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Sofa to 5k

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WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Why 5k?

According to Runner's World, 5k (3.1 miles) is the perfect distance for beginners. It's short and snappy, and "you can fit it quite easily into your day as it doesn't take up much time," says running enthusiast Caroline Cross. "It's also an extremely accessible distance for everyone and for all abilities. Even if you are new to running you can have a go and run it at a pace you are comfortable with."

Here, the expert's talk about how you can join Caroline in going from the couch to a 5k course, paying attention not only to your physical training but also your mental attitude. It's always recommended, especially for adults over 50, that sedentary people check in with their doctor before starting to train.

Caroline has run the Berlin Marathon, but like everyone else, started with shorter distances, including 5ks.

She did a short and sharp run most Saturday mornings, particularly the Parkrun, a free organised 5k run, where she could monitor her time each week and race against other runners. "5k's are great for speed training and building stamina," she says. "I have always found that by adding in 5k's to my training it has helped my performance with longer distances."

A 5k community

Founded by Paul Sinton-Hewitt in 2004, the idea of Parkrun originated from the initial Bushy Parkrun event, in Teddington, Middlesex. 

It started when Paul had a knee injury. He was bored and wanted to stay involved with the running community, so on October 2, 2004, he got 13 of his friends to turn up at Bushy Park and timed them over a 5km course. They went again the next week

and then the next, and slowly the word spread and the number of runners turning up grew. It became a regular event, then, during 2007, six more events started up and Parkrun was born.

Parkrun is now one of the most popular runs you can do, and as of March 2014 there have been over 500,000 participants, with around 375 locations to choose from. Who would have thought so many people would be up and about at 9am (9.30 in Scotland) on a Saturday morning, looking forward to a community-based 5 kilometre run?

"It's a great start to a Saturday morning and there's a great atmosphere with a real sense of community with runners from the local area," says Caroline. "I like the fact that it is also open to everyone and you can run as a family. It is even better when you break a personal best (PB).

Getting started

When sticking to a training plan, the best thing to do is find a time to train that suits you. Lots of people find that running first thing fits in best, "the whole day is then at your disposal without the need to go for a run hanging over you," says Nick Anderson, running coach at The Run Lunge. "Most races are usually early on a Sunday morning, so you will start to train your body to respond to an early run in the right way. Remember, the early bird catches the worm!"

"Build up slowly too," suggests Alex Rahim, Personal Trainer at Virgin Active, "and try not to increase your speed or distance too early. It won't take you long to prepare for a 5k, so don't panic."

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