Fancy doing an event but aren’t sure how far you want to, or can go? Having a goal means that you are more likely to stick to your exercise plan, but there are several different distances for you to choose from. When I finished my first 5km it was a relief. Lots of people do 5kms, it would have been embarrassing not to cross that finish line. When I finished my first 10km I swore I’d never do another race again. When I finished my first marathon I was blubbering wreck, and again, swore never to do another race. But after countless 5kms, several 10kms (not my favourite distance), a couple of half marathons, a few marathons and one 32.5 miler, I know the importance of having a goal. In fact, the reason I do so many races is that if I didn’t sign up for an event I would probably struggle to get out of bed on a Sunday morning to do yet another 4, 6, 10, or even 20 miler.
So how do you choose what distance you want to do? Fitness level is of course one consideration. Time is most definitely another. Let’s take a look at the standard distances and see how you can fit them into your life and exercise routine.
5km, or 3.13 miles in old money, is the shortest distance you will find for most race events, and the starting point for most walkers. This distance is suitable for those who have not done any exercise for a while. It is also great if you are short on time as you can train for a 5km in six weeks, doing 1.5-3 hours a week. Race for Life runs 5km events, for runners, joggers and walkers, around the UK every year.
10km (I’m sure you can do the maths on this one), is the next step up. If you have a base level of fitness and can walk for 30 minutes at a steady pace without getting out of breath, then you should be able to train for a 10km within six weeks. You’ll be looking at doing 3-4 hours a week of walking.
Half marathon (13.1 miles)
This is where the serious miles start. To complete a half marathon I’d recommend that you sign up for a 5km or 10km first. Not only will you build up your fitness levels and endurance, but you’ll also gain race experience.
For a half marathon you’re looking at a 12 week training plan, with a committment of 3-4 hours a week at the beginning, building to 5-6 hours by the end of the plan.
Full marathon (26.2 miles)
The big one. For a lot of walkers, this is a bucket list distance. Do it once, tick it off. Firstly, I must warn you that once is rarely enough. Secondly, many walkers sign up for a marathon having never done any other races or distances. I’m not going to say it’s impossible to do a marathon without having done any other distance before (my brother proved me wrong on that one), but it will be tough, and you will hurt a lot more after. And you will probably be put off doing another event again.
If you have already done a 10km or a half marathon and have maintained your fitness levels, you should be able to train for a marathon within 12 weeks. If you haven’t done anything before, I’d recommend a minimum of 16 weeks. Timewise you are looking at a weekly committment of 3-4 hours to start with, building to 6-8 hours in the middle and tapering to 4-5 hours. This might not sound like a lot of time, but take into consideration that one day a week you will be doing a ‘long one’ of up to 5 hours.
There are also a variety of distances in between these, for example the Great South Run is 10 miles, but the above are the standard distances you will see advertised. Remember that no matter how far you go, you still got out there, you still went for it, you still achieved something. And you may want to find somewhere to hang your medals, because once is never enough. Trust me.