Updated: Nov 2
This article is about the journey of running, the significance of reaching distance based goals from 5k to half marathon as part of one's journey to health. If you are new to running, or already improving your weekly mileage, I hope that the information helps you to stay motivated and provides insight and perspective on what you might gain as you increase the distance of your runs.
The article is not a deep dive into the health benefits of running nor the specifics of training, those topics are covered in detail elsewhere. The distances I have chosen correspond the various milestones that are common goals for runners to achieve.
Please note that whilst I am a keen runner, I am not a running coach. If you have any concerns about your health or are under treatment, talk to your doctor or medical practitioner most familiar with your medical history before implementing any changes in diet, exercise or lifestyle.
5km or 3 miles
5k is a popular running distance, both for new and experienced runners.
For new runners it is long enough to be a decent first challenge. Most people can walk 5km but, if not used to running, it might take a few weeks (or more) to build up to running this distance. A Parkrun is 5km.
For beginners or those restarting exercise, working towards a 5km goal might start with walking only, to find the time to exercise and to get moving regularly. For others, walk-jogs or slow running are effective. YouTube has some inspiring channels that can help.
For new runners, the first month can be hard, to create the habit of running while juggling other commitments.
At this stage you may discover or rediscover problems with your body. Years of little or no exercise, poor posture, old injuries resurfacing.
Learn to listen to your body, don't push though pain. Get treatment or therapy if you have a problem that does not correct itself quickly. Take a day off if you need to. Repeat... respect your body, take a day off from training if you need to.
For experienced runners a fast 5km can make for a great personal challenge. Maintaining a consistent hard pace in Zone 4 or 5, perhaps at an 8 out of 10 effort or more, creating a race strategy and bringing it all together.
8km or 5 miles
For new runners this might be their first ‘longer’ distance goal after 5km. Getting used to being on one’s feet for greater duration of time, planning and experiencing new routes further afield.
This distance (or duration) allows for meaningful intervals (HIIT) to be practised or tempo intervals and runs to take place.
For experienced runner, 8km can be an enjoyable regular training run, to get mileage completed at an easy pace. It doesn’t really require any special preparation, just throw on the shoes and get out the door.
In many cities this might be the distance from downtown to home, offering an opportunity to run as part of one’s commute.
If you want to start runner further or maybe entering some races, a good time to start reading up on how to improve your sessions and times.
10km or 6 miles
The first '2 digit' distance. This has meaning to those who worked hard to get there. Perhaps more of a mental jump up from 8km than anything else.
A distance that allows you to be a tourist, at home and in other locations.
For some this might be the first run that takes 1 hour, or longer. 10km can be an enjoyable training run, to get some mileage done at an easy pace.
You might want to do your first lactate threshold test when you are comfortable with this distance.
It can also be a suitable distance to consider your training strategy, to put into practice 80/20 running, to avoid injury and make continued progress.
Enough distance to practice those harder interval and tempo sessions, with time for a proper warm-up and cool down.
You should consider getting more than 1 pair of running shoes.
This distance can require a little more focus on hydration, certainly if you are running in the heat or the tropics.
12km or 8 miles
We are now in the long-distance running bracket, certainly for new runners. Many people may never run 12km unless they have a specific training or race goal.
Running this distance probably means that you are now a regular runner, developing experience and skills, gaining in confidence.
Perhaps time to apply a little anti-chafing product to the sensitive parts.
Ballpark figure, running this distance burns about 1000 calories.
Post run rest and recovery are now likely a more meaningful part of your training plan.
You will need to think about managing time to balance commitments between work, family or social life.
It now makes sense to get a second pair of running shoes.
16km or 10 miles
Another milestone, a double digit 10 miler. Perhaps 1.5 or 2 hours on your feet.
This distance starts to make previous 8 or 10km runs feel, well, relatively easy. You've made progress!
You might now be thinking about moving up to reach a half-marathon. It is within striking distance.
Half Marathon, 21.1km or 13.1 miles
A significant goal and achievement. 2 hours or longer, a run that requires real commitment and planning.
Pre and in-run nutrition and hydration should be a part your training. As is recovery.
Totally legit bragging rights. But just remember, there is always someone fitter, faster, who will have recently have completed an ultra.
A stepping stone to a full marathon, should you want to run double the distance!
My goal for running, my purpose, is to be ‘reasonably’ (a very subjective term) fit. I am motivated by the science, showing that the health benefits of running are both immediate, profound and can lead to me having a healthy, vital old age. I have come to value and enjoy my running. Over time I have developed a reasonable level of fitness, my training is varied: to improve my health and to keep running interesting. On most days I enjoy easy paced runs, on others I do HIIT workouts or my long run.
My favourite run... 5 miles, 8km. At under 60 minutes duration you can make it a slow jog or, including warm-up, it is long enough to fit in some hard intervals or tempo running.
Rest and recovery are a priority and, as I am based in tropical Singapore, proper hydration is vital to keep me fit to run and fit to enjoy life.
The internet is a great resource for running information but I have found some books to be even more useful and enjoyable. Perhaps they can be of value to you too.
With running I love that can just put on my shoes and run, no special equipment required. Running is my alone time, a time to think and reflect, sometimes to get lost in the sheer effort of a hard run! Perhaps running means the same to you, perhaps not. Take from running what you will, and enjoy!
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