October 17th, 2018

Upgrade your race: 5 tips to go from 5Ks to Marathons

There’s nothing like the sound of shoes pounding the pavement as hundreds of people move en masse with a common objective: to run your heart out for a new personal best.

For most people, running a 5K distance requires effort. Going longer, however, requires a whole different level of commitment and training. If you want to step up your race game, we’ve got what you need: expert advice from marathon runners who’ve been there and done that - as well as a handy sample training plan to help you build up the strength and endurance needed for a marathon distance.

We sat down with our friends and enthusiastic Amazfit users, Eric Cote and Shawn Lancaster to get their thoughts on what it takes to graduate from a 5K to a marathon. Shawn started running 5K’s in 2012, his first half marathon in March 2014, and then his first marathon in March 2016. Eric also started running a few years ago and completed his first 100-mile trail run in the Badlands of North Dakota this past summer.

Figure out what you’re doing

Before you begin training, put a plan in place with reasonable milestones and a strategy for how you’re going to achieve those goals. Shawn says this has been critical for his training, noting that the key is finding ways to train that don’t conflict with one’s personal or professional life. Eric agrees that having consistency is the most important thing you can do - it’s better to train often than longer. See our sample plan below for some inspiration!

Slow and steady wins the race

Although not unheard of, it’s not common - or recommended - to run marathons right off the bat. Instead, most people should work their way up with smaller races. For instance, Shawn started with a few 5Ks and was talked into a 10K one day when he went to sign up for a race. He got a few of those under his belt and thought, “I can run a 10K, why not do a half marathon?”  And so on.

We recommend keeping your current regimen as a baseline (for a 5K runner: 2 miles 3-4 days per week, sometimes 3 miles), then increase your mileage, intensity, and time on cross-training. Eric recommends training in blocks of 3 or 4 weeks: 3 weeks of progression followed by 1 week of recovery in which you cut the training by 30%. This “gives the body and mind some time to recover and allows the tendons and muscles to grow stronger.”

Eat like a champ

As Shawn likes to say, the “problem with training for a marathon is that you want to eat EVERYTHING, PERIOD.” Indeed, Eric points out that during high volume, or high-intensity phases of your training, you shouldn’t cut down on portions, because that’s when the body needs more fuel. However, it’s important to stay away from packaged foods, and instead, cook with real ingredients that offer ample nutritional value, especially protein-rich foods that help the body run smoothly while helping you maintain your energy and weight. Sometimes this is easier said than done. As Shawn says, I have a “cheat day” (or three) every now and then!

Work out your… workout routines

Working your way up to marathons requires a total training solution that involves a mix of cardio and strength training, as well as running. Shawn believes any type of cardio exercise that’s low-impact, like biking or swimming, can help worn-out muscles rest while helping you maintain and improve your general fitness level. Eric says strength training helps to build up muscle, especially at the beginning of the marathon season but suggests you cut down on this as your running volume increases. Both of them agree that foam rolling, or massaging, your hamstrings, quads, glutes, and calves can help prevent muscles from tightening up.

Pick your poison wisely

There are lots of different types of marathons - road, trail, flat, hilly, small, large, and everything in between. This is something Shawn says he didn't think about for his first marathon. “I just picked one that I thought would be easy to finish” - a flat course - and he paid dearly for it due to the constant use of the same muscles. “If I had some hills to work other muscles, the doc said I probably would have walked away fine.” Other important considerations are the time of year - 26 miles is a long time to run in the heat! - and the size of the race - “the first marathon I ran had 2,000+ runners; it was VERY impersonal, and I didn’t know anyone.”

Ultimately, both Eric and Shawn feel that one should enjoy the process. In Eric’s words “the road is always more important than the destination.”


Download our sample training plan to get you to that marathon distance. With recommendations on how to progress frequency, which intensities to use, how much time to allocate to your runs, what types of runs to do, as well as workouts to include other than running. Give yourself a few months, stay consistent, have patience, and you WILL become a marathon runner!

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​Sofia Rodriguez, Fitness & Health Expert

Sofia Rodriguez is a Fitness & Health Expert in the VA/DC area. She has a Masters in Clinical Exercise Physiology and has worked with cardiac, cancer, diabetic, and injury rehab patients in the past. She is a Certified Personal Trainer ranked among top trainers in the country with many years of experience training clients for weight loss, muscle gain, and overall health. Sofia has been the go-to expert on many TV morning shows, has been featured in several magazines and online publications such as Forbes & Huffington Post, is a published fitness writer, a fitness model, and specializes in bodybuilding and nutrition. She is bilingual, speaking fluent Spanish and English.