You have not only built up your mileage, ran a 5K or two, but you have no doubt become a running addict by this point! You find yourself not being able to wait until your next run...you might even feel like going for more than one run in a day. You like the results you've been getting, you like the way you feel, and you like the challenge and the feeling of accomplishment. Now you need to decide where you want to go next. Do you want to keep running 5Ks, only at a competitive pace? Do you want to increase your distance? Maybe shoot for a half-marathon, or even a full marathon...perhaps even an ultra? Each of these endeavors will require a slightly different training routine, but there are a few basic things you can do to advance your training for whatever is next:
1. Increase your long run. Most runners have a long run added into their routine that is around 3 times (or more) longer than their average run. If you are running 2-3 miles a few times per week, you might want to shoot for a 6-10 mile long run. You'll find that this not only builds your endurance, but you will probably find yourself shaving some significant time off of your shorter runs. Be sure to increase slowly as too many miles to quickly can result in an injury.
2. Add some hill training or stairs Pick a nice long hill in your area, and run up and down it (or, pick a stadium or building with several flights of stairs and run up and down those). Rest awhile and then run it again. Repeat for as long as you can endure without overexhausting yourself. The results of hill training are similar to the long run, only the actual time running is much shorter. The idea here is to build strength and muscle in your leg as well as to build your cardiovascular strength. You may not be able to measure these workouts in distance, but you can work on increasing your time. Start slow, and pay close attention to your heart rate. Don't push beyond what you know you can handle.
3. Maximize your speed work If you haven't already, you may want to start timing your speed work sessions. Keep a log of your times, and try every week, or every other week, to beat your last time. For some, this is their least favorite workout. I'm in that group! For others, it is their highlight of the week. If you are in the first category, you can always change your goals (you are probably a long-distance runner), or you could just suffer for the overall benefits. It's only every other week anyway! If you are in the second category, go for it! However, don't fall into the temptation of running too many speedwork sessions. You are more likely to injure yourself if you sprint too often (in my opinion...but I'm not a sprinter).