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Get ready to run your best race with these 5K, 10K and half marathon tips

Over the years I have helped hundreds get across the finish line at their first road race – and I want you to be the next one! I have created training plans for beginner and advanced 5K training, 10K training and half marathon training to help you finish strong at your next road race. The best part – they are free!

Race pace

If this is your first race, you likely don’t know what your race pace is. You may have an idea of what you want (such as running a 30 minute 5K), but the best way to set your race pace goal is to run and see what pace feels comfortable. I know, comfortable is not a word most associated with running, so more specifically find a pace where you can: talk – at least a sentence and that you could maintain for the distance you are aiming for. Let’s say you practice with a half-mile run. If you are winded after slow it down – if you barely broke a sweat speed it up a bit. Otherwise, your race pace is simply the time you want to complete the race divided by how far you are running. So a 30 minute 5K is a 9:50 mile (remember a 5K is 3.1 miles).

Speed, tempo and hills

Why get all fancy – why not just go out and run? Well – not all running is created equally. For a beginner, we will just focus on getting out there and running/walking the distance. But if you are ready to step it up (ha!) then you will need some of these fancy training runs to get you to your next race goal. So whether you want to PR (personal record) at your next race or you want to go a further distance, speed, tempo, and hill training will help you get there.


For my plans we will be working on 400 M, 800 M and 1-mile repeats, depending on which plan you choose. The key to getting the most out of these runs is to run them at race pace – not at your high school track sprint pace! Yes, it is speed work, but I want you to learn what your race pace feels like and how to maintain it.


Similar to speed workouts, you will maintain your race pace for the time allotted in the training plan. Practice makes perfect so the more you run at your race pace the better you will get at maintaining that pace. One of the biggest rookie mistakes at road races is going out too fast – I want you to know your race pace so well that you don’t get caught up with the herd in the first half-mile, only to realize you don’t have enough gas to finish!


Most road races have some hills, and even if they don’t, training on a hilly course and doing a few hill repeats will make you a stronger runner. Find a big hill, a HUGE hill, and practice running up it. I know – this one is a bit torturous, but it is a great way to break up a half marathon training plan’s high mileage with a shorter run that actually builds your running stamina at the same time.

Fuel & hydration

Drink lots of water throughout the day, not just race day morning! Rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces, but I would add at least 20 ounces to that on run days. Staying hydrated is key to making sure your muscles have the water they need on race day. This can also help prevent cramping during training runs.

For what to eat – keep it simple and make sure you get a good mix of lean protein and healthy carbs (rice, beans, whole grains). I also am a big banana fan for runners – it helps to keep your potassium levels high after those long runs.

Know the course

The racecourse that is. Before the race scope out the course (if you are traveling to the race, at least study the map and see if an elevation map is available). Knowing where the hills are and what the last half mile looks like will set you up for success on race day.

Check your shoes

Running is a very affordable sport. You can do it anywhere and there are tons of resources for free training. BUT you must invest in good running shoes. Your feet take a beating when you run – as long-distance runners will happily share in war stories about lost toenails – so make sure they are well protected and have the support they need to help you get across the finish line. Not sure what to get? I highly recommend going to a local running store and letting them look at your gait and foot and try their recommendation. If you are in the Raleigh/Durham area I love Bull City Running, Raleigh Running Outfitters, and Fleet Feet.

Ok – finally – here are the plans. Happy running!

Christy Colgan

Christy Colgan

Health and Wellness Manager

Christy is the health and wellness manager at Blue Cross NC. She's passionate about health, fitness and especially running. She has a bachelor of science degree in exercise physiology and has coached people to run their first 5K to marathon. She completed the Boston Marathon herself in 2013. She loves to spend free time exploring her home state of North Carolina with her family.

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