5k In Miles: How Far You Should Run To Prep For The Race – Aaptiv

5k In Miles: How Far You Should Run To Prep For The Race – Aaptiv

Just signed up for an upcoming 5K (maybe even our Virtual 5K)? You might be wondering how far do I need to run to prepare for a 5K? The short, oversimplified answer is: As far as you can.

There are obviously limits on how far anyone can run, but before we get into what keeps us from embarking on a Forrest Gumpian cross-country foot race, let’s lay out why you should strive to run farther than the race itself.

“The simplest reason why we run long, of course, is to develop the cardiovascular system,” says running coach and best-selling author Hal Higdon. “Stronger heart pumping greater volumes of oxygen-rich blood through wider arteries equals better performance at all distances up to and including the marathon.”

If running farther than your 5K in training sounds daunting, that makes total sense. But don’t worry. It’s not as scary as it seems, especially if you’re simply trying to finish the race and using a race training app like Aaptiv. Those looking to make a PR may need to add more distance training into their routine.

To give you an idea of how far you should run in training, here are general distance guidelines for each running level. Refer to these to safely and sustainably increase your mileage (or just make it through the race!) for your next 5K.


For 5K first-timers or those of us just getting back in shape, the key is knowing when to slow down or walk in order to hit mileage targets.

“Basically, run in the comfort level,” Higdon says. If it’s uncomfortable, slow down and walk; over a period of time you’ll build an aerobic base and the ability to go farther and farther.”


If you’re a habitual 5K junkie and the distance itself no longer phases you, you’re ready for the next mileage-building step. Just remember that it’s still possible—and perhaps more likely—for accomplished runners to get greedy with distance and pace gains, which can only end poorly.

“If (runners) get involved with a program or a class or a club and start running with other runners, they might start to think, ‘Gee, I can’t run as fast as those people, I’ll never be that good of a runner’,” Higdon says of the potential for overtraining in a group. “Some of the elite and sub-elite athletes still don’t know when it’s time to slow down.”

With that in mind, add some pace work into your weekly training plan.


Once you’re comfortably running 20 to 30 miles a week and taking no more than two rest days when healthy, it’s safe to say you’re advanced. Between the increased mileage and higher-volume workouts, the key here is recovery between efforts.

“Bill Bowerman, the late University of Oregon track and field coach, had his athletes do a hard day and follow it with an easy day so the Oregon runners could run the next day harder again,” Higdon says. “Over weeks and months and years, you build a much stronger runner who turns into Galen Rupp.”

Motor through the 5K with this challenging routine.

Want to learn more about Aaptiv’s running programs? Check them out in app today.

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