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This year, I'm planning on running a 5k, a 10k, and a half marathon in 2015. The dates of the races other than the 5k haven't been announced yet. However, based on last year's dates, there will be about 2 months (9 weeks or so) between the 5k and the 10k and about 4 months (16 weeks) between the 10k and the half marathon. I'm also planning on moving from a maintenance schedule to a training schedule after the holidays, leaving me with about 12 weeks of training before the 5k.

I completed a 5k last year, and have ran 10k training runs, but never competed at that distance. My official 5k time is 29:32. I'd like to get that down to 25:00 or less. I'd also like to run an official 10k of less than 1:00:00 (hopefully ~55:00) and a half marathon in ~2:30:00, if those times are reasonable.

How should I manage my training? I see four obvious solutions that seem reasonable:

  • Train for the 5k from leading up to the 5k. Follow a 10k training plan in the 2 months between the 5k and 10k. Follow a half marathon training plan in the 3 months between the 10k and half marathon.
  • Train for a 10k through the 10k. Switch to a more race-friendly schedule the week of the 5k. Train for the half marathon from the end of the 10k through the half marathon.
  • Train for the 5k through the 5k. Follow a half marathon training plan from the 5k until the half marathon. Switch to a more race-friendly schedule on the week of the 10k.
  • Train for the half marathon starting in early January. Switch to a more race-friendly schedule the weeks of the 5k and 10k.

Is one preferable over the others, or conversely, is one a worse idea that should be discounted?

  • Train for your longest distance. If you have base and speedwork, you should be able to race effectively at any distance up to your targeted max. – JohnP Dec 9 '14 at 14:55
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I find it hard to define a regimented schedule that you can follow for that span of time. The main advice you can follow for any distance is that you have to listen to your body as you go. Good nutrition and hydration must also be maintained. And at each level you also want to keep your training interesting so that you stick with it.

5k

12 weeks gives you a lot of time to ramp up slowly to the first race. However, considering that you have ran a 5k in the past, you may be able to achieve your 5k goal before the race. (Obviously this depends on when you ran your last 5k, what kind of fitness you have maintained, etc.) If so, then you may find your body letting you increase the amount of time you spend running each week beyond the minimum training for a 5k race. Listen to your body as you train, adjust your training schedule as you go.

10k

Training smart during those first 12 weeks will pay off for your next race. This is just doing a 5k then running back to where you started, right? As long as you're able to increase your running time (or miles) each week, say approximately +10% per week, you may find that going from a 5k to a 10k is not a significant jump. Again, adjust your training as you go. Aim for faster or longer runs if things feel great, but also get enough rest to prevent injury.

21k

Personally, the first several times I started running beyond an hour at a time, I found myself more drained than I expected. I found that I had to run with food (running gels, raisins, bars, etc.) to keep running after an hour. Everyone is different. See how you feel after your first time running 15k. It will probably be some time before you can tack on that last bit to reach the half marathon distance. Not to say that the 5k or 10k races are easy, but I find a schedule really helps when training for this distance. Just something to make you aware of the mileage you're aiming for. Something like this may be a good guide for you. Notice the tapering during the last two weeks of training - this is probably wise for beginners but may not be necessary for seasoned runners. If you do your research you may be able to find a training guide particularly designed for the half marathon time you desire.

Beyond

Lastly, define what is important to you. I assume overall fitness is the main goal, more so than your time in a race. There are endless 5k, 10k and half marathon races out there. So if you are not ready or something in life comes up, don't be afraid to reschedule. You can still reach your running goals even if you can't make a race or the dates of races shift. Good luck and have fun!

  • Although this is a good answer, it really doesn't explicitly answer the question I asked. Of the four training plans I presented, which one (or an alternative training plan) is the best? It sounds like you are in favor of the first option - train for each race in the time leading up to that race. If so, could you make that explicit and perhaps state why the other ones (primarily the fourth option I present in my question, which was my leading choice going into it) aren't necessarily the best? – Thomas Owens Dec 15 '14 at 12:46
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Among elite runners, the mileage loads and base training doesn't differ that much between the 5K, 10K, and half marathon distances (q.v. Marty Liquori's Real Running). That being said, in the case of a beginner runner I would use the following rule of thumb. If you cannot comfortably complete the distance at tempo pace, then you probably should not attempt to complete it on racing day. If you step out of your body's comfort zone while also going at race pace, you could get injured.

And I agree with what haa already been said that you should listen to your body.

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