Completed your first 5km, but not sure what to do next? Graeme Hilditch has the tips and training advice to help you decide whether a 10km or new 5km PB is for you.

For many women, completing 5km – the first running milestone – after months of training is a huge achievement. But if you’ve caught the running bug, what’s next? This is a dilemma faced by most new runners. Do you enter another 5km, but this time run it quicker, or take the plunge and double the distance by signing up for a 10km race? Choosing which path to take is a very individual choice and, with both options posing different training demands, there are several things to consider.

Weighing it up

First and foremost, you need to follow your instinct. If you didn’t find your 5km too difficult and have a burning desire to see how you fare over a longer distance, then look for a 10km race a few months from now and enjoy the challenge. On the other hand, if the thought of doubling the distance fills you with dread and you’re not ready yet, there’s no shame in tackling another 5km, this time with the aim of running it faster. Whatever decision you make, remember you should never sacrifice your enjoyment of running for a challenge that’s unrealistic. Although the allure of a 10km might be hard to resist, remember to factor in your everyday work, family and social commitments, and make sure it’s an attainable goal. Longer races mean longer training runs, and if you’ll be struggling to find the time to fit them in between school runs, work and family time, it can leave you feeling frustrated. There are 10km events all year round, so if time is tight right now, it might be wise to focus on beating your 5km PB and leave the 10km until you have a little more space in your diary to dedicate to training.

If you’re still undecided which distance to choose, here are a few key training points to consider when setting yourself your next challenge…

Twice as nice

Doubling up to a 10km distance is not actually as daunting as it sounds. Whereas the physical and mental demands of jumping from a half to a full marathon have made many a grown woman cry, the step up to 10km is far easier on the body and is well within the reach of most runners. The way to approach your first 10km is simple: forget about speed and focus instead on the endurance aspect of your training It can be so disheartening if you put pressure on yourself to run fast in a race distance you’ve never done before,  only to start flagging at the halfway mark and struggle to reach the finish. When training for a 10km, you should be aiming to fit in up to four runs a week, with the emphasis being on long, slow runs. Although a number of experts disagree with this approach, over the years I’ve found that my female clients are far more likely to take themselves off for a steady “comfortable” run after a hard day than put themselves through a  high-intensity interval session. To give your legs the endurance needed to run for more than an hour, they need to learn to tolerate working for long distances, so although I’m not suggesting you avoid speed work altogether, I’m a strong believer in the fact it’s more important to run regularly than to skip a training session you’re not looking forward to.

By following this key principle of regular training, combined with small increases in your running distance every week, your first 10km will be a memorable experience – for all the right reasons.

A faster 5km

As exciting as the prospect of a 10km race might be for some, for those who are still new to running and took the occasional walking break in their last 5km, the idea might be less appealing! If you’ve only just got to grips with the joys of running and are happy sticking with a 5km for the time being, why not set yourself the challenge of running your next one a little quicker? The training needn’t take up any more of your time, and by fine-tuning a few of your weekly sessions, you’ll be amazed at how much time you can knock off.

If your goal is to cut out all walking breaks, then the bulk of your training should be focused on gradually reducing both the number of times you walk during a training session and the length of the walking break itself. For example, if your usual session comprises a 30-minute jog/walk with five walking breaks lasting two minutes each, aim to gradually reduce this over time. So, by the end of a four-week period, you should find that a 30-minute session only features two one-minute walking breaks. Getting there might not be easy, but your body will adapt and by the time your next 5km race comes around, you’ll be able to ditch the walks altogether and run the whole way. If walking breaks aren’t your shortfall, but a lack of speed is, then integrating the occasional speed session into your weekly regime will unleash your inner speed demon. Doing these sessions just twice a week can make a big difference. A great session is five to ten one-minute fast runs during a 30-minute jog, with one-minute rests in between. As you get fitter, you can then increase the fast bursts from one minute to 90 seconds – even two minutes if you think you’ve got it in you.

FASTER 5km TIPS

Speed sessions

Include a speed session each week, by running fast for one minute followed by a minute of recovery. Repeat five to ten times.

Run for the hills!

Hills are great for increasing leg strength and will help you tolerate the 5km distance far easier.

Buddy up

Running with a friend who is faster or a similar speed to you can help inspire you to train a little harder.

Time check

Get into the habit of timing one run a week. By checking to see how long a certain route takes you, it’s easier to gauge if you’re getting faster or whether you need to tweak your speed sessions.

FIRST 10km TIPS

Easy does it

Try to forget about running as fast as you can. Instead, take it easy and focus on enjoying the experience.

Dress for the occasion

Running for more than an hour can be hot work, even if it feels cool when you start off, so make sure you’re wearing the right kit for the conditions.

Rehydrate

Remember to take full advantage of drinks stations, even if you don’t feel thirsty. You can easily lose several pounds of fluid running 10km on a warm day.