If you haven’t noticed, there’s a big trend these days to run marathons and half marathons–the half marathon is currently the most popular distance out there, in fact. It’s becoming increasingly common that runners just jump in and tackle one of these distances, forgoing all the shorter offerings along the way. If this sounds like you, I’m here to tell you, you’re missing out!
Given the trend toward longer distance race popularity, there are admittedly fewer shorter races to choose from any more. Back when I started, 10ks were very common and I’d guess maybe even the most popular distance then. But these days, they are few and far between. You can find plenty of 5ks, simply because they are easier for race directors to execute and still draw a fair number of beginners and walkers. Anything in between that and halfs or full marathons, though, are tougher to come by.
But don’t let that stop you from seeking them out! I understand the lure of the longer distances, believe me. But everyone can benefit from racing some shorter distances. And there should be just as much glory and satisfaction in completing a well-executed 10k, 8k, or 10-miler as the longer distances. You’re not less of a runner if you focus on these distances.
Why run a shorter race? To begin with, if you are a newer runner, setting smaller, more attainable goals is a smart way to go. You not only lessen the likelihood of injuring your newly developing runner’s muscles, but have the chance to learn about race execution on a smaller scale. You also give yourself time to learn about running in general and build a physiological base on which to build in the future.
Another bonus to shorter races–you can develop better leg turnover and speed than in the longer distances. And in the long run–no pun intended–this will help your half marathon and marathon speeds. You can also race these shorter distances more often than the long races because you don’t have to invest nearly as much time in recovering from the effort.
One more thing you might develop from a shorter race: an appreciation for just what studs the front-of-the-packers are at these distances. I think the running community sometimes fails to consider the hard work that dedicated mid-distance road runners put into these races. The people at the front of 10ks, 10-milers and 5ks are fast–really fast. To get to that level takes just as much hard work as training for a marathon.
Next time you get a chance to race a shorter distance, do it. Train for it and then see what you can do. I guarantee you won’t be sorry.
Have you gotten caught up in marathon/half marathon fever? What’s your favorite distance other than that?