The Friday Five: Five Reasons to Run a 5K

For the first time ever, I’m linking up with Cynthia from You Signed Up For What?!Courtney from Eat Pray Run, DC, and Mar from Mar on the Run for Friday Five.

This Friday Five’s theme is “5 reasons to run a ____.” I’ve obviously chosen to write about 5Ks.

Many runners ignore the 5K once they “graduate” to longer distances, but all race distances have their challenges. A half marathon is 10 miles longer than a 5K, but if you race a 5K, it can be harder than a half marathon. 5Ks hurt like crazy, but at least the ride on the pain train is over quickly.

Here are the reasons why I appreciate the 5K distance:

1.) You can find and run one any weekend, any time of the year.

If you’ve read this far, you know I live in Charleston, SC (it’s even in the header of the blog). Charleston and other southern cities are quite hot, so the months of the year when you can train for and run a local endurance event are somewhat limited.

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Most Southern marathons and half marathons occur between the months of November and March. That works for many runners, but what if you work in retail and are crazy busy during the holidays, or if you’re an accountant and work 60+ hours a week at the beginning of the year? What if you can’t travel to races- whether it’s due to finances, work, or family obligations? You can race 5Ks year-round without travelling far. Or, you can do a 5K when traveling- they’re pretty popular everywhere.

Whether it’s January or June, you can find a 5K in the Charleston area most Saturdays. If Saturday isn’t good for you, we have a growing number of Thursday night races, especially in the summer. Sunday races are rare here. 

2.) Recovery is quick.

If you train for and race a 5K, then have a bad day or don’t meet your goals, you can likely find another 5K the next weekend. You may need a day off, but unless the race was very, very ugly (or you’re injured), you’ll be able to run again two days later. If you have a disappointing longer race, such as a marathon or half marathon, you’ll need at least a week to recover before jumping back into training mode, as well as finding another race that meets your schedule.

Typically, I race a 5K on Saturday morning, then do a longer run on Sunday morning with OnShore Racing run club. I try to get a long run (around 10 miles) each week. On weekends I do not race, I try to run a 12-13 mile long run to maintain endurance.

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3.) You can race… or not.

Just because you sign up for a 5K race, doesn’t mean you have to go “PR or ER”. If your goal is to race a marathon or half marathon, you can easily turn a 5K into a “race-out”, a race that you run as a workout. This works well in large races with little chance at placing or PRing, and sometimes it’s better to leave some in the tank so you can recover and train hard the next week. 

Recently, one friend who is training for a marathon had 12 miles on his schedule on a Saturday morning. He signed up for a local 10K, running 6 miles before the 10K, then using the crowd and support of the race to push him during the last 6.2 miles of his run. Definitely an effective use of a “race-out”. 

Race entry fees can be expensive to run as training runs, but if you are training for a marathon but always run the local Turkey Trot, you don’t have to miss it! 3.1 miles is a good distance for a tempo run. You can easily add some miles before or after the race for a total of 6-7 miles… more in line with what a marathon training schedule might call for.

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4.) 5K training isn’t life consuming.

I run between 35-40 miles per week, cross train, and strength train. This is the sweet spot for me, and I feel like I’m excelling at the 5K and 10K running this mileage. I recover well from my workouts and am not too busy or tired for real life.

If I ever train for another marathon, I would increase my mileage closer to 50 miles per week. I’m pretty cautious about increasing mileage, so it would take me several months to get up to 50 miles per week as a base.

The 35-40 miles per week I ran to “train” for the Darlington Marathon was not adequate for any goal besides completing the marathon. I finished- and I could run 35-40 weekly training miles and participate in a marathon, but I won’t. Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.

If I tackle marathon training again, I want to knock it out of the park and run well. I respect the distance, and I won’t run another marathon unless I can put forth the respect, effort, training, and recovery it deserves.

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5.) Everyone can participate.

One of the best parts of 5K races is the diverse group of participants. You have the speedsters who finish 5Ks in 15 minutes, but you have others who are mid-packers, Couch-to-5Kers, or walkers. An elite athlete may train 100+ miles per week and race a 5K, while a new mom may run/walk three times a week with a stroller. The 5K is a race that meets any runner’s needs- whether they want to break local records or just run the whole time without stopping. You can be serious about the 5K- or not. It’s up to you.

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Almost every 5K is walker friendly. Kids can run 5Ks, and many 5Ks allow dogs. Some 5Ks even have special categories for runners with dogs or strollers. No one’s left out.

I love sharing 5Ks with Clay and with my friends- whether it’s a friend whose been running for years or someone who’s “graduating” from Couch-to-5K. With so many local 5Ks, I have lots of opportunities to share running with new and old friends.

If you’re in the Charleston area and want to run a 5K, my recommendations include the Race the Landing series at Charles Towne Landing, the Old Village 5K in Mount Pleasant, the Charleston Marathon’s Shrimp and Grits 5KCharleston Marathon’s Shrimp and Grits 5K in North Charleston, the James Island Connector Run, and the Summerville Shamrock Shuffle.

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24 Responses to The Friday Five: Five Reasons to Run a 5K

  1. carmyy says:

    Yes! So much less pressure for me to PR at a 5k because I know it’s not “my distance” it’s a fun way to practice racing since like you said, there’s so many 5ks around!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I really wish they were cheaper here, I’d do more of them as practice races and tempo runs. Some of my friends are doing an open race at a state cross country meet next weekend and the race is like $5. No frills or shirts, just a number and a clock, and a great time trial.

  2. supereli23 says:

    5k is actually my favorite race distance! It is over so quickly that the pain from running hard is easier to endure for me. Plus my body doesn’t hate me the next day.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Agreed- even the really tough ones, I can still get out for a long run on Sunday. I feel like I ran a race the day before and slow down a little, but I’ve always wanted to get back out and run again the next day.

  3. Chaitali says:

    Great list! I especially love the one about it being accessible to everyone. I’ve been able to talk family and non-running friends into doing 5k’s with me that wouldn’t think about doing longer distances.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I agree, that’s the most awesome perk of a 5K. Things like turkey trots and charity races get people out there running or walking when they otherwise wouldn’t, then some of them stick with it and start running other races too.

  4. hey, thanks for linking up! this is a great post and your list is excellent — i think the only people who believe that a 5k is easy are those who have never raced one!

  5. Amy says:

    Great list! Almost makes me want to train for a decent 5K soon 🙂 Love that picture of you and Clay at the end. So Cute! YOu guys really are a cute couple 🙂

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks! Yeah, training for a 5K is tough just because there’s so little out there on how to really train to run it faster, for someone who’s done half or full marathons and now wants to focus on 5Ks. I’ve honestly been trying to wing it with speedwork…

  6. FLRunnerBoy says:

    Those are some excellent reasons

  7. Jennifer says:

    For me 5Ks are just as tough as 10M+ I do prefer the long distances, but I love that I can run 5Ks with more of my friends. I hope to work on my speed next year!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I’ve only run one 10 miler, and it was tough because it was hot and on a trail. My road 5Ks that I race definitely wear me out more than my 12-13 mile training runs, even the ones I push it a little in.

  8. harveylisam says:

    All great reasons! Since it’s not running season at home, I can’t find a 5K any weekend, but they are relatively easy to find. 🙂

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Yikes! Yeah, that’s one cool thing about reading your blog, I get my fix on summer running reviews from my Canadian friends who are running more during that season!

  9. Hollie says:

    I do agree that the 5k is so underrated. Honestly it’s such a great race and has it’s own challenges. I wish more people were into it and didn’t feel pressured to run a marathon.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Agreed. Nothing wrong with the marathon, obviously I did one, but I don’t like the pressure either. It makes lots of newer runners shoot for a goal they may not have the solid base for, and people underestimate just how much recovery a full takes, too.

  10. #5 is my FAVORITE thing about 5Ks. I love that there are so many people there all at different stages of their running journey.

  11. Kara says:

    Hahaha PR or ER! I’ve never heard that but I’m liking it 🙂 I loveeee local 5Ks. I have to admit that I do forget about them sometimes! I need to do more. My PR needs refreshing 🙂 I also love incorporating them into long runs or speed/tempo runs, especially if I don’t have anyone to run with. It’s such a big boost! GREAT list!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Haha, my half marathon PR needs refreshing. It’s funny to think about signing up for a distance to refresh a PR :). Incorporating them into longer runs is a good thing, because it gets you into pushing it a bit on your long run which can be helpful on race day.

  12. allieksmith says:

    I love this post! #1 and #5 are my favorite points. I love that I can go on vacation or just be traveling and know that I can connect with other runners at a race and almost feel “at home” in the community, you know? And yes to everyone participating! That’s the best! Even dogs can participate, which is awesome, haha!

  13. I love this list! I ran two 5Ks recently and remembered how fun they are!

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