A great place to start, race the distance we run in group sessions
Once you have completed your first 5k you may find that this is the distance that you love and you want to focus on getting faster at this distance and improving your times.
If you run for at least 30 minutes at a time, 2 to 3 times a week then you are ready for your first "race" of a 5km. This can be a parkrun or an organised event, there are lots around. Even though the distance is quite short you still need to concentrate on building your endurance, so the base foundations of your running. This is because you still need to be able to run the race distance comfortably. A general rule of thumb is that your weekly mileage should be 3 times the distance of the race itself, so for a 5k you should be able to run a weekly mileage of 9 miles per week. You should also have completed at least two thirds of the race distance itself in your long runs, for a 5km run this is 2miles. These figures are the minimum really a just a guide of where you should be building your base on.
Build gradually so that your body gets used to the training programme, some runners just run and when a race comes along that they feel like doing they just do it. There is no plan and they are not interested in training for a better time, and that is fine, there are lots of positives to this way of thinking. Other runners like to have a plan with a specific goal at the end of it as a training plan consists of different phases, eundurance, strengthening and then speed. This type of training sharpens a runner to an ultimate performace race or goal, and whilst we all have to fit in our lives as most of us are not professional runners, I like to have a bit of a plan for the normal, average runner. And remember it isn't set in stone, it's just a recipe where we see what works and what doesn't, we can add bits in and take bits out.
The 5k plan
The plan is built on 10-20 miles per week with long runs of 5-7 miles. It is important to get speedwork and strength into your 5k plan as you'll be running at close to your maximum aerobic capacity and in a 5k there isn't any room for pacing errors. If you start off too fast or surge too quickly you'll soon be running too slow; your muscles will accumulate lactic acid very quickly and that bear will get you! BUT if you start too slow it's a very hard job to get back on goal pace to catch up. Start no more than 5-10 seconds per mile faster than you want to average, the safest thing to do is start at a pace that you think you can average and then you can pick it up later if you feel strong enough. Racing a 5k requires concentration and getting the balance right and listening to your body. Keep pushing a steady pace, if you loose it you will loose seconds on your finish time and in 5k races the improvements come in seconds so every second counts. Break the race down into segments, mile 1, mile 2, mile 3 and the final 1/10th of a mile. During the first mile find your rhythm, settle into a steady, strong pace. Hit the 1 mile mark at or slightly faster than race goal pace. In the second mile, pick up the effort slightly to keep the pace, push a little more the thrid mile and focus on your good techniques and don't loose focus. With the final 600m of the last third mile gradually accelerate, take out runners in front of you to keep you focused. Then at the third mile mark think about your speed training 400m session, keep the image of how much longer you have to go, change the gear a bit more, remember your training and push to take those final seconds off.
The great thing about 5k's is that you can do them often and get used to the pace as the recovery should be quite quick, a lot less than a 10k and half marathon. Good Luck