The Average Runner: Training for Your First 5K Isn't As Bad As You Think

About the Average Runner: John C. is a Life Fitness employee who ran his first 5K more than 15 years ago and has been hooked on running since. He’s not particularly fast or svelte, and he’s proof that you don’t have to be to an incredible athlete to put in the miles. Starting is the hardest part.

Avid runners come in all shapes and sizes. They are both slow and fast, old and young. One of the beauties of running is that it’s inclusive.

I ran my first race, the Irish Fest 5K in Milwaukee, 15 years ago when I was in my mid-30s. The drive behind it? A bet with a friend who sarcastically told me I could never finish a 5K run without stopping. That was motivation enough to start training. I finished the race, collected on the bet, and have been a participated in dozens of road races (of varying lengths) since.

Preparing for your first 5K may seem daunting, but with steady training you can easily be ready in 8 to 10 weeks. My routine started slowly. For the first two weeks I ramped up running and walking intervals on the track at the YMCA. Three days a week I followed this routine around the 1/8-mile:

  • Moderate pace jog: 1 lap
  • Walking: 1 lap
  • Moderate pace jog: 2 laps
  • Walking: 1 lap
  • Moderate pace jog: 3 laps
  • Walking: 1 lap
  • Moderate pace jog: 4 laps
  • Walking: 1 lap
  • Moderate pace jog: 5 laps
  • Walking: 1 lap

This two-week introduction wasn’t terribly difficult and prepared me for the eight-week training program that I used.

There are limitless 5K training programs on the internet, but it’s really hard to beat Hal Higdon’s training plans. The man knows running. He’s an accomplished runner, contributing editor for Runner’s World, and has written several books about running. Higdon offers training options for all levels of runner and for all sorts of distances. The one below is perfect for the running novice's first 5K. So, find a fun race in your area that's in a couple of months and use this plan to train. You'll be glad that you did and it's a safe bet that you'll want to run again.

Hal Higdon Workout Plan for 5K Runners