By D.C. Lucchesi

Go on ahead. Get your yuks out of the way. Your nervous laughter and, “not me” attitude can’t cover the fact that you’re probably downright scared of taking on a 5K these days. We don’t mean just covering the kilometers; we’re talking about actually challenging the distance and leaving it all out there on the course. That’s right. The discipline upon which so many of us cut our road racing teeth – and so many have since eschewed for longer and allegedly more challenging fare – is still worth the effort. Here’s why…

To get faster. 

Yep, that’s right. If you’re dead set that another distance is your race, then spooling up for a 5K is a guaranteed method of incorporating some speedwork into your training. For some real bonus points, time your long run midpoint or final miles to coincide with a 5K start time. You’ll hit the start well-warmed, check off 5K at a much faster clip than your run-of-the-mill long run, and be jazzed for the run home. Or the post-race beers.

It’s the whole package.

To run it right, you’ll have to train for it. To excel at the 5K discipline requires speed, endurance, and strength. Yes, you’ll need to be able run beyond the 3.1 miles. But getting to the finish as hard and fast as you can means you’ll need the explosive strength and good form that can only come from cross-training. Yes, there are coaches and run groups dedicated to not just completing but competing at the 5K distance. Check it out.

To get a life. 

Or maybe even save one. Despite the additional work you’ll put in to kick some 5K butt, you’ll have plenty of time left for family commitments, work, and fun stuff, too. They’ll hardly notice you’re off training, and you’ll be hard pressed to find excuses not to be able to work it in. And in most cases, local 5K’s are attached to charitable causes in your own hometown. Train on, you do-gooder, you!

Fewer injuries. 

No, seriously. See the above thing about training for the 5K. It’s not just about the distance. With a balanced approach to training, you’ll shore-up the supporting muscle groups that keep you running stronger and longer. And we all want more injury-free running days, right? Plus, you’ll save yourself from the wear-and-tear that comes with only running hard core distance.

To compete. 

Against the clock, against that long-standing PR of yours, and that guy (or gal) just a few steps ahead of you. That whole we’re-all-in-this-together mentality of marathoning has no place here. You’re not trying to survive, you’re here to thrive. You’ve done the work, now put the hammer down. And guess what? If today’s not your day, there’s likely another opportunity next weekend. Thanks to the shorter distance, you’ll be ready to race with a minimum of recovery time. See? Nothing to fear here!

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D.C. Lucchesi runs, rides, and writes from Charlotte.When D.C. isn’t planning or participating in his own “next adventure,” the award-winning writer and former television producer can be found freelancing and waxing poetic on subjects ranging from health and endurance to schools and politics. When he’s not volunteering or coaching in some capacity with school-aged kids, he still enjoys interacting with grown-ups. Find him at