I was recently asked on Twitter about how to go from running 5Ks to running half marathons and eventually full marathons. I can't exactly give a great deal of advice with just 140 characters so I will write up a blog post for all to read.
Running 5Ks is a great start to long-distance running. I would guess that most marathoners' first race was a 5K.
A 5K requires some running, not a whole lot, but some. 5Ks are mostly about speed and not about endurance or being able to finish them. So that's the part you need to work on the most if you want to go from 5Ks to half marathons and then to full marathons - endurance.
Now, let me tell you quickly how I went from shorter distances to a half marathon. I didn't do it the smart way. I was running mostly 3- to 4-mile runs before my first 5K, probably running like 2-3 times a week. Afterward, I amped up my mileage to about six miles at the most. I kept running 2-3 times a week. To train for my first half, I ran one 8-mile run, a 10-mile run and a 12-mile run. That was about it as far as the long runs go. Needless to say, I finished my first half with a slow time and, worse, I felt horrible afterward.
So, the smart thing would be to follow something like this: run 2-3 times during the week (Monday through Saturday) and then set aside Sundays for long(er) runs. They won't be long at first but eventually they will be. I'd suggest trying to build up to a base of around 20 miles a week. So how does a typical early week start then?
Tue: rest (cross train)
Sat: rest (cross train)
So that's 19-20 miles a week. All distances are manageable if you've been running 5Ks. I would suggest that that would be a good starting point to get into training for a half marathon, so if you aren't there yet, train to get there and then go from there.
Now, you will want to build up your miles every Sunday so I would add a mile every Sunday until you get to 10. In six weeks you can go from that weekly plan above to running a 10-mile run. Increase Sundays to 6, 6-7, 8, 8, 9, 10. Once you can run 10 miles, I would suggest running the following Sunday long runs:
10, 10, 11, 12, 12, 13
So that would be another six weeks on top of the time it took you to get from the starting spot to 10 miles. Your weekly long runs and your weekly mileage then would look like this:
Base: long run 5; 19-20 week
Week 1: 6; 20
Week 2: 7; 21
Week 3: 8; 22
Week 4: 8; 22
Week 5: 9; 23
Week 6: 10; 24
Week 7: 10; 25
Week 8: 11; 27
Week 9: 12; 27
Week 10: 12; 28
Week 11: 13; 28
Week 12: 10; 25
Week 13: half marathon; 23
That's a reasonable plan to get into half marathons. It's not overwhelming with the weekly mileage and allows you enough time to go from running 5Ks to running double-digit miles. One quick note, the rule of thumb to increasing weekly mileage is that you don't want to increase it by more than 10 percent, so going from 25 miles one week to 35 the next is not recommended because it could leave you susceptible to injury.
I will also say to mix up the midweek runs. Do some 5-6 milers, particularly once you are running 10 miles. You can run, for instance...
Mon - 2
Tue - rest
Wed - 6
Thu - 3
Fri - 5
Sat - rest
Sun - 12
Now, I fear this post will get a bit long so I will save the second part of it for later but going from half marathons to full marathons requires more than just increasing mileage from week to week. That's a more solid commitment and takes motivation and dedication. But it is not impossible. Nothing about running marathons is impossible, no matter how much it seems like it is.
Anyway, hope that took care of the first part of the answer. I will be back soon for the second part.