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How to run a 5km - Running tips for beginners

By Sarah Finnan

June 14, 2020 at 4:10pm

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If completing a 5km run is on your bucket list but you have no idea where or how to start, then this is the article for you.

There was a while there when I think it's fair to say that many people around the country were sweating. Not for having done anything to warrant such a bodily response, but out of fear. Fear that they'd be next to get the dreaded nod and would have to lace up their running shoes and hit the road.

What am I talking about?

Well, if you've managed to wipe any memories of the 5km challenge from your mind, fair play, but I am of course referencing the 'run 5, donate 5, nominate 5' challenge that swept social media not too long ago. As the catchy slogan suggests, people were encouraged to run 5km, donate €5 to a charity of their choice and then nominate five others to follow suit. But what started out as a quirky way to fundraise for a good cause, quickly became a way for people to show off their lightning-fast running times... many of which I have a hard time believing were true. Call me a cynic, but the fact that Nancy down the road - who has never run a day in her life - could somehow complete a 5km in 14 minutes flat just doesn't sit right with me.

Thankfully, we've moved past that part of lockdown and now anyone who's running is doing so because they actually want to or enjoy it (such people do exist). For many, myself included, the main problem with the challenge was that there was a big competitive element to it. It became less about the cause and more about the time. But if running is something you'd like to improve on - be that getting faster or just being able to run for longer periods of time without stopping- there are a number of ways you can do just that.

I spoke to Donal Mulligan, chairman of the Longford Athletics Club, who gave me a few handy tips to share with beginners starting out on their running journey.

According to him:

"We are designed to move.  Running and walking are the most basic and fundamental forms of human movement. Running is something everyone can do.

If you are thinking about taking up running for the first time, take the first step, make a start.   It might feel a little daunting especially if you haven’t exercised in a while but gradually over time with a little commitment and consistency you will improve, feel fitter, become stronger as you adapt to your work effort."

He makes it sound so easy, doesn't he?

Here's what he recommends for beginners aiming to complete a 5km: 

  • Aim to get out three times a week with one day rest between runs - aim for three blocks of 30 minutes exercise during your first week
  • Be consistent and don't rush it - it will take anywhere from six to 10 weeks depending on your starting point
  • Warm-up for 10 minutes with a brisk walk or walk then increase the intensity a little for one minute and then decrease it again for a minute, repeat this five times and finish with a 10-minute brisk walk at the end of your run
  • Increase your run time and reduce your walk time each week
  • Don't worry about pace/how quick or slow you are at the start
  • You can add more/different types of training to your routine as you become fitter (e.g. walks on your non-run days, strength training etc.)

"The most important thing when starting to run is to commit and make sure you get out for your regular runs", Donal said. "Set yourself a realistic target to work towards.  Most people will be more than able to complete a continuous 5km run after 8 or 9 weeks from a starting point of not having done any running, some people will be able to do it a sooner.  Reaching a realistic personal target is a great motivator."

Once you have the basics down, that's when you can start worrying about pace and how to get faster. So stay tuned for part two when Donal will share his tips on how to do just that.

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