Running is not all about half and full-marathons. Training for a 5km is a great way to pick up some speed, as coach Chris Donald explains

Many newcomers to running fall into the trap of thinking the further the better when it comes to racing. But if you have completed a half or full-marathon, then what next? For many, the answer should be to train for a 5km, a distance that requires you to focus more on speed and less on slogging out the miles.

There are many advantages to training for a shorter event. For starters, there are plenty of options for 5km events, including the weekly parkruns held around the country (see below). Since your legs will recover more quickly after running just over three miles, you will find that you can race more often. And, as your times tumble and your leg speed increases, there is a pay-off: you will perform better at the longer distances when you return to give them a try.

So, where to start? I have compiled a four-week schedule for runners who have completed a half-marathon and are looking for a new challenge (pace can be adjusted for your level). My advice is to run 5km races at fairly regular intervals as the PB improvements can be hugely motivating.

Week 1

5km: 20-25 minutes

Week 1 5km

Week 2

5km: 20-25 minutes

Week 2 5km

Week 3

5km: 20-25 minutes

Week 3 5km

Week 4

5km: 20-25 minutes

Week 4 5km

Five top tips for your first 5km

1 A good warm-up is essential for such a short race. If you take the first mile to “get going” then a third of your race is already over.

2 Your warm-up should be dynamic and progressive, ie, starting slowly and getting harder as it progresses.

3 A 5km differs from a half-marathon in that you don’t really get a chance to find your pace – you need to go out hard from the start.

4 If you are looking for a fast time and it’s not a chip-timed race then get yourself as close to the start line as possible.

5 parkruns are a great way to test the water at 5km. These are free events held weekly at hundreds of locations around the UK and elsewhere. You will need to register at parkrun.org.uk.

» Chris Donald is a regional trainer and senior tutor for UK Athletics, a Level 3 UKA coach, a qualified natural running coach and a lecturer in sports science at Thames Valley University. He is also head coach and director at Purple Patch Running (purplepatchrunning.com)