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Distance Learning: Different Race Challenges

By: Mike Kiely BA (hons) - Updated: 4 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Discipline Stamina Speed Training

One of the great benefits of running specific race distances is that it enhances the amount of discipline that you have to build into your performance. Not surprisingly, different distances present different challenges and require specific strategies in order to compete effectively.

For the purposes of this section we are going to concentrate on three popular distances that are used for both “fun runs” and more serious competition events: 5 kilometres, 10 kilometres and the half-marathon, saving our focus for the full 26 miles of the marathon for another day.

The 5k, or in terms of imperial measurement 3.1 miles, combines both the challenge of speed running on the track and the more familiar conditions of road running. As such, building up for an event of this nature is going to require some attention to both endurance and pace, so rather than concentrating on distance in your preparations, build a speed section into your run, say half a mile, when you work harder and faster. Alternate the section between midway through the run and the final stretch in order to train your body to cope with extra stress at different stages.

Steady Performance

On race day itself, expect the field to head off at a brisk pace. It won’t be the more sedate start you are used to but remember not to burn up too much energy trying to keep up. Rather, aim for a steady performance that over the first two thirds may bring the fast starters back into your sights as they feel the effects of their initial efforts. You should, therefore, still have something in the tank to turn the screw in the closing stages, eating up the ground on tiring opponents.

The longest event of this trio, the half marathon (13 miles) requires stamina rather than speed, so ensure that your training reflects this, building up distance steadily so that your body is not given an unpleasant surprise on race day when it is asked to go further than it has done before. You will need to ration your energy efficiently, because as with the full marathon, burn out is a possibility for those who head off at too fast a pace or allow the adrenalin of race day to get the better of them.

Combination of Skills

The 10k borrows from both of the previous challenges: you will benefit from both the speed work used for the 5k and the stamina required for the half marathon. As such, for many runners the 10k is an ideal way to measure all round development. It is also a useful introduction to race running exactly because it requires a combination of skills. Some who find the speed work exhilarating may turn their attentions to developing their ability over the shorter 5k course; others may set their sights far into the distance of the half marathon and beyond.

Whichever distance you find suits your abilities most, always ensure that you prepare properly, both in terms of training and nutrition. That way you will perform to your maximum and you will gain so much more from the experience.

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