You did it. You ran a 5K, or a half marathon, or maybe even the notorious full marathon. Congrats! So…now what?
If you’re a runner, it often feels like the natural (or only) thing to do is to keep running farther and farther. But there are a lot of different ways to move forward. Different races require different kinds of training; for instance, here’s our guide (read: showdown) to 5K races vs. marathons. Besides, there’s no rule that progress is measured only by tacking on mile after mile until you’re crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon.
As a marathon runner, I can attest to a lot of reasons not to sign up for one. It’s a remarkable time-suck. There’s an increased risk of injury (my self-diagnosed plantar fasciitis is now a part of who I am). You’ll annoy your friends and family with your inability to shut up about your marathon, how it’s a time-suck, and how you have (self-diagnosed) plantar fasciitis.
Let’s say you know you don’t want to run a marathon. Here are other races and goals to stave off a runner’s rut and to keep giving your miles plenty of meaning.
Run your fastest kilometre
A kilometre race is still considered an endurance event, but it will give you the opportunity to focus on incorporating speedwork to get stronger and faster. Can you imagine telling your middle school self that you not only like running a kilometre, but that you’re going to pay to do it?
For this distance and all the others listed here, try using race-finder sites like this one to sign up for one near you.
Conquer the 5 km
From your New Year’s resolution to get off the couch, to your local Turkey trot nine months later, the 5k is one of the most popular distances for runners of all levels. Like with the mile race, there are a lot of benefits to scaling back your distance goals and working on speed instead. If you’re used to logging longer runs, the 5k could afford you the bandwidth to focus on speedwork, which just might translate to faster times if/when you transition back to longer distances.
Cruise through the 10 km
In every respect except personality, I am an impressively average runner. The 10k is the ideal race for me to be as comfortably middling as possible. For me, 10 km is the perfect distance to go somewhat far, somewhat fast.
Of course you can push yourself to tackle this race like the mile or 5k, but if you’re like me, this is an opportunity to tap into your mental resilience from longer distances without feeling the pressure to sprint the whole time. I’d throw the fifteen-km under this same mental category (just with several more miles of accomplishment, of course).
Find an odd distance race
Ever heard of an 8k, 15k, or 25k? The ultimate perk of an uncommon distance race is that if you’ve never done it before, it’s a guaranteed personal record. Signing up for a more random race could also put you shoulder-to-shoulder with runners like you, fellow weirdos who are looking for something new and know that the marathon isn’t the end-all-be-all.
Complete an obstacle or themed race
Running isn’t challenging enough for you? You’re seeking something legendary, something intense, something…epic? Lucky for you, Runner’s World recently updated their list of obstacle course races to check out. If you haven’t heard of famed events like the Spartan Race or Tough Mudder, obstacle course runs are exactly what they sound like — race courses with monkey bars, mud pits, and all sorts of inventive roadblocks to work through along the way. In addition to the new strength and mental challenges you’ll find, these events are a great chance to get a group of friends together, whether you all plan to be competitive or simply try your darndest to finish.
Join a running club
Newsflash: Races aren’t the only source of motivation. Find a like-minded community, meet new people, and explore your neighbourhood through new eyes with a group of fellow runners. You can find local running groups through running apps like Strava or via Facebook (if that’s still what people are calling it these days).
Find the right running goal for you
Don’t feel pressured to run along a linear track, one where you feel like you need to get faster and go farther until you’re a record-breaking ultra-marathoner. You don’t have to run any races at all to call yourself a runner. My current goal is to learn how to run without listening to music, which is proving to be an act of mental fortitude more challenging than any distance I’ve completed before.
There’s no limit to all the ways you can make your miles mean something for you. You’re a runner because you like to run — it’s as simple as that.