I have written a few articles for advanced sprint triathlon training, but get a lot of questions about beginning run training for the sprint triathlon distance.

If you are doing your first triathlon, or running is not your strongest sport of the three you don’t need to necessarily go out and run advanced or complicated interval workouts. Simple working on endurance and frequency of running is sufficient.

So how far do you need to be able to run in training in order to complete a sprint triathlon? How far should you be running in training?

We can divide the type of training you could do into two distinct types. One type is to approach the 5 k portion of a sprint triathlon as a breakthrough event. In otherwords, the day of the race will be the longest and furthest you’ve gone, either at once, or in any of the three individual sports. The other way to approach training is overdistance training. Most of my questions have come from people who are brand new to running, so let’s just focus on the “breakthrough event” method of run training.

If you approached the 5k as a breakthrough event, you would be running 2 to 3 miles at a time at least once or twice during the week. But even if 3 miles still feels like a struggle to you, you can make up for your current lack of endurance (don’t worry, it will get better) and substitute frequency.

Let’s say you can only run 20 minutes at a time. Or not even that, say 10 minutes at a time. Here’s what I would do…

Set up your “long run” day to try and run continuously as long as you know you can. During that long run day, you can break up the effort with 1-2 minutes of walking, and consider adding 50 percent of your run time with frequent breaks. So your long run day might look like this…

Warmup with 5 minutes of walking
Jog 10 minutes
Walk 1 minute
Jog 10 minutes
Walk 2 minutes
Jog 10 minutes
Cool down & stretch

Can you see how even if you can only run 20 minutes continuously, the workout above should be easily doable? I say make this your long day, because the above workout will take about 45 minutes when you include warming up and stretching.

On a different day of the week, do your continuous run of 20 minutes (or 10 or whatever your current continuous run is).

These two days will make up the heart of your run training. But to be best prepared while still minimizing injury you should try to add at least one if not two additional days of running.

Those two additional days could be any of the following:

  1. Broken set #1: warmup, 10 min jog, 2 min walk, 10 min jog cool down
  2. Broken set #2: warmup, 5 min jog slightly faster than normal, walk 1 minute, repeat 3 times for total of 20 minutes jogging.
  3. Transition set: After your bike, walk briskly for 10 minutes, jog for 10 minutes back to your house. Cool down with another 2 minutes of walking and stretch
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