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Spotlight on the 15K race: a sweet-spot distance for many runners

The 15K: a sweet-spot distance for many. Learn why you should train for this different  type of race.

One race distance that doesn’t get the attention it deserves in the 15K. It’s 9.3 miles of pure awesomeness, and it just so happens to be my favorite race distance of all time. And while we’re at it, we might as well lump in the humble 10-miler, since I’ve seen events of that distance popping up more and more each year. Why exactly so I love these events so much? Let me count the ways.

Well, the training – even for a relatively aggressive time – need not be all-consuming. Even if you’re relatively new to running, setting your sights on a 15K is a much better stepping stone than skipping directly to a marathon, for example. Most runners can get away with running a long run of 10 miles to prepare (maybe 13-15 if you’re my husband and aiming to lead the pack), which leaves much energy reserved for the rest of your life (mowing the lawn, playing with your kids, taking in a Sunday matinee, etc.). For me, balance is everything.

During the race itself, I find I get ample time to settle into my pace and finish solidly, all without being too hard on the legs. As a former half marathon addict, I love how I can begin a 15K somewhat conservatively, pick up my speed a couple miles in, and then gun in the last half to the finish. I typically finish with loads of energy and with my mood high. I’m not sore for terribly long afterward, even when I smash a PR.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for a good bridge distance between the 10K and half marathon or simply to try something new this year, the 15K is a great option.

So long as you can run two miles comfortably, this Hal Higdon Novice Plan will get you on your way toward finishing your first 15K or 10-miler with confidence. It’s 10 weeks in all with just three days of running and two days of cross-training. If running longer distances is new to you, I suggest adding in some yoga to the Monday “stretch and strengthen” day, as it will keep your muscles loose and happy.

On the other hand, seasoned runners might be looking to run a blitzing fast 15K. Check out this advanced program. It tops out with a 13 mile long run in week 9 before the race in week 10. The bulk of the mileage is rounded out nicely with some demanding track workouts (400s at mile pace, 800s at 5K pace) that will keep your legs and lungs guessing.

Truth is, you won’t find a ton of dedicated 15K training plans if you search around online. If you’re like me and regularly stick in half marathon shape, try sneaking 15Ks into your overall training. You can put one in place of a 8-10 mile long run and use the race to tune up for your goal event. Just be sure to leave a few weeks of rest so your muscles can recover from the hard effort.

Written by Ashley Marcin.

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