Psst…there are races other than the marathon

Consider lining up for something other than a marathon or half marathon

Consider lining up for something other than a marathon or half marathon

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?

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  1. says

    Wait there are races other than marathons and half…huh who knew. Just kidding. I’m having fun experimenting with different distances, running a 10k and a 12k in the next few months. It’s been ages since I’ve run a 10k and never done a 12k so I’m excited to try something different
    Amanda recently posted..Summer RunningMy Profile

  2. says

    What? Half marathon fever, hmmm? haha. I actually really really liked the 10 mile distance. It was a good distance to comfortably push myself whereas sometimes with 10Ks I feel like it can be a little too speedy for me over that distance. In general, shorter distances intimidate me because I don’t think that I have any fast twitch muscles. I will admit that I’m kind of excited about the longer distances right now just because I’m getting back into running longer distances after such a long layoff.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..The First StepMy Profile

  3. says

    So true! When I started running I was doing lots of 5ks and 10ks and I was amazed at how fast the front of the packers were. Last year at a local 10k, there were women from the Impala racing team running the 10k in under 35 minutes, and there were a few guys who were on the Olympic marathon team… total speed studs :) I like 5 & 10ks because even though the distance us shorter, you still work your buns off and feel that awesome satisfaction crossing the finish line!
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  4. says

    our race calander is full of races all distances, and the same crowd run every week, but a couple of times a year there are a few big halfs and the field is up from around 1000 to 8-12000 so there are a lot of “fun” runner who only want to run the ‘big’ halfs.
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  5. says

    I’m one of those people that jumped to the half marathon right away. I wanted to get my money’s worth. 😉

    Over the years I’ve added more variety and am vowing to do at least one 5k this summer. It’ll be my first. Who knows, I might love it!
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  6. says

    I’m with you that there aren’t as many of the other distances. My whole thing with 5Ks is paying for such a short race experience. That’s what gets me. If I’m paying for a race I want as much experience out of it as possible. But YES there are huge benefits to the types of training and things for the various distances. Perhaps once I have more time after getting our house up for sale and moving I should look into some shorter races (and cheap ones!) just for fun.

  7. says

    Thanks for the great post Miss Zippy! I love your points about injury prevention & less recovery time. My husband & I have raced the 1 mile to the marathon and everything between! The 5K & 10K can be downright painful but, boy, can they be fun too! And talk about drawing out some serious talent! I really love 10-milers & longer trail races. Still challenging without the intense training & recovery. What’s not to love?!
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  8. says

    Great post. Like you, I started in at a time when 10k’s were all the rage. Now, everyone who wants to run jumps straight into a half marathon and because it can be really difficult they often give up running after. Better to keep running fun and stay in it for the long run :)

  9. says

    My first few races were all 10ks. I loved the distance. I think shorter races give you an idea of your own speed, which can help you set goals for longer races. After I started running marathons I did skip the shorter races because they didn’t fit as well into my training, unless I could do a 5k and 10k back to back–which I love(ed). My PRs at both distances are when I ran both on the same day.
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  10. says

    I really can’t believe how few 10ks there are anymore. In New Orleans we have two very active, competing track clubs that host races – upwards of 25 races per year just from these two clubs, not to mention multiple charity runs or fundraiser and outside hosts like competitor group. Yet there is only one 10k per year in the city – the famed Crescent City Classic! There used to be one other 10k, but they cut it down to a 5k this year. Crazy. I like the 10 mile distance, and there is one 10 mile and one 15k in the fall each year, but we are hurting for 10ks (this also means that if you are going for a 10k PR you have to have a perfect race day at the Classic or wait a whole year to try again!).
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  11. says

    Guilty!! I’m definitely caught in the half marathon trap!!! I would say aside from that a favorite of mine is the 5k. Yes the front of the packers are insanely fast but in the smaller races I can line up with them and at least brush shoulders with greatness even if it’s only for a few meters!! I also feel like the 5k is the kind of race I can convince my new to running friends to do and we can have fun with it and celebrate their accomplishments!
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  12. says

    So funny that you wrote about this. I’ve noticed the same trend. When I first started road racing a lot (during grad school), I race almost every weekend and it was usually either a 5K or 10K with a couple of random 8Ks, 10-milers and a half marathon. The half marathon was very small compared to how they are now (this was 1993 or 94) but some of the 10Ks had 10,000+ in them.
    I wonder in a few more years if the trend will be ultras?
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  13. says

    This is a GREAT post and beyond true. More and more I see people just diving into halves or even a full after little to no experience at shorter distances. I ran my first half less than a year after I started running distance (but I had been an actual runner for years). Then I focused on 5k’s for a very long time trying to get my time lower and then worked my way to marathon. I wish that 10ks were more popular, I think it’s a distance I could learn to love. Right now half-marathon is probably my favorite distance BUT outside of that I guess I’d say 5k. I love how easily accessible they are (you can find one any weekend anywhere pretty much). I don’t just train for one distance. Even while training for marathon #5 right now, I have raced many shorter distances in the mean time during training. Heck, I am racing a 5k this weekend and a marathon the following. Training for one distance is silly to me. Train for all of it, mix it up, you will see better results and you won’t get bored with your training. I seriously think people are jumping up to higher distances too soon without the respect for the distance. I think these are also the same people who tend to get hurt or burned out quicker.

    To be exact…during this training session for the marathon… I have raced a 5k, 15k, 30k and a half, and 2nd 5k this weekend. Oh yeah and a Duathlon. It keeps things exciting.
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  14. Holly says

    Thanks for the reminder. Hmmm, I think maybe this summer I will try to knock off my 10k PR from 2010. Yes, the last time I ran a 10k!

  15. says

    I am excited to start running shorter distances!!! This summer I am going to run a few half marathons and a relay, BUT mixing in a lot of 5ks. I can’t wait. I haven’t really focused on shorter distances so it could be fun.
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  16. says

    Great post! I agree- focusing on the shorter distances this spring has given me such a respect for those speedy 5k racers! I still love long distances more, and will be very ready to jump into fall half/full marathon training… but it’s been a great way to mix things up and work on speed for a change.
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..A day of eats on the sugar detoxMy Profile

  17. says

    Such good messages in here! I think people are way too hooked on the aura around marathons and half marathons. Most beginner runners I know jump right into them without ever running a 5 or 10km. I think they definitely miss out.
    I keep tossing around what to do next year. I go back and forth from shorter road races to ultra trail running. The simplicity of shorter running races and working on speed for the first time in literally a decade is very appealing!
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  18. says

    I was just thinking this same thing. I have been so wrapped up in half marathons that I am terrified of the 5k race that I have coming up this weekend! Personally I love 10 mile races but they are really hard to come by. If I see one, I typically sign up for it. In the years to come, I want to vary my racing schedule a bit more so that I don’t get bored and burnt out on one particular distance.
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  19. says

    Are you talking to me? Are YOU talking to ME? I’ve been stuck thinking about whether to run the marathon again, and I’m guilty of forgetting about those shorter races.

    A couple years ago, I was lamenting the loss of the 10K. The race I grew up watching my dad run used to be a 10K, which became my first race when I started running and one that I returned to every year until 2009. Now, they’ve changed it to only a 5K. The same town has since added a spring marathon. It’s like there’s nothing between 5Ks and marathons.
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  20. says

    I think a lot of people go through a progression cycle with races. I think most go 5K – 10K – half and then full but only when they run a full, do they found out what distance really is best suited to them. It’s just the novelty of these halves and fulls with the medals and what not that draw them into running longer. I think anyway :)
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  21. says

    A few years ago, I was hell bent on completing my first marathon. I did it, and was proud to have done so. It took me about 4 years to feel like I wanted to run another one. My second one was Chicago. It was fun, and I enjoyed the grandeur of it, but it was probably my last marathon. It takes me too long to recover from them; which is not worth it to me in the long run. I like to stick to half marathons and below. That way, my training doesn’t have to consume my life, and I can quickly recover so that running is enjoyable. The older I get, the less the marathon (and all of its hooplah) appeals to me.
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  22. says

    Too much is put on going long in endurance sports, it comes from all angles too, from non runners to actual runners. There seems to be this false belief that “you must do xx distance before you can can call yourself a runner or triathlete. I hear ultrarunners scoff at 50k finishers, saying you must do 100 miles, why I ask? I have always said, everyone has their distance, the one they love to race and do. Mine is olympic distance triathlons, I love the distance, it is my favorite to race.
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  23. says

    Oh, I totally agree with you! I feel like some people don’t think they are “real” runners unless they run marathons so they feel pressured to run them. I also know a lot of brand new runners that immediately sign up for a marathon when they are nowhere near ready just because they feel compelled to due to their popularity. I do love the half marathon distance. I also found last year from my first 10K that I really like that distance.
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  24. says

    I really hate 5K distances, but found that I enjoyed the only 10K I’ve done. Like you mentioned, they aren’t common anymore though. I would definitely do more of them or even a 10-miler. You’re almost forced to jump into the half distance if you want to run farther than 5K races. I love your points about the pros to the “shorter” distances too
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  25. says

    Running is not something I love to do, but I do it because it’s the easiest form of external motivation out there (you don’t typically see events for the best DVD workout performance…) I’ve done two 1/2s, but definitely like the shorter distances better. But you’re right, it’s hard to find a lot of 10k or the ever elusive 8k distance! Especially if you have to travel more than a few minutes to get to the race, it’s just not worth the travel.
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  26. says

    I couldn’t agree more! When a new runner says, “I’m going to run a marathon” I always suggest they start short and work their way up. There seems to be an assumption that shorter races are for the non-runners, and like you said, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I jumped into a 5K last week and, after training for a marathon, it was a nice change! Interesting point about the difficulty in finding 10K races. I feel like there are plenty here in the DC Metro area, but we have an abundance of races anyway. Come down and run Cascades 10K Memorial Day weekend, it’s a good one!
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  27. says

    I love half marathons and I’m going to be doing a full at the end of the summer. The only other distance I’ve done is 5k and it’s ok. I’m doing my first 10k this summer, so we’ll see if I like that any better.
    I do like your reasoning though for the shorter distances. I’m just so much more about endurance than speed. Not that a 10k doesn’t take endurance :)

  28. says

    I have some pretty serious half marathon fever right now but it’s only because I feel like it’s that time in my running life that I really need to step it up and try something super challenging and new. Ya know?
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  29. says

    I agree with you…I really enjoy watching the fast runners at the shorter races–they AMAZE me! I’ve worked a lot on my speed and cannot come close to what they do! I love small, local 5Ks and 4 or 5 mi races, but there aren’t many 10ks. I usually run more long distance races because I have endurance, but not a ton of speed.

  30. says

    I like 5Ks and 10Ks (when I can find them), because they can help you train for longer races. I’ve done a few 5Ks lately as workouts for a 10K I’m doing and to transition into marathon training. If you can find some cheap 5Ks (especially put on by a festival, church, etc), it’s basically a $10-15 time trial, and you never know, you might win an age group award or something while you’re training for another distance.
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  31. says

    The marathon is definitely my love and passion, but I enjoy other races too. My problem is there are very few races where I live, and I can’t justify the cost and time away to travel for a 5k or 10k.
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  32. says

    I’ve done quite a few 5k and 10k races and they’re the ones I have most luck in with age group placings. They probably hurt a lot more but the pain lasts a lot shorter time.
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  33. says

    Why doesn’t the 30k get much love!? That’s always been my favorite distance. Long enough to really challenge you, but short enough that it doesn’t suck you dry.

    Seriously, why put distances in a box, people!

    Obviously, you hit a nerve in a good way, Amanda:)
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  34. says

    I’m feeling over longer distances at the moment, so this post is fitting. I am going to use this summer to just run for fun and maybe throw a 5 or 10k in if I feel up to it. Maybe I’ll get speedier in the process!
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  35. says

    Definitely in the marathon fever, that is now merging into 50K fever. With trail races around here, the shorter the distance, typically the less competitive the race because all of the fast cats want the longest distance available. That’s fine with me because I like to switch it up too. I just rain a trail 5K, and it was really, really fun to go all out on the trails, whereas usually I’m conserving energy.
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  36. says

    Although the half is my favorite distance thus far (we’ll see how I feel about the full after MCM) – I really enjoy running the shorter distances – and like you said, man o man are those front runners fast! I try to do at least a couple of 5k/10k a year :)
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  37. says

    10k is my favourite by far. So many people love to say they’ve done a marathon or half marathon, because for some reason it is seen as the superior race. The 10k is good because you can do it at virtually any time.
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  38. says

    I like running 5 and 10k distances because it makes me feel fast. When you run a lot of long distance, you get more used to running slow and easy, but it’s really fun to challenge yourself to run a shorter race and give it your all!
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  39. says

    This is so wise. I am not an advocate at. all. of jumping in to long distances. I ran 5 and 10k for years before tackling my first half and full. Sure everybody’s different, but I think everyone benefits from giving their body time to adapt to the rigors of distance training. There is no shame in a 5k! : )
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  40. says

    Perfect timing to read your post! My very first race was a marathon…and that was in 1996. And I just signed up to run my very first 5k on Mother’s Day…17 years after starting running!! It just has always seemed like to much hassle to pay a race fee, go to packet pickup, drive somewhere on race morning, stand around waiting for the start, etc., all for a race that will be over so quickly! My other excuse has been that a 5k sounds SO hard. :)
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  41. says

    I was just talking to a friend of mine about this today. We’re both in agreement to find a race to run together and it not be a marathon. So many more options out there, and at the end of the day (run) we’ll enjoy ourselves much more.
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