How to Run Faster From 5k to the Marathon

How do I get faster in all the race distances from 5k to half marathon… and maybe even the marathon?

Runners starting line

A difficult question – but one that’s probably important to you. After all, who doesn’t want to improve their race times acrosss the board?

Many runners have varied race schedules with many different types of races planned throughout the year. It might be difficult to figure out how to plan your training through such a schedule, leading to all kinds of questions:

  • If I’m racing 5k’s and half marathons, what should my long run be?
  • How do workouts look if my race goals are very different?
  • Are long runs that important if I’m just racing 5k’s?
  • How often should I schedule races in a 3-4 month training period?

All great questions. And today I have a simple solution to help you plan long-term training that will allow you to tackle many different race goals over an entire year of training.

But before we get into that, let’s remember that good training focuses on one goal race.

Yes, there can be tune-up or “B” races on the road to your goal race. But there’s only one “A” race of every season (of course, there are outliers here, but let’s keep things simple and applicable to 98% of runners).

We talked before about having too many goals. The same is true when it comes to building speed over many race distances.

First, you have to prioritize one distance. When you can do that season after season, that’s when the results begin to pile up.

My runners know that I like their focus to change throughout the year.

And that’s just what we’re discussing today.

Q&A with Coach #17: How to Run Personal Bests In Many Races

We’re tackling a fantastic question today from Nicole. She wants to know:

I loved your segment on planning a running season, but I like racing everything from the 5k to the half marathon (maybe a marathon someday).

How can I plan a year or two year block of seasons, including recovery, so that I can target and improve at different length races?

For the answer, watch the latest episode of Q&A with Coach:

Show Notes:

  • :30 – Why I’m feeling so good about running right now
  • 1:40 – How to get fast in many different races
  • 2:20 – Should you focus on one or two races?
  • 2:35 – Get the Season Planner Worksheet
  • 2:40 – The 3-Season approach to training
  • 5:35 – Why focus on different types of races?
  • 6:40 – The ideal length of each training season
  • 7:20 – The role of planned rest in an annual plan
  • 8:25 – Why shouldn’t you plan two years ahead of time?

Big thanks to Nicole for submitting her question! Feel free to email me your #RunQuestion or tweet it to me on Twitter.

Run Faster Across the Board

There’s a concept that I often explain to my 1-on-1 runners:

PR’s lead to more PR’s!

It’s a simple concept. If you run a personal record in one distance, it’s likely that you’re ready to run a personal record in another distance.

Andy Wacker summed this concept up perfectly in our mountain running interview when he said “fitness is fitness.”

While specificity is critical, fitness from one type of race transfers to another race quite well. If you ran a new PB in the 5k, chances are you can probably run a PB in the 10k.

Even if your goal is to run a faster marathon, focusing on the 10k or half-marathon distance for a season is a great idea. Building your speed for a 3-4 month block of time will increase your fitness for the marathon even though you’re not running “marathon workouts.”

Planning a variety of training cycles for different races has clear benefits and I encourage you to avoid training for the same distance year after year.

Download our free Season Planner Worksheet to help plan your racing goals!

This long-term strategy can be seen in how elite runners plan their running and how high school and university athletes focus on racing.

Take me for example. In college, the fall season was reserved for 8k cross country. During indoor track I focused on the mile and 3,000m. And in outdoor track I focused on the 3,000m Steeplechase and 5k.

The race distances and demands vary significantly. But I knew that if I improved my personal bests during track, then improvement was virtually guaranteed next fall in cross country.

Use these same principles to influence your long-term race planning and I know you’ll see great results.

Run strong!
– Jason.

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