Why Train for Shorter Distances?

Why Train for Shorter Distances?

Let’s face it, we all have our favorite distance for running and racing.  For some people, that’s a 55-meter sprint, and for some, it’s an ultra-marathon.  Everyone has their favorite distance, and that is ok.  That’s the beauty of the sport.

Personally, I enjoy the half marathon the most.  In fact, I’ve run 50 now. It’s short enough not to feel the fatigue of a marathon but long enough that you’re not sprinting the entire race.

Sometimes we get stuck in the same race distance rut. We train for the same distance year round. Not only can that get repetitive on your body, but it can also cause overuse injuries or be mentally exhausting.

In 2018, I trained for Many Distances:

In the winter and early Spring, I trained and PRed in a half marathon.

Phoenix Half marathon feb me running

Mid to late Spring, I ran but didn’t actively train for anything.

In the summer, I trained for two trail races, something I had never done before.under armour copper mountain race me running

Then in the fall, I trained and PRed in a marathon.

New York City Marathon me running

Since 2016, there has been one to PR to allude me: the 5k. I wished I had an opportunity to race a 5k when I was in half marathon shape, but I didn’t.  So now as we enter 2019, I’m looking forward to just building speed and fitness for both 5ks and half marathons.

So anyway, sometimes the best thing we can do for our running is to take a break and train for another distance.

But why?

A Mental Break:

Sometimes going through countless weekend long runs can be tiring, boring, and downright unenjoyable. At the end of the NYCM training cycle, I felt exhausted from long runs and higher mileage. I felt like my life was starting to revolve around when and how I would get the long run in, and that’s not me.  I like to do other things whether it’s seeing friends, hiking, or not just not worrying about a long run.

The feeling of high mileage can be repetitive or mentally challenging.  Many people thrive on that, but many people don’t. Focusing at different distances throughout the year allows your brain a mental break.  There isn’t a need to run a 20-mile long run while training for 5ks, in fact, it’s counter-intuitive.

Sometimes lowering mileage and training for a shorter race can break you free of that training rut. Doing faster runs with more “action,” can bring excitement back to your running.  I used to hate speed work, now it’s one of my favorite workouts of the week.

Long runs also take a lot of time.  It’s not the three hours of actual running but the recovery period, as well as are the “are you going to want to be productive the rest of the day” mindset after a long run.  Most of my 20-mile-long run days were spent relaxing at home and being as lazy as humanly possible.

Running Shorter Distances Builds Different Muscles:

Obviously running any distance uses muscles in your legs but each distance affects your muscles differently.

5ks use more fast-twitch muscles while longer races use more slow twitch muscles.  Building both can benefit your running in every distance.

Aerobic Capacity

Training for short distance races has big benefits for your aerobic capacity. Recently, I’ve heard a few elite athletes talk about the marathon like “death by 1000 small papercuts”.  The marathon or any long event is a moderate effort over a long sustained, period. When you race shorter, you develop your body to utilize more oxygen in a shorter period of time. (IE: All of the pain of a long race into a shorter one). The more oxygen you can consume, the more physical work you’ll be able to do.

Leg Speed and Turnover Increase:

By running and racing shorter distances, you are able to increase turn over. You’ll become a more efficient runner at both shorter and longer distances.

When I raced my full marathon, I knew I wasn’t in the best shape of my life, because my half marathons and shorter distances were much slower than the Spring. I’ve always done better, when my shorter races are faster too.

More Racing: 

Generally, a half or full marathon costs upwards of 100 dollars.  Now you can do at least 3, sometimes many more 5ks for that same price.  So yes you are paying $25-30 per 5k, but you are racing more often.

You also recover much faster from races, so you can run more races while still recovering appropriately.  Maybe that is my favorite part!

Racing 5ks or a shorter event doesn’t have to be painful or boring. It’s a challenge to train or race for like any other event.

Questions for you:

What is your favorite distance to race?

Do you have any running goals for 2019? 

December Training

December Training

Already a week into a New Year and I have yet to sit back and look at December’s training. Usually, I even toy with writing a December log. We are already into the New Year, I’ve reflected upon 2018 in both running and blogging…who cares about December.

But I do. I use my logs to look back and see where I was so it’s important I suppose.

Miles Run: Around 200

Range of Paces: 6:26-11:30-untimed

Longest Run: 14

Shortest Run: 2

Rest Days: 7


Race 13.1 1:30.58

Christmas Classic 5 miler (32:46)

Lonely 5ks (20:00.3, 19:57.3.)*Not actual races


December was busy, and I quickly realized I was burning my candle at both ends. I chose to rest and sleep a lot more, and I don’t regret it.  While I took a few more rest days than anticipated in December, it was a busy month and I needed rest more than easy miles.


My favorite race was the Christmas Classic 5 Miler and my husband, and I had a great time in Bethlehem. The Race 13.1 in Baltimore was my 50th half marathon, but it wasn’t the best put together race and dangerous.


I ran seven workouts in December including two 5ks.

The third weekend of December, the 5k I wanted was canceled due to weather. It was raining and 40 degrees, but I think the course flooded out. I wasn’t that bummed, and I decided to make the best of it and run my 5k in my neighborhood. I surprised myself and ran a 20:00.3. The next weekend I did the same thing and ran a 19:57. I’ll probably run more in January just to give me something to stay motivated. I’ve run a lot of actual 5ks alone, so it wasn’t the “hardest thing ever” to motivate myself to run a hard 20 minutes.

Getting Back into Shape:

Getting back into shape after time off has been tough. I’m not coming back from anything and realistically I never was. I didn’t take that much time off after the marathon (2 weeks).

As I’ve told many people, I never felt as though I got into peak shape for New York. I ran a 1:27 half when my PR is 1:22. I want to get back to the 1:22 shape, as well as 18: XX shape for a 5k, but it’s coming much slower this time around. I’ve had more training bumps.  Not due to injury but due to life.  While I’m proud of 1:27, it’s still 5 minutes slower than I ran early last year.

My goal for January is to log quality miles and go from there. I want to come back strong for Spring and races like Shamrock, Atlantic City Half, and Broad Street, but I have quite a bit of work to do for that.

Anyway, it was a good December as far as life goes. I trained when I could but didn’t choose training over seeing family, friends, or even resting.

Posts from the Month:

2018 in Running

Treadmills are Ok.

50 Half Marathons Later

Fitbit Ionic Review

Why Internet Shoe Reviews are Worthless

Walking Merrill Creek Reservoir

Questions for you:

How was your training in December?

Do you have any goals for 2019? 

Base Building Week 7: January Grind and Racing

Base Building Week 7: January Grind and Racing

Last week was a good week of training.  I’m starting to get back on some sort of routine after the New Year.  Does anyone else feel like the shortest weeks feel like the longest?

Anyway, with the New Year and a race, my workouts shifted around a little bit. Instead of doing a personal 5k, I raced one with friends and did more speed work on the weekend.

After getting back to NJ and diving straight back into a work schedule, my body was exhausted. From December until now, I feel like I’ve been go go go, and I haven’t had a lot of time just to relax.  This isn’t with just traveling for the holidays, but with work and life too. On Saturday, I got about 9 hours of deep sleep so felt better.

Monday: Easy 60 minutes
Tuesday: Resolution Run 5k (19:44) total mileage 10
Wednesday: Easy 60 minutes
Thursday: Walked 30 minutes
Friday: Easy 60 minutes
Saturday: 6X800s with 400 jog recovery (total miles 10)
Sunday: 12 miles with 7 at 7 at 7:03 pace


Resolution Run: 19:44

I’ve already written a full recap, but it was fun to finally jump into a 5k.  It was hot, humid, and windy (70 degrees on New Years…ok) but I was happy for the challenge. I’m about 90 seconds away from where I want, but I’m happy with the effort. I know I have a lot of work to do there, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Saturday: 6X800s with 400 job (average 6:15 pace)

The workout went a lot better than anticipated. It was 42 and raining but I’m happy with the effort.

Sunday Long Run: 12 miles with 7 at 7:03 pace

This run felt hard. My legs felt training. Not in an injured way, but in an, I’ve run a lot way. I was happy to get it over with. I’m pleased with my effort, but I was hoping the pace would feel easier.

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Long Run done early. 12 miles with 7 at 7:03 pace.

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Posts from the Week:

Resolution Run 19:44

Don’t Just Survive Running in Winter Months…Enjoy Them

2018 in Blogging

Next week, I plan to just lather, rinse, repeat, with a speed workout, 5k (chances are it will be by myself), and long run.  The boring, consistent January grind.

Questions for you:

How was your New Year?

How do you get back into a routine?

Resolution Run 5k (19:44)

Resolution Run 5k (19:44)

I decided to make a quick trip down to my hometown area in Virginia for the New Year.  I’ve done the New Years Resolution Run before, and even when the Hair of the Dog was at Oceanfront.  A few years ago, I ran my second fastest 5k ever (18:22) while wearing a dress. I haven’t run the race since and I knew I’m not in the same shape.

My dad, husband, and I arrived at the race around 9 am and warmed up. It was unseasonably hot and humid (70 degrees!), as well as very windy. It wasn’t a fast day for racing, but I was happy it wasn’t pouring rain or 5 degrees like last year.

I warmed up around the lake loop of Mount Trashmore.  I didn’t feel good and just felt stiff.  Around the lake, you could easily feel the wind.  There was a tough headwind as well as a tailwind, depending on the direction.

At 9:50, I arrived at the start line and talked with several local friends.  By the time I knew it, we were off. The path is narrow, and I tried not to bump anyone or run through the puddles. By about half a mile, it spread out. I found myself as third place women.  I hit the first mile in 6:15 and my body hurt. I questioned how on earth I would survive two more miles, and we hadn’t even hit the headwind.

Between mile 1 and 2, I made my way into first women.  The others were close behind.  I hit the halfway, and we did a 180. I nearly slipped in a puddle but luckily caught myself.  As we turned around, the headwind came, and it was tough.  The second mile is usually the hardest mile anyway, but with a headwind, it’s 10X worse.  I was passed by a woman and found myself back in second.  I hit mile 2 in 6:30 which was slower than my personal 5k miles.

Around mile 2, we changed directions again, and got a tailwind. Thank goodness.  I just focused on getting to the end. My mind was blank, weaving around people not running the race as well as going the opposite direction. I passed the first place women and told myself I needed to go.  My legs didn’t have any speed, but I kept powering.  At the third mile marker, we hit the headwind again.  Running the last .1 into the wind was one of the hardest race finishes I’ve had in a while. It felt like I was standing still and the finish wasn’t getting any closer.

I crossed in 19:44, and as the first place women.  I was happy with my effort in the weather and not feeling the greatest.  It’s always nice to see friends from back home as well.

resolution run mount trashmore

Thanks Gene for the photo

I’m looking forward to getting back into 5k and shorter fitness shape, something that alluded me during the fall.  For those who asked, Mount Trashmore doesn’t smell, it’s a giant park. You would never guess the mountain is actually made of trash.  If you’re ever in the area, it’s a great park to run. 

Questions for you:

Did you race on New Years?

Would you rather race in torrential rain or 30 mph headwind? 

Don’t Just Survive Running in Winter Months…Enjoy Them.

Don’t Just Survive Running in Winter Months…Enjoy Them.

In the summer, there are an abundance of articles about how to survive summer running, and in the winter there are plenty of articles of “how to survive winter running”.

Both of those arguments imply we are only surviving the summer and winter months.  They imply we aren’t supposed to enjoy running during that time…just survive.

While winter can be frigid and summer can be scorching, the reality is every season has their positive and negatives. Parts of Spring and Fall are either rainy, cold, too hot, or something else to complain about. So for argument’s sake, we will say about three months of the year are good running months are actually decent to run.  You can pick any weather to complain about.

That logic leads me back to the beginning.Don't Just Survive Running in Winter Months...Enjoy Them.

How do you survive and even enjoy running in the winter months?

It’s something I’m battling right now.  I’m not a cold weather person.  Ironically, I went to college where it could be -30 in January. Why I chose to do that, I don’t know but I also don’t regret it.  This year, I’ve enjoyed most of my runs and enjoy the feeling of getting out there (even if out there is to the treadmill).

Here are a couple of tips to enjoy running during colder months:

Run Indoors:

If it’s too cold, run inside. This could mean purchasing a gym membership or treadmill. There is no shame in running indoors when it’s too cold, dangerous or miserable.  I wrote about it recently, but a treadmill is a tool. It’s not bad, embarrassing, or shameful.

Layer Up:

If you are running outside layer up.  There are countless pieces of running apparel to keep you warm.  People who train successfully through the winter months, wear appropriate clothing.

Now there are windbreakers, long sleeves, insulated tops, built in windbreaker leggings and just about anything you can imagine. Google can provide you with ideal layering techniques. Since I’m always ten jackets ahead of people, I prefer to wear more layers. What works for you, doesn’t work for everyone.  It might be trial and error for figuring out the right amount of layers for different temperatures.

Running is lifelong:

One run is not going to make or break you. If you are truly sick of winter running, don’t force yourself to run through the winter. Find alternatives that aren’t going to miserable.  Get a gym membership and try new workouts and cross trianing  Cross training will only make you stronger, plus help burnout.

Finally, as a public service announcement: don’t try and run fast on ice (run indoors if it’s icy). No run is worth falling and hurting yourself on ice.  I would know since I slipped and fell in a parking lot in college.   I ended up breaking my arm.

Questions for you:

How do you enjoy winter running?

What are your favorite pieces winter gear? 

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