Born to Run

Been inspired by both the Birmingham Great Run and the London Marathon? It’s time to take on a personal challenge

The emotional back stories, the jubilant crowds and the look of pure elation as thousands of amateur runners cross the line. It’s hard not to get caught up in the joy of running when you watch these amazing events take place, raising vast amounts of money for a range of cracking charities.
But if you’ve never really run before, the thought of 26.2 miles of physical pain is probably pretty daunting and off-putting. Well, why not join the ever-increasing throng of people who regularly partake in the much more palatable distance of 5k. It’s a great target for beginner runners as it’s long enough to feel like you’ve achieved something, yet short enough to take on after just a couple of months, or less if you’re in reasonable shape.
Here’s our guide to how to safely prepare for a 5k in just a matter of weeks.


When you first start running, don’t try to do too much too soon. An average beginner’s pace is around 13 minutes per mile, but if you find that too hard, or not challenging enough, simply adjust your training accordingly. You’ll soon get a feel for what your body can do.
Set yourself a target date for running your first 5k. Allow for eight weeks to prepare and it might be easier to commit to an official race day for extra motivation. For beginners, it’s best to schedule three running sessions per week during the last eight weeks before you go for it.
At first you only need to do 20 minutes of alternate running and walking, building up to 40 minutes as you progress and D-Day gets near. If you’re really not used to running, or suffering weight problems, then it’s fine to walk throughout your first session. Next time try running for a few minutes, then walk until you feel ready to run again, but when you walk, take brisk, purposeful strides.


Schedule rest days between your training days and take plenty of minutes to warm up before each session. Stretching before and after exercise is beneficial and something that many of us forget to do. By week three, you’ll already be starting to experience at least some of the many benefits of regular running.
Ideally you should try to work up to running for at least seven minutes (just over half a mile) non-stop before taking a walk break by the end of week three. You should also increase the length of your training sessions to half-an-hour, and once you can run for seven minutes, aim to run for eight, and then nine, which you should be able to achieve by the end of week four.


Weeks five and six are a key time. Now it is time to run for at least 15 minutes (just over a mile) non-stop. Aim to build up to running for least 20 minutes by the end of week six. By the end of week seven you’ll be running for 35 minutes non-stop, which should get you to a distance of a little over four kilometres. It is still absolutely fine for you to take the odd walk break if you really need to, just get running again as soon as you can.
In week eight you should really enjoy your final week of training. A session where you run 30 minutes, then take a one-minute walk break before running for another 10 minutes, scheduled early in the week, should prepare you nicely to run your 5k race. After that just one more 20-minute run in the middle of the week is all you need to do.


It’s target day and if you feel nervous, that’s fine! If you are running in an actual race, most of the other runners will be too but just lap up the atmosphere and remind yourself that you are fully prepared to do this. Treat today as a celebration of how far you have come in just a couple of months. Your aim is to go the distance without stopping, but if you need to take walking breaks that’s fine, this is only your first full 5k and hopefully it will be the first of many.

Good luck!