Field Trip: Kid-Approved 5K Training Plan

My husband and I are both runners — it’s a visible part of our daily routine, and our kids take notice. So perhaps it’s only natural that they are interested in lacing up their sneakers and hitting the trail, especially my oldest, age 7.

As part of my son’s school fundraising efforts, he has run the Shamrock 5K on St. Patrick’s Day in downtown Portland twice now. Both experiences have been fun, if a bit soggy. But we never really trained for them, and they ended up being a 3-minute sprint followed by more walking breaks than running.

This fall, we decided to do something different and actually train together for a 5K. Here’s what we learned.

Have a Schedule

When I ran my first marathon, I relied on a beginner training program. Even though my longest run leading up the race was 6 miles short of the actual marathon distance, I felt prepared knowing that I had followed a plan.

Having a plan to follow helped my son, too. My husband came up with a three-day-a-week plan for us, consisting of a longer run (max of 2 miles), short hill or speed drills, and runs around the block.

Despite missing a few training sessions, my son felt prepared for the race. The biggest morale booster was getting in a 2-mile run before race day. He knew he could run most of the distance, which left the actual race distance feeling less daunting.

Allow for Flexibility

No, not just hamstring stretches — though those are great, too — but flexibility in your schedule, since life with kids is unpredictable. The day after we signed up for our race — the Reed 5K — the organizers moved the date of the race up two weeks, cutting our training time to six weeks. Okay, that might be an unusual hurdle, but it did call for a little rejiggering.

And speaking of training efforts, while we tried our best to stick to the schedule laid out by my husband, we did hit some roadblocks. The poor air quality in August derailed us for about a week. The start of school made everything fall by the wayside for a few days. And summer camping trips also got in the way. We probably ended up hitting about 80 percent of the training schedule, prioritizing the longer runs.

Make a Plan for Race Day

It never hurts to get to a race early. It helps you avoid the porta-potty lines, ensures that you have your packet picked up and number fastened without rushing around, and gives you time to stretch before heading out on the course. We arrived about 45 minutes early, which ended up being the perfect amount of time to do all those things.

My other two kids came along and stayed with my husband to cheer us on. The race we ran had kids’ activities, which was helpful — especially for my 5-year-old daughter who was unexpectedly devastated that she wasn’t going to be running with us. (“She’s passionate about fitness!” said one awesome fellow mom to me at the start line.) Pro tip: There’s very little a balloon sword can’t fix. You can check ahead to see if there will be activities for non-racing siblings, or if you should plan to bring some stuff from home.

You can also check ahead to see where the best viewing spots are. Our race circled around a field, which meant that we got to see our family for the last mile or so of the race, and my daughter ran with us for the last quarter mile.

It’s also a good idea to know a little about the course ahead of time, including where the hills and water stops are, if any, so you know when to dread/look forward to them.

Our plan for the actual race was to run a mile, walk a minute, run a mile, walk a minute, run to the finish. Again, going back to flexibility, it’s okay to change that plan. The end of the first mile was downhill, and my son was feeling great, so we ended up skipping our first walk break. We also ended up speeding up a bit at the end to get him in just under the 40-minute mark — a big 6-minute personal record!

Celebrate!

My son knew he had a bottle of Gatorade with his name on it waiting for him at the finish line as a reward for his hard work. We were also psyched to learn that there were medals at the end for all runners. He beamed as he put it around his neck and said to me, “I think I really deserve this medal.”

You do, buddy. You definitely do.

« Upcoming Fun Runs »

Shamrock Run The race has a 5K course, longer courses and a kids’ fun run. It’s a festive run with lots of crowd support and crazy costumes, plus it’s cool to run through downtown Portland to the sound of
bagpipes. March 18. motivrunning.com/shamrock-run-portland/

Run Mama Run This annual run/walk takes place every Mother’s Day at Mount Tabor. Kids can run a loop at the top of the caldera, or challenge themselves with a hilly 5K. May 13. runmamarunpdx.org

Starlight 5K Run This race is different because it takes place at night! It’s also the area’s largest fun run, so be prepared for costumes and crowds. June 2. motivrunning.com/starlight-run/

Portland Parks & Recreation $5 5K series The races take place at parks across Portland, and include shorter fun runs for smaller kids. $5 for adults, kids run free. Dates vary. portlandoregon.gov/parks/61144

Ali Wilkinson
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Ali Wilkinson

Online Editor at PDX Parent
Ali Wilkinson is the Online Editor for PDX Parent, and is one of the founders of PDX Kids Calendar. She loves exploring Portland with her three small children, especially when the explorations lead outdoors, to music or to ice cream. You can read more from Ali at www.runknitlove.com.
Ali Wilkinson
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