Couch to 5K

Five kilometers, or 5K, is a favorite distance for new runners. Slightly more of a challenge than one mile, and easier to complete than the popular 10K or marathon distances, the 5K still represents a considerable challenge to a new runner. Even though 5K is not a particularly long distance, if you are not used to running it can still hurt.

Start Slow

For a new runner planning to get off the couch and run a 5K, perhaps one of the popular charity events or just for a personal goal, it is important to be patient. From experience, I know that anyone who just goes out and runs for the first time in years can expect to find they struggle after just a short distance. The first time I tried running after a 15 year hiatus I only made about 400 yards before I was collapsed at the side of the road gasping for breath!

For a new runner, it is important to take your time and not push yourself too hard. You do not need to run 5K every day to be able to complete a 5K race. In fact, if you can run one mile without stopping you should be able to get around without too much difficulty.


A common strategy for those new to running is to alternate running and walking. Ideally use a watch with an alarm to switch between the two, but you can use distance to measure the sections if you prefer. Start with roughly equal durations of each and slowly increase the ratio of running to walking until you can run all the way. If you need to stop for a break, do not be afraid to walk for a while to catch your breath.


One of the best ways to prepare for a 5K run is to train consistently for it. Even if you can only run on two or three days a week each week that is better than running every day for one week and then taking off a week.

When you first start training, aim to set aside three days each week when you can run with a rest day between them. This gives you the best training benefit and reduces the risk of injury by the increase in exercise. Your body will soon get used to the new routine and it will really help to improve your fitness. If you need two days rest, you can do that as well as some beginners do. It all depends on how well your legs adapt to increased running you are doing.

Training Sessions

For many people, the training sessions that they follow each week will depend on the course that they are aiming to run. For a hilly 5K, it is important to include hill running as part of the training routine. Equally, if you want to race the 5K to get the fastest possible time then you might consider some faster paced runs.

Anyone considering a basic training program should aim for two shorter runs at an easy, relaxed pace. One of these can include some hills or some faster running depending on what you need for your race. The third run should be a little slower, but aim to cover more ground. This will form the basis of a long run and should be around race distance for a shorter race like a 5K.

For a new runner a 5K race can be a challenge, but not one that is beyond most people. Even the most sedentary person can run that distance if they prepare properly. This means aiming for two or three days or running a week, and building up until you can manage the distance. Do not forget that adrenaline on race day will allow you to run farther and faster than in training, so the distance will seem easy to you.

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