Psst…there are races other than the marathon

funrun e1340913662113 225x300 Psst...there are races other than the 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. 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. 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. 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!
    GreenGirlRunning recently posted..Up Next…My Profile

  4. 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.
    Coach Dion recently posted..15km of TarMy Profile

  5. 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!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted..Eats LatelyMy Profile

  6. I love a 10K ;) Do you have any suggestions for local ones that are good? I also like relays. I’m doing Ragnar DC again this year.
    Alyssa K recently posted..My Garnier Olia Tour ExperienceMy Profile

  7. I’ve definitely caught the half-marathon bug, but I like shorter races too. There’s still training involved (if you want to be fast), but it just feels like such less of a commitment. Lotsa’ fun!
    Tiff @ Love, Sweat, & Beers recently posted..What I Splurged On WednesdayMy Profile

  8. My first race 10 years ago was a half and I think I’ve stuck largely to longer distances because I have better endurance than speed! However you are right the shorter races are really great for so many things!
    Amanda @runtothefinish recently posted..San Juan Puerto RicoMy Profile

  9. 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.

  10. 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?!
    Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted..The Liebster AwardMy Profile

  11. I am excited to run a bunch of shorter races this summer…nothing longer than a 5 mile or 10k here in Florida in the summer it’s too hot!
    Kat recently posted..#OnAQuest for clean eats!My Profile

  12. 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 :)

  13. Totally agree!!! I was only eyeing full and half marathons, there really are so many other great races out there. It’s hard when the marathon monster owns you.. LOL
    Mamarunsbarefoot recently posted..Running Food, Grass and Mailing the little brotherMy Profile

  14. I love 10ks and 10 mile runs but you are right, there are VERY few in comparison to the number of 1/2s and fulls you can find. I like doing the shorter distances as training but my heart is for the long haul.
    Cori @ olivetorun recently posted..Puppy Dog Eyes and Ikea in Text MessagesMy Profile

  15. 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.
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted..Jackfruit: The Vegetable Meat and Native Food’s New “BBQ Jackelope Sandwich”My Profile

  16. 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!).
    Gracie (Complicated Day) recently posted..Poor little carMy Profile

  17. 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!
    Fancy Nancy recently posted..So You Wanna Feel Like a Rockstar….My Profile

  18. 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?
    Kim recently posted..Real Life Feelings and EmotionsMy Profile

  19. 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.
    Laura recently posted..Lessons from the T.A.P.E.R.My Profile

  20. 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!

  21. 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.
    Tasha @ Healthy Diva recently posted..Week 16: ThiscloseMy Profile

  22. Thanks for this – I was invited to run a 10 mile race in a few months and I’ve been considering it – my first reaction was why? I like a 5K because it tests my time limits but a 10 miler seemed off. But after a few days, something about it intrigued me – so I do think I’m going to sign up for it.
    Jen recently posted..Victory! New Jersey Half Marathon Anniversary race reportMy Profile

  23. There are a lot of races in this area that cater to the different distance racer – everything from 3K to 7 or 8K to 20K, I think it’s great and a guaranteed PR your first time!
    Kovas – Midwest Multisport Life recently posted..The Joy of Run-Walk-RunMy Profile

  24. The Half is def. my race this year, since I plan to do 13, but I just love a 5 mile race. There aren’t many around here, which is a bummer, but I love to do them!
    kim prytherch recently posted..Vitacost and 18 years of Marital BlissMy Profile

  25. 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

  26. 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!
    Abby @ Change of Pace recently posted..First camping trip of the season a success!My Profile

  27. 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.
    Lisa recently posted..Break.My Profile

  28. 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.
    Viper recently posted..Booming Cost of MarathonsMy Profile

  29. 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 :)
    Coy recently posted..Rev3 Knoxville 70.3 – Race Report (Swim Edition)My Profile

  30. 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.
    Paige Phillips recently posted..They Should Hire Me As a Spokesperson!My Profile

  31. My second race was a half-marathon. I still can’t believe I actually ran 21K lol
    Kierston @candyfit recently posted..A Race Recap: Going Bananas!My Profile

  32. 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.
    Scott recently posted..T-Shirt Etiquette GuidelinesMy Profile

  33. 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.
    Kristen recently posted..Quinoa and Black Bean Stuffed PeppersMy Profile

  34. 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
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted..To Just Be and Way to Go WednesdayMy Profile

  35. 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.
    Thea @ It’s Me Vs. Me recently posted..Frederick Running Festival Twilight 5kMy Profile

  36. 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!
    Alison @ racingtales recently posted..AOL 4th Annual 5K Race Recap: Relearning How to FocusMy Profile

  37. 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 :)

  38. 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?
    Ashley recently posted..3, 2, 1… Abs!My Profile

  39. I like longer distances too, but I run way more 5ks than anything. They are easy for me to wake up and say “Yup, going to go do that race” They mix in easy with any type of trainging. Short & fast and dont take up your whole day. I like it!
    Britt @ BrittsRunningStyle recently posted..Mother’s Day All Week LongMy Profile

  40. While I definitely have a touch of half marathon fever, I’m a big fan of 10 milers and would definitely run more of them if I could find them in my area. 10ks are also a dying breed around here – which is too bad cause I think it’s a very challenging distance, one I have not learned to pace properly yet. I could use the practice!
    Michelle @ Running with Attitude recently posted..Under Armour Challenge – #WhatsBeautifulMy Profile

  41. 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.

  42. i wish i had y endurance back, but i think it’s a blessing in disguise. 10ks are what it;’s about these days!!
    Lindsay recently posted..Training Talk Tuesday and Barleans Greens GiveawayMy Profile

  43. 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.
    Amy Lauren recently posted..That new home smell… and look… and feel…My Profile

  44. 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.
    Erin recently posted..Taper-cakesMy Profile

  45. HEHE. This was written for me, I know =) I love doing longer races but I ALWAYS say that I want to sign up for and train for a shorter race (maybe during the summer?). I think it would be fun to do something different and I agree – to train for a shorter distance can only help your speed with a longer one. =)
    Michele @ Nycrunningmama recently posted..Initial Thoughts on NJ Marathon (Failure)My Profile

  46. 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.
    Char recently posted..Speed SessionMy Profile

  47. Such a great article! Yes, it is a good idea train for and race those 5K’s, you won’t get faster unless you train for speed
    LisaM@RunWiki recently posted..Getting ready for Mountains 2 Beach MarathonMy Profile

  48. 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:)
    Adrienne recently posted..Team Type-A Takes on the CB&I Tri RelayMy Profile

  49. 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!
    Kate @ SoCal Runner Gal recently posted..Back At ItMy Profile

  50. I like doing the 5K’s during the summer, helps with speedwork (which I normally don’t really do). 10K’s are my nemesis distance…trying to do more of them. Looking towards some trail races and a 50K too :)
    Robin Brunet recently posted..Mississauga Marathon 2013My Profile

  51. Love this! I agree…my favorite distance is 10K, feels like a great race distance but I do enjoy local 5k’s so my boys can run with us! I agree about the marathon popularity these days…crazy!!
    Marissa recently posted..Do you know your own strength?My Profile

  52. 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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  53. 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 :)
    beka recently posted..#GoalGetter2013 April Recap and May GoalsMy Profile

  54. 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.
    Nadine Davis recently posted..Does Naturaful Work?My Profile

  55. 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!
    Travel Spot recently posted..Miwok 100kMy Profile

  56. 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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  57. Great post! I love shorter distances
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  58. I am running in a 10K next weekend and I can’t wait. Last weekend I did a 5K color run. I love the variety and fun that comes from all of the different distances! Great post! recently posted..Running faster and there’s a tree growing out of my head!My Profile

  59. I seem to be on an endurance kick! The longer the better :)
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  60. 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. :)
    Kristen @ Happy Running Mama recently posted..Running with an AngelMy Profile

  61. 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.
    David H. recently posted..Off roadingMy Profile

  62. Oh, I ended up signing up for the Crofton 10K on June 8th! I’m excited to run another 10K before I jump into my Marine Corps Marathon training with both feet.
    Alyssa K recently posted..Maryland Half Marathon 2013My Profile

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