The novice or potential runner would be forgiven for thinking that running is all about the marathon: that the sport only comes in size 26 (miles, or 42 kilometres for the anti-imperialists).
Not at all. You can run for as long or as short as you want. We might have different objectives and different ways to enjoy running, but the fantastic feeling and healthy lifestyle is the same for us all.
Using that highly scientific method called the educated guess, I reckon that more people start – and continue – running for their local 5-kilometre fun run than for a big city marathon. You don’t need to aim for a marathon when you take up running.
If you’ve just started walking or jogging, then a 5K race (around 3 miles in old money) is the perfect objective: short enough to be do-able even for beginners, but still long enough to pose a challenge. And no matter your current fitness, you can complete 5 kilometres after just a couple of months of reasonable and regular training.
So popular is the five-kilometre milestone that the top running app these days is Couch to 5K, which gives you an online running plan to get you from zero to five kilometres in just 9 weeks. To complement your Couch to 5K plan, check out this excellent site by the UK National Health Service (NHS) full of beginners’ tips for motivation, nutrition, clothing, stretching and lots more.
Another popular resource is this beginners’ 5km training schedule by Peter Maher, former Olympic marathonian and occasional contributor to Irish Runner magazine. Maher’s plan is part of the Join Spar and Ray for 5K initiative by Today FM radio presenter Ray D’Arcy, a dedicated triathlete and regular at road races around Ireland. Keep an ear out for the next race organised by Ray and his team in your area.
There are 5K races taking place all over the country these days, and Dublin is particularly well-served. The folks at Run Dublin are staging some spectacular events around the capital over the spring and summer months. Best known of the lot might be the Docklands Run in aid of Barnardo’s. The scenic riverside route, coupled with the unique evening setting, makes for a memorable experience. As it’s close to the IFSC business district, the Docklands Run is always popular with office mates coming to cheer or even run with their colleagues.
Also on the Run Dublin 5K agenda are the Keith Duffy 5K in the Phoenix Park on Sunday 28 April, the Dublin Bay Run along the Clontarf seafront on Saturday 4 May and the Lucan 5K on Sunday 12 May organised by the local Lucan Harriers club through the home town of those athletics-loving Irish pop twins, Jedward.
But perhaps the most eye-catching 5K of all, in the Phoenix Park on
Sunday 28 Saturday 27 July, is what Run Dublin are calling Europe’s first Colour Dash – where runners pass through clouds of dye and cross the finish line in all shades of the rainbow. Like with whoever first thought of milking a cow, you wonder how that idea ever occurred to someone.
(UPDATE: The Run Dublin website initially listed the date of the Colour Run as Sunday 28 July. However, the Irish Cancer Society, the beneficiaries of the event, have confirmed to me that the Colour Run will actually take place on Saturday 27 July, still in the Phoenix Park.)
A similar 5K colour-paint event is also taking place in the Dublin area on the
same following day, Sunday 28 July – The Rainbow Run in Dun Laoghaire, which also claims to be “the first of its kind in Ireland”. Will there be a clash of colours?
You don’t have to wait for a once-off event, though – the 5K fun run is coming to a park near you every weekend. Ireland is catching the UK’s mania for parkrun, where by registering online runners of all abilities can join in a free, regular, fully-organised 5K race in your local park, with your time recorded online. In south Dublin the Marlay parkrun kicked off on 5 March and will take place every Saturday morning in Marlay Park – and at the same time in north county Dublin another parkrun will wind its 5K way around the grounds of Malahide Castle. More parkruns will surely pop up around Ireland in due course.
If these fun events have inspired you to try a 5K race, then start preparing right away – follow a plan, stick with it, get through the initial tiredness and self-consciousness. Nothing beats the incredible thrill of taking part in a road race, and having family and friends cheer you on to the finish.
And here’s a secret – you can have the exact same thrill as marathon runners while going 37 kilometres less!
You don’t believe me about the Colour Dash, do you? Well, here’s the visual proof – a recent 5K in Utah that ascends into a kaleidescope of fun. This thing is becoming an international phenomenon:
Video: Youtube/Color Me Rad