The Post-5k Training Gap

There are oodles and oodles of beginner’s 5k training programs–I’ve been using Hal Hidgon’s novice plan for the race coming up this Saturday, and I like it, despite the difficulties of running in a neighborhood with no flat stretches at all. I actually have to leave my neighborhood and get chased by a dog to get a half-mile break from the hills. My goal for the race is just to finish it and get a sense of what my race pace would be (especially since I may be facing temperatures in the teens!), but during training I’ve cut 6 full minutes off my 3 mile run time from October.

Of course, I have a whole lot of minutes to cut. I’m running about a 14:00 – 14:50 minute mile, with only one or two very short walk breaks on account of the cold and my asthma.

But what about after the race? I don’t have another 5k lined up, and probably won’t do another during the winter, but I want to keep training. I want to get down to a 10-minute mile, then increase my long runs to be 5-6 miles.

I haven’t been able to find an existing plan for this. Redoing the 5k training program would be a drag–1.5 miles run as my long run again? Meh. The 3 miles last night were surprisingly short once I found my stride (and unzipped both my coats… and peeled off my gloves and scarf…), and I don’t want to lose that stamina.

Most intermediate programs are geared at folks who’ve completed several 5k races and have been running consistently for a year. I really, really enjoy not being injured (for once!) and would like to keep that up, so I’m not going to push myself too hard. I don’t know jack about doing speed work, but that’s also something that’s recommended for people with a stronger running base than I have. Eight to ten miles a week isn’t much of a “base”, I think.

I also don’t have a “5k race pace” (yet), a “tempo pace”, or a “long run pace”. I have three of my own paces: “rough”, “steady”, and the “fun pace” I can hold for all of a quarter mile. That makes it kinda hard to decipher frou-frou running plans, although this blog post on improving times does a good job of explaining how the different pace times are calculated.

Most of the times I’ve cooked up my own running plans have ended in injury, so I’m hesitant to just get out there and try crap out. Maybe (after I’ve recovered next week from the race), keep up the 3 mile/2 mile/3 mile running week that I’m on now for a few weeks to get more used to it? Maybe interval in some informal speed work on those same distances? Push up one of the 3 mile runs towards 4 miles to build more stamina?

I don’t understand this training plan gap. Do big trainers only expect people to go from race to race? Do they expect people to stop running after their first race?

  • Imani

    So I’ve never run a 5k (I actually hate running), but this is what I did to get over the gap that you seem to be at when I decided to join the Navy. I joined the YMCA, which comes with three free personal training sessions, got a personal trainer, who drew up a running plan for me based on my goals and abilities, then followed it. I never actually finished that plan as the Navy thing fell through and I really hate running, but I did pass my PT Test and I’m pretty proud of that. So I don’t know if it’s feasible for you to join a gym or anything, but I do wish you luck in your running and I look forward to hearing how it goes. Me, I’ll be at the pool this winter.

    • Congrats on passing the PT Test–that’s really awesome.

      I’ve toyed around with the idea of joining a gym, but I’m always afraid I won’t fully leverage it and so won’t get my money’s worth. Then again, if I can find a no-contract setup that offers a few sessions with a personal trainer, I could just do a couple of months without being stuck with a $50/month gym bill for a year. It would let me get some swimming in too, which compliments running nicely.

      I’ll look into that. Thanks!