Ready to Run Farther? 7 Tips for 10k and Half Marathon

Blog Series Part 2 of 3

Running is an ideal exercise for cardiovascular health, overall fitness and is known to provide mental health benefits. In addition to weight loss and improved cardiovascular systems, many runners also experience a boost in confidence and improved sleep. In this three-part blog series, you’ll find helpful tips for new runners, experienced runners and those ready to take running to the next level.

Although running can play a beneficial role in improving overall health, it’s important to seek the advice of a physician BEFORE starting ANY type of exercise program or making dietary changes.

7 Tips for Running Farther – From 5k to 10k to half marathon

Congratulations on achieving the 5k distance and choosing to run even farther! The 10k (6.2 miles) is double the distance, but not necessarily double the effort and is great for extending the level of endurance obtained in 5k training. Some runners choose to tackle the half marathon after achieving the 10k distance. I recommend completing these distances in order. Here are 7 tips for running farther when transitioning from the 5k to the 10k or 10k to the half marathon.

  1. Share the new goal: Discuss running goals with your spouse, family and friends. Training for longer distances takes more time which may temporarily disrupt the balance of responsibilities at home and with friends. Your health, fitness and dreams of completing a 10k/half marathon are important! Do the best you can in striking a balance that includes time to train, while also fulfilling responsibilities at home, work and with friends.
  2. A different training plan: Choose a new 10k/half marathon training plan based on the fitness achieved to date. A run/walk plan may make sense or it may be time for a more strategic training program. Contact me for guidance with choosing a plan or for customized training. The new plan may take 12-16 weeks to complete and include speed drills or hill repeats, along with cross-training activities. Continue to schedule workouts on a calendar and treat them like other appointments.
  3. Running gear and apparel: Proper fitting shoes and apparel are the most important running gear. Replace shoes when they show wear on the soles or become ill-fitting. Aging shoes may contribute to shin splints, plantar fasciitis, knee issues and other aches and pains. Shoes can be expensive, but doctor visits and rehabbing an injury is more expensive.

Apparel is the first line of defense in preventing chaffing and blisters. Loose fabric will rub the skin raw which is known as chaffing. You may not notice the rubbing in short distances, but you will on long runs. Properly fitting, dry-wicking clothing is essential as the training time increases. Watch for seams, tags and pay attention to how apparel fits.

Blisters most often occur with poor fitting shoes, sweaty feet and cotton socks, or when dirt gets in a shoe and causes friction. Dry-wicking socks are ideal and there are different ways to lace shoes for a better fit. Running stores have products that lubricate common hotspots in apparel, like around bra straps, waist bands or socks. If you can’t make it to a running store, petroleum jelly is an inexpensive option.

Kinesiology tape is another option for protecting blister-prone spots on the feet. Use a small piece of this flexible, fabric tape to cover areas of friction or if you feel a hotspot while on a run. Stop to take care of hotspots early in order to reduce the chance for the hotspot turning into a blister. Kinesiology tape can be used on blisters, but it will remove the roof of the blister when it’s removed. If a first aid kit is available, cut a small piece of gauze to protect the blister and apply a larger piece of kinesiology tape over the gauze.

  1. Optional gear: For safety reasons, reflective gear and lighted vests are vital when running pre-dawn or after dusk. Headlamps or flashlights are useful for watching your step. Drivers are distracted, the more lights you have the better. Nonetheless, always be aware of your surroundings. Weather-appropriate apparel, such as a water-resistant jacket for rainy days, will make training and race day much more comfortable. A hand-held water bottle or hydration backpack may also be helpful, though optional, for longer training runs.
  2. Nutrition and hydration: Most runners won’t need food during a 10k. Water or an electrolyte drink is usually adequate. For half marathons, both food and electrolyte drinks may be desired. Electrolytes are necessary as we sweat out minerals to some extent. They are more important for those that sweat a lot or for salty-sweaters as evidenced by the grit that remains on skin or clothing.

Food needs vary so greatly from person to person and there’s leeway as to what or how much food you will want before, during and after a training run or race. Consume a small snack at least an hour or two before running. The food needs to partially digest otherwise it could result in heartburn or you’ll otherwise feel uncomfortable as you start running.

Visit a local running store to evaluate gels, chews and other running-specific food options; as well as, drinks that include nutrition with electrolytes. These products were created specifically for running and other athletic activities. Each product will have varying amounts of calories, carbs, protein, electrolytes and caffeine. Consume these products with plain water, not an electrolyte drink, to avoid what I call a sugar bomb. An overload of sugar can cause stomach distress which could derail your event. Experiment with these products in training to see what works and to make sure they don’t cause stomach or digestive issues. Bring your nutrition and hydration to the race!

After a training run or race, eat healthy protein for muscle repair and drink water or electrolytes to rehydrate. Focus on nutritionally dense foods and don’t overdo it. Many runners feel they ran hard enough to deserve that fast-food burger or ice cream. These treats often include poor nutritional calories, instead of the fuel needed to promote muscle repair.

  1. More recovery: Added training puts added stress on the body. Prioritize foam-rolling and stretching, sleep and use rest days to rest. Rest days aren’t for sitting on the couch. A walk around the neighborhood is a great way to loosen up tight muscles. Wearing compression gear after a long run may soothe fatigued muscles and promote blood circulation. While largely debated, ice baths and hot water baths are also valid recovery options.
  2. Join a run club: Consider joining a running club when advancing into longer race distances. Running with others can improve running ability as you may be pushed with speed or endurance. You’ll also gain valuable tips and insights from experienced runners. Find a run club through the Road Runners Club of America or by contacting your local running store.

Congratulations on committing to the 10k/half marathon distance! Allan and I discussed these tips and more in our recent podcast: Running Longer Distances After 40. Give it a listen and contact me for additional information and support throughout your running journey!