Short-distance Running Tips

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What workouts can I do to train for shorter races?

Use Short Intervals To Train For Short Distances

If you aren't running a marathon anytime soon and your current goal is to run a great 10K in two months, try some speed work. If you don't have access to a track, or if you do but you prefer not to run around in circles, try this workout once a week:

Start with your favorite 8-10 mile run. Use your watch and run at a normal pace for 8-10 minutes, then pick up the pace to about 80 percent of your maximum effort (not a full-out sprint, but too fast to talk) for 2 minutes, then drop back to an easy, relaxed pace for 2 minutes. Then pick up the pace for 4 minutes, run easy for 2 minutes, pick up the pace for 6 minutes, run easy for 2 minutes, pick up the pace for 8 minutes, run easy for 2 minutes, then reverse the process and pick up the pace for 6 minutes, then run easy for 2 minutes, pick up the pace for 4 minutes run easy for 2 minutes, pick up the pace for 2 minutes, then run easy for 2 minutes.

Give yourself at least 5 minutes of easy running at the end of the workout, and you may run for an easy 15-20 minutes at the end of the workout if you are on a 10-mile route. You can both stop and start your watch for each pickup time or let it go continuously; these times don't have to be exact to the second.

Do I need to warm-up before a short-distance race?

Include Pre-Race Warm-up Prior To A Short Race

If you are running a short distance race of 10 miles or less, warm up with a 10-minute warm-up jog, especially if you plan to run faster than a normal training run. A warm-up jog is just that—slow and easy running. But remember to time yourself and don't run too far away from the start. You don't want to find yourself sprinting back to the starting line at the last minute.

How long should my short runs be?

Short Distance Recovery Runs: Keep Them Short

When a marathon training plan calls for a short run, it is usually less than 8 miles. Even if you feel great, resist the urge to add mileage. The weekly long training run is the important mileage builder in marathon training, and short runs on the other days of the week are part of the recovery process. You won't be any less conditioned if you run 5 miles rather than 10 miles on a random Wednesday when you are running 17 miles on Saturday.

Do I need different shoes for short distance running?

You Don't Need Speedy Shoes For Short Distance Races

Some runners who are serious competitors in 5-K and 10-K races wear heavier shoes for long runs and marathons and change to their “performance trainers” for shorter races. I only recommend this if you are an experienced runner without any major biomechanical problems. Unless you are a top-level competitor, you aren't going to get an edge from wearing thinner, lighter shoes, especially if you are running on the road rather than on a track. If you wear shoes with insufficient support and cushioning for a 10-K race, your feet and knees will let you know, and you probably won't make that mistake again.

Can I train for a marathon and 10-K at the same time?

Don't Train For Short And Long Distances At The Same Time

Keep in mind that it is hard to train simultaneously for a marathon and for a 10K, or another short race. If you are doing high-intensity speed workouts and weekly long training runs, you are at increased risk of injury because these are two different types of running but both are stressful to your muscles.

Focus on one race at a time. A speed workout in a marathon training plan usually involves longer intervals (such as an 8-minute tempo run, or mile intervals), while a runner focusing on a 5K or 10K will want to do shorter intervals, such as 200- or 400-meter repeats. If you are using the 10K itself as a tempo run that is incorporated into your marathon training plan, you don't need to obsess about doing a lot of 200- or 400-meter intervals to prepare for that 10K. Save your competitive 10K training for when you are not also training for a marathon.


5K as Pace Drill

A 5K is a great way for beginning runners to gain confidence and learn about pacing, especially if the goal is to eventually run a marathon.

For beginning runners, and especially beginning runners training for a fall marathon, a spring 5K has several advantages:

-Get a sense of the race setting. If you have never been to a road race, a local 5K can help you get a feel for what the start of a race is like, with crowded port-a-potties, jostling bodies, slower people ahead of you, crowded water stops. Getting comfortable in a short race environment will translate well into the marathon setting.

-Pacing. Running a 5K early in your marathon training can help you get a sense of what a pace that's slightly faster than your training pace feels like. As you continue with marathon training and longer distances, this slightly faster pace should feel more comfortable.

How can short races help my marathon training?

Use Short Races To Test Gear And Strategies

Short races can be a great way test a new brand of socks, shorts, or any other gear that you might use in a marathon to see how it works in a race situation. Avoid wearing or using anything brand-new in any race; try to test something on a training run first. But it can be reassuring to see how certain plans work in a race situation, such as whether you can easily carry two packs of gel in your new shorts (even if you are not eating any of them during a 10K race) and whether you can throw away an extra shirt at a water stop on a chilly day without getting tangled up in it.

Can half marathon races help my marathon training?

Half Marathons Help You Hone Your Marathon Pacing

Half-marathons (13.1 miles) are a great way to help you get a sense of what your marathon pace may be. If you are really pushing yourself in a half marathon you will probably be running faster than you would for a full marathon. But if you run a half marathon at a pace that is slightly faster than your usual pace for long, slow distance runs (too fast to talk easily, but not so fast that you are exhausted), you will develop a sense of how it feels to maintain a consistent, but slightly faster pace for 13.1 miles. Ideally, when you finish a half marathon that you are using as a training run, you should feel like you could run the course again at a similar pace and feel tired but not completely wiped out.

What is a good starting point for beginner runners?

5K: An Ideal Distance for Beginners to Race

Shorter distances naturally appeal to beginning runners, because they offer an attainable goal. In fact, using a simple plan, a beginning runner – with no previous running history – can successfully run a 5K after only eight weeks of training!

There are several reliable eight-week training plans available, including one from running legend Hal Higdon. And, for those pressed for time, one plan consists of only three 20 to 30-minute workouts per week.

Don't expect to set any world records using these plans, but they do offer a reliable way to experience the fun of racing in pretty short order.


Strong Backs for Short Races

If short-distance running is your focus, you might think that you can power through a 5K or 10K without much cross training. But you are missing a chance to run better and feel better.

Make cross training part of your routine for short-distance running and you'll feel stronger and reduce your risk for injury. For example, try some back stretches as a way to introduce yourself to core strength training. An easy one is the locust pose. You need not be a yoga guru to do this one.

Here's how:

-Lie on your stomach on a mat, towel, or rug.

-Stretch your arms behind you, reaching towards your feet. If you can, interlace your fingers behind your back.

-Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, lift your legs and shoulders off the floor. Reach straight back with your arms and legs. If you're doing it right, you should feel your pelvic bones on the floor, so place a towel under your torso if this gets uncomfortable.

-Hold for 5 seconds. Relax. Repeat 2-3 times.


Advantages of Running Shorter Distances

You don't have to run marathons to “be a runner” – or to enjoy the many benefits of running.
• Running for as little as 20 minutes three times a week provides significant cardio-vascular benefit.
• Training for and running shorter races takes less time away from other activities.
• Studies indicate that running more than 45 miles per week does not significantly increase fitness, but does increase the risk of injury.
• Races as short as 5K provide all the social benefits of most longer races – but without the heavy investment in time.


Running Shoes for Shorter Races, Part 1

Many runners – especially in shorter road races – prefer to compete in racing shoes. Racing shoes are lighter and more flexible than training shoes. But there's a trade-off.

To make racing shoes lighter and more flexible, manufacturers remove weight where it's easiest: the midsole. This means that racing shoes don't offer motion control like pronation-control or supinate running shoes do. And there's less cushioning – often a great deal less.

Racing shoes may be a good choice for lighter runners with no biomechanical issues. But roads are unforgiving… overpronators, supinators and heavy runners should probably race – even relatively short distances like a 5K – in a good pair of training shoes.


Translating Track Distances

The U.S. is one of only two nations that haven't converted to the metric system. However, most activities of an international scope in the U.S. have converted. The good news is that many races on the track are very roughly equivalent to distances that are familiar to most Americans.
• 400 meters is approximately a quarter-mile
• 800 meters is approximately a half-mile
• 1,500 meters is about 100 yards short of a mile
• 5,000 meters is approximately 3.1 miles
• 10,000 meters is approximately 6.2 miles


Track: A Good Short-Distance Option

Runners who enjoy racing at shorter distances may want to consider racing on the track. Track meets offer a different, more intense atmosphere than road races, and offer more short-distance options.

"Short distance” is relative. Track meets typically feature running events form 100 meters to 10,000 meters (That's a 10K in road running terms.). But the 1,500 meter and 5,000 meter events may be perfect for you if you enjoy racing at shorter distances.


One More Short-Distance Alternative

If you enjoy trail running, consider giving Orienteering a try.

Orienteering is a sport in which participants find their way across unfamiliar terrain with a map and compass. The course consists of a series of flags placed at locations marked on a map. Participants can select from courses of varying length and difficulty – with beginners courses sometimes shorter than 1K.

The only equipment you need is a sturdy pair of trail running shoes and a compass. (Compasses are often available for rental at the meet.)

While Orienteering meets are races, they usually feature a staggered start, and participants move at their own pace… so there's very little competitive pressure, unless you want it.


Enjoy a Marathon without Running One

Just because you're not going to run a marathon doesn't mean you can't enjoy the circus atmosphere that surrounds many of these races.

Many marathons today feature companion 5K or 10K races. These shorter races allow runners to participate in the fun without having to commit to running 26.2 miles… or train for it either.


Try Something New: Cross Country

If you're a runner who likes variety, consider trying cross country. There are quite a few open races, and some are at relatively short distances (i.e.: 5K or less).

The beauty of cross country is found in both the terrain – usually off-road and challenging - and in the simplicity. Cross country races don't often land big corporate sponsors. These are races for running purists.

If you decide to try a short cross country race, consider buying a good pair of trail running shoes and practice running off-road at least a few times before the race. One word of warning, though… course designers seem to have an affinity for mud.


Running Shoes for Shorter Races, Part 2

If you race on the track, you'll want a good pair of track shoes. Track shoes are lighter and more flexible than training shoes, and – as with lightweight road racing shoes – this is achieved by trimming down the midsole. The good news is that track surfaces are much softer and springier than roads, so most runners can safely race in track shoes.

There are two basic types of track shoe: spikes and flats. Spiked track shoes offer significantly better traction than flats, but require changing the type and length of spike to adapt to different track surfaces. Track flats offer less traction than spikes (a critical consideration in sprint races), but can be used on any track surface without adjustment.


Training for Shorter Races

In general, your training should reflect your race goal. If you're training for a marathon, most of your training should consist of long runs at an appropriately moderate pace. By the same token, training for shorter races involves shorter training runs… and a faster pace.

The shorter your goal race, the more likely it is you'll gain an advantage by running interval workouts – repetitions of fairly short distances at a fast pace. Hill sprints are also helpful. And while all runners can profit from weight training, runners competing at shorter distances tend to gain a greater advantage than long-distance runners.


Appreciate the Shorter Runs on Cold Winter Days

Even devout distance runners sometimes have a hard time getting out the door during the coldest, darkest days of midwinter. In fact, these days can be a good time to give your joints a break and enjoy some short-distance running instead. If you live somewhere where your usual route gets icy, modify it for a shorter distance. And long runs are less appealing when you are bundled up in extra layers, so allow yourself to be content with a 4-5 mile run some days, instead of 6 or 7 miles.

So, don't discount short-distance runs in winter. You're still doing your body good, and your joints may thank you for the break. You'll still be in good shape to crank up the mileage while the milder weather arrives.


Try Short Distance Running for Summer

If you are a relatively new runner, it might take some time for you to adjust to running in hot weather during the summer. Even if you are training for a marathon, remember that there will always be a cooler day for a long run, and there's something to be said for finishing your run feeling good.

So, if the humidity is 90% and the temps are in the 80s even at 6am, try doing a 10-mile run instead of a 13-miler. If you feel that's not enough of a workout, do some indoor cross training later in the day--or go for a bike ride outside--you will always have a breeze!


Holiday Running: New Opportunities to Mix it Up

A long weekend gives you the chance to fit in a run somewhere new, or to get an extra day of rest. If you can do a long run as part of a marathon training plan, great, but if not, enjoy the shorter runs and the change of the usual routine.

Use those three-day weekends, like Memorial Day, in the way that works for you. Just remember that if you're beach-bound, be prepared for hot weather, and bring the sweatproof sunblock!


Training For Ten Milers

Marathons are my favorite races, but I also enjoy 10-milers. I see them as speed workouts as part of my marathon training.

But I know that marathons aren't for anyone, and many runners focus on 10Ks and 10-milers as their races of choice. If that's your pleasure, I recommend making longer intervals part of your training plan. If you are training for a faster 10-mile run, try doing a working of mile repeats.

If your goal 10-miler is a few months away, try this workout once a week for 4-6 weeks. Start with a few miles easy running to warm up, and then run two 1- mile repeats at about 75% of your race pace. The following week, try doing three 1-mile repeats, and work up to 4 of them. As your race gets closer, back off the interval work; go back down to 1-2 repeats a week before the race.

Will short races help my marathon training?

Use Short Races As Tempo Runs

A 5K, 10K, or 10-mile race is a great way to work some speed into your marathon training if you don't like (or don't choose) to do tempo runs or interval workouts. But remember that the pace you run for these races, especially for a 5K, will probably not be the pace you will maintain during a marathon, and that's OK. Running faster than your likely marathon pace will build strength and endurance, and running fast in short races will ultimately make you faster over the long distances, too, just as speed work on a track or tempo runs on the road make you faster.


What Is Short-Distance Running?

Different people at different times have had various definitions of short-distance running. In track circles, short distances are often defined as those under 400 meters. Out on the roads, some marathoners think of anything less than 15K (9.3 miles) as being “short.” As the popularity of longer races – including ultra-marathons and trail marathons - has grown, what is considered “short” has gotten longer.


Turkey Trots: Short Races, Low Stress

I read recently that Thanksgiving is the most popular day for road races in the U.S. And with good reason. Some of the benefits of a turkey trot:

-short distance: Most turkey trots are in the 5K to 10K range. That's a workable short-distance running race that runners of a range of experience and fitness levels can enjoy. So if you are visiting family or friends, you might get several people to join you for the race.

-low stress: Most turkey trots have an especially festive atmosphere. You might see some people getting a jump on the holidays and wearing Santa hats, etc. And some races are unusual distances, such as 4K or 8K, so there's no pressure to compare your times to those of your last 5K or 10K

-spiffy shirt. If you are lucky, you will get a t-shirt with a turkey pictured on it somewhere.

-extra credit. If you're like me, you are happy to be able to justify your extra pie by saying "well, I ran this morning."

Happy Thanksgiving!

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