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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Ashby

How to Increase Your Distance From 5 km

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

If you’ve recently completed the couch to 5 km or ran that distance for the first time - well done. It really is a great achievement, especially if you’ve never run before and you’ve built yourself up to this distance with sheer hard work and determination.

Now you’re ready to run further!

If you’d like to train to increase your distance from 5km, you can join a running club or friendly running group, or train on your own. For a training plan, you might want to download an app, read a book, or research online.

But how about you get advice from people who have actually done it? Men and women who, like you, started off by running 5km and have recently run marathons (42 km) or even ultramarathons (any distance longer than 42 km). Read on for some real, practical, surprising, and, at times, amusing tips.

Make a Plan

If you try to run a marathon without the proper training, you risk injury and failure. So how far in advance should you start training? Experts say 12 weeks minimum, with some recommending a 24-week training plan.

However, it will depend on your level of fitness.

Janette, who ran a marathon in 2021, says she began by following a 12-week plan, running five times a week, to establish a solid routine and prepare her body for marathon training. She then made herself a bespoke marathon training plan. “I found two marathon training plans - both 16 weeks in duration. One was for beginners, and one was for sub-4. I adapted these and created a program for me that was somewhere in between these two.”

Mix Up Distances and Speed

All of the runners we spoke to recommend running a mix of different distances when you’re training for a longer run. You should also vary your pace. Jo, who ran the London Marathon, did a lot of interval work when she was training, alternating sprints with steady jogs and even walks.

“A slow 5km a couple of times a week can help you knock out a 10 km much more comfortably,” says Jo.

When Janette was running five times a week to prepare for her marathon, her five runs a week consisted of:

  • Three runs for about two miles at an easy pace.

  • One run at a faster pace including speed work, intervals or, Fartlek.

  • One run to cover a longer distance. To help her control her pace downward, Janette chose the run-walk method: 30 seconds run and 30 seconds walk.

Don’t worry about your speed, says Jo. If you need to walk to allow your body to recover, that’s ok. Just a one-minute brisk walk can help you run for longer. It’s more important that you cover the distance.

Fartlek: From the Swedish term for “speed play.” A continuous, unstructured run in which the pace is varied.

Tempo running: Warm up; run at an effort level just outside your comfort zone; cool down.

Interval training: Short bursts of hard, fast running and longer intervals of less intense running, rest, or relief periods.

Work On Your Core and Stamina

Another thing all our runners agree on: it’s not just your running distance on which you need to build. You also need to think about cardiovascular fitness, core strength, stamina and endurance.

Dean Ashby and Demsey ran a double ultra marathon in the Isle of Arran in 2021. Dean says runners looking to run longer distances should work on their core fitness. Regular exercise moves should include planks, mountain climbers and jackknives.

In the build-up to his double ultra marathon, Demsey says he worked standing up. “I set up my laptop in the kitchen and stood for eight hours a day to increase ‘time on my feet.’ It’s also a great way to wear in new trainers. But if I did this again, I’d consider investing in an anti-fatigue mat designed specifically for people using standing desks.”

Dean and Demsey after finishing their ultramarathon

Run With a Buddy

Most people agree running with a friend or group is easier than running alone. It’s also better to run with someone else from a safety point of view, and in case of injury or sickness.

In addition, you can also venture further afield, sample different territory, and enjoy more rural routes, which adds to the experience and distracts you, says Demsey.

Sarah ran a marathon in 2021. She says she prefers to train with someone else because she’s less likely to find an excuse to cancel, such as the weather or physical niggles. “Best of all, if you run with someone, it breaks up longer runs, and helps you pace yourself better,” she says.

But what if the people you run with don’t share your passion for those longer distances?

Janette organised ‘pick-up points’ for her long runs to drop off tired runners and pick up others who wanted to join her for a stretch. “You might find you’re more likely to get people to accompany you if you design a 20 mile run as four loops of five miles. And, if you don’t have runners, you could always ask someone to join you on their bike!”

Look After Your Feet

Most runners will agree that good running shoes are essential to protect and support your feet and ankles.

“Wear trainers that are right for your style of running, not because they look pretty,” Sarah reminds us.

Demsey recommends proper trail shoes for a trail run but doesn’t rate waterproof trainers. He says they keep most of the water out, but if any water does get in, it stays in. The same applies to moisture. He also bought trail running toe socks designed to eliminate skin-on-skin friction to prevent blisters.

Demsey also reminds runners to cut their toenails the week before the big event, not the day before. But don’t cut them too short, he says; remember, your toes will take quite a battering against the front of your shoes when you’re running. Finally, he advises ultra runners to carry a sports towel. They’re super lightweight and absorbent and come in handy to clean wet, muddy feet.

Race Day: Before, During and After an Event: Runners' Tips!

Before: Preparation

Sarah: Figure out what works for you. If you want to try energy gels, try them on shorter runs in case they have side effects, like making you need the toilet.

Don’t wear anything new on a longer run in case it rubs.

Wear layers. If you get hot, you can strip down and tie a layer around your waist. Then, if and when you stop and cool down, you’ll be able to put that layer back on and keep warm.

Don’t forget lights. It’s important that you are visible in the dark both for you and others around you.

Demsey: When training, concentrate on breathing right. Try breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. Find a rhythm that works with your steps if it helps.

Visualise what could go wrong and how you will deal with it.

Don’t eat anything new the night before your event.


Demsey: I ate salted orange segments. They contain essential salts to help stop cramps from setting in. Also, coconut water is great to help you to hydrate.

A bladder is better than a water bottle because a water bottle can give you a burn in between your shoulders after a length of time.

Dean: After 10 km, you can start to lose energy. You need to replace the calories that you’re losing. It’s all about planning - take with you what you will need.

Mountain Fuel flapjacks are easy to eat while you're running, and are nice and light on the stomach. Great to boost your energy.

Sarah: For distances over a half marathon, I sip a Lucozade isotonic sports drink every 20 minutes and carry sweets in my pocket.


Sarah: I have a whey protein or muscle fuel drink to help my body recover.

Demsey: Fish and chips serve me well….

Be Mindful of What’s Stopping You - AKA as ‘It’s All In Your Head’

Sarah: “For me, the hardest part of running is not my body, but my head.…That’s why I prefer to run in the morning before my head can talk me out of it. If I make myself get up and go, I usually surprise myself. And it sets me up for the day!”

Jo agrees that sometimes, it’s your head that stops you, not your physical ability. For example, Jo says, if you do the same 5k route every day and stop and walk at a certain point, you won’t progress. “It’s all in your head. Change the route. That way, you’ll get around those negative mental assumptions that are holding you back.”

Jo says it can also help to break down a longer run into sections. That way, you can mentally tick off a section when you’ve done it.

During his ultra marathon, Demsey carried a Bluetooth speaker with him so he could listen to music when the race felt mentally tough. “Initially, I was worried about the weight, but it was worth every gram in my pack.”

“What keeps you going when you’re done? Running with someone who doesn’t quit!” says Demsey.

We hope you’ve found these tips helpful, and we’d love you to share your own tips with us. Whether you’ve just run your first kilometre or you’ve got several ultras under your belt, we know how hard it can be, and you truly are an inspiration!

And if you want to increase your distance from 5 km, join us for a run on a Wednesday or a Sunday. Check out our Events page.

**Thank you to the amazing runners who helped us to write this article. We really appreciate your input and you are a true inspiration.

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