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You just registered for your very first 5K..now what?

You just registered for your very first race event, but that was the easy part. Next up; how to train for your first 5K race. If this is your first endurance event, your first step should be a visit to your physician for a physical exam and clearance before starting a training program.

Write up a plan for 8 weeks of training

Having done that, sit down with pencil and paper and write out the days of the week. Now pencil-in 4 days of the week, as well as the time of the day, where it would be easiest to commit to 30 minutes of activity.  If possible, insert a rest day between workout days.

Find your “Repeatable Week”

Your plan is now your “repeatable week” for your 8-week training program.  It’s called your repeatable week because after all the things that your work and family life throw at you, you should still be able to accomplish these four 30-minute workouts.  This consistency is the core of a successful training program.

Weeks 1 & 2

Let’s now take a look at the first 2 weeks of your program.  Choose 3 of your 4 workout days as 30-minute walk days.  Your fourth day should be a 30- minute walk/run where you try a few minutes of jogging/running interspersed throughout the 30 minutes.  As far as pace, simply make sure you keep your effort at a level where you can still hold a conversation with your workout partner (if you have one). If possible, pick one of your days to do your workout on a track so that you can get a feel for how much distance you are covering in 30 minutes.  Outdoor tracks are typically 400 meters (about ¼ mile) for one lap (a 5K race is 5,000 meters or 3.1 miles).

Weeks 3 & 4

For weeks 3-4 change one of your walk days into a run/walk day to give you a total of 2 walk days per week. Maintain one run/walk day by walking 50 percent and running 50 percent of the 30 minutes. Your fourth training day is a dedicated run only day.  If possible, measure the distance on this run and attempt to run at least 1.5 miles in week 3 and 2 miles in week 4.

Weeks 5 & 6

For weeks 5-6, adjust your week so that you have just one walk day and 2 run/walk days.  For your run/walk days increase your amount of running to 75 percent of the workout, while walking for the other 25 percent.  Your dedicated run-only day in week 5 should be at least 2.5 miles, and in week 6 should be close to 3 miles; going longer than 30 minutes if needed.

Weeks 7 & 8

For your final 2 weeks try to make all of your workouts run-only days.  Your week 7 longest run should be at least 3 miles and in the last week should be 3.5 miles.  You’re now able to run longer than the 5K race distance and will be ready for race day the following week.


Good luck!!  You’ve trained hard and you are ready. Go out there and put your training to work!

A big thank you to Jim Kelley for the expertise provided in this article.

Jim Kelley is co-owner of CyclovaXC bike, ski and run shop in St. Croix Falls, WI.  He is also Owner and Head Coach of PR-Endurance and designs training programs for runners, triathletes, cross-country skiers, and cyclists.  If you have any questions or want to explore a more formal training program, feel free to contact him at jim@pr-endurance.com or visit his website at PR-Endurance.com.

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