How racing a 5k can improve your marathon

I had a fun talk with Jay Johnson last night for an article I’m working on for Running Times. During the conversation, we got on a tangent about the fact that a lot of people who like to run marathons and half-marathons don’t really race enough at shorter distances. One of the points that Jay made was that including a 5k race in your marathon training forces you to experience a different kind of discomfort than you do in most of your training.


Why is that a good thing?


VO2 max training should be a component in any marathon training program. In order to get the most out of it, you’ll need to know how hard to push and how those workouts should feel. Gaining experience with that kind of discomfort (completely different than the discomfort of a long tempo run) during a 5k race will help you run your VO2 max workouts “better” and get more out of them.


I would also add that racing a 5k during marathon training can be a useful checkpoint. You can adjust your training paces based on an all-out effort instead of estimating. And you might be surprised at what you can run in a shorter race with all the strength you’ve built up during your marathon training. Rocking out a great 5k when you’re focused on marathon training can be a great confidence boost as you head into the last 1/3 of your marathon plan.


So if your goal race is a half-marathon or marathon, add a few tune-up 5k races to your schedule to make sure you’re getting the most out of your training!