the aim is to be able to run for 30 straight minutes by the end of these two months.
The Next Two Months -- Building Your Base
Now that you can run continuously for almost as long or longer than it will take you to complete your 5K race, make covering the miles you run more comfortable. To this end, gradually increase the amount of running you do every week. Continue to take one complete rest day and increase the length of both your walking workout and your walk-run mixed workout to 45 minutes. On the other four days, run continuously for 20 to 30 minutes at first and for 20 to 45 by the end of the fourth month. Replace your running shoes by the end of this period, and as often as you can, run on soft surfaces such as grass or a treadmill.
The Final Two Months -- Speed, Tapering and the Race
Introduce formal speed training into your routine at this stage. Once a week, head to a 400-meter track and run at a pace you feel like you could hold for 5K for a total of eight to 12 laps, broken into segments of half a lap to four laps. In between, rest for half the time it takes you to run these segments. Record how fast you run these and use the times to formulate a reasonable 5K goal. Cut your training to about half of its peak value in the final two weeks before the race by limiting your runs to 20 to 30 minutes. On race morning, drink lots of water and know you've done what it takes to achieve your goal.