Run Your First 5, 10, 21km

Run Your First 5, 10, 21km

Inspired by all the recent marathons? You might be contemplating lacing up your running shoes for the first time since high school.

This plan, which was developed for us by Kathleen Mc Quaide-Little (a sports scientist at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa), will help you reach your goal. Whether you’ve set your sights on 5,10 or 21km, we’ve got you covered. Who knows?, you may just become the next ultra marathon superstar.

8 weeks to your first 5km

So, you’ve decided to do your first 5km in 8 weeks. Don’t worry that’s more than enough time to prepare. Use these guidelines to maximise your chances of success if you want to start a gradual, progressive programme for running your first race.

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How to do it: Train (walk/run) at least three times per week, with a day’s break between each session. Every session should start with a brisk 10-minute walk. Always end with a 5 minute slow walk. Always stretch your warm muscles after the running/walking section. You should also do a range of 6–8 stretches that engage the key muscle groups you used in your session. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat each stretch twice. On rest days you can cross-train (swimming/stationary cycling), but give your body adequate recovery time and include one or two rest days each week. Try to find a friend, partner or group to train with, as you are more likely to stick with the programme.


Chose the right running shoe for you. Make sure you have the correct support for the different types of running, be it road, trail, track or treadmill.

Week one

Each of the three weekly sessions should consist of two minutes of jogging, separated by two minutes of walking, repeated three to four times. (Jog at a comfortable, sustainable pace. Beware not to go all out during the early stages, as you won’t succeed with this approach.

Week two

Complete three sessions again, but this time jog for three minutes with two -minute walking breaks. Repeat this three to four times.

Week three

Your jogging splits need to increase to about five minutes each. Progressively increase the running component every week. Always separate the running components by two-minute walk-breaks, as this will enable you to do more running at each session, but with the necessary recovery included.

Week four to six

By the end of week six, ensure that you are covering a distance of 5km at each training session. One of your sessions each week can also include a longer running split, while the other two sessions can include shorter running splits.

A typical ‘long run’ session in week six performed on a 5km route could be as follows: 

  • 10 min warm-up walk
  • 20 min jog
  • 2 min walk
5 min jog
  • 5 min cool-down walk

Week seven

Try to cover a 4km distance in your continuous long run split, with a walk each side at two or more sessions.

Week eight

By the end of week eight you should have completed about 
24 sessions and should therefore be able to comfortably complete a 5km run without walk breaks. Don’t worry about how long it takes you complete the race; just keep a steady and comfortable pace. Try to choose a relatively flat route for your fi
rst 5km race, which will mean that you can do most of your training on easy terrain. Should you choose a course with hills then you will need to do at least one training session that incorporates hills from week six.

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Author: Tanja Schmitz

Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.