Looking to increase your running kilometres but not get injured?

I recently was asked to write a blog on this topic for my Physiotherapy Clinic in Melbourne where I treat a lot of beginner runners and lots of runners pushing up into the half marathon and marathons.  The topic was based around how to increase your running from 5km to 15km but the majority of advice is relevant for anyone progressing their running kilometres.

The vibe and atmosphere of running at an event can really inspire you to want to progress to the next level distance but it is important you do this in a way that won’t cause injury and create havoc to your training plan. The City to Sea 15km event is coming up here in Melbourne on the 15th of November so anyone looking to increase their running from 5km to 15km these tips are extra perfect for you guys.


5km versus 15k. What are the differences? 

  • Your body’s muscles need to have another level of strength in order to complete a 15km with no injuries. For example calves are really important for shock absorbing and pushing off when running and you may have had enough strength for a 5km but 15km is another kettle of fish. Ensuring you add in some strength on top of your running will not only help your running but help to reduce overload injuries.
  • Running technique becomes even more important with longer distances as with poor biomechanics and technique your efficiency and risk of injury can be affected. The repetitive nature plus running with poor technique is a recipe for disaster in regards to overload injuries.
  • With the increased distance of the running event the increase in training kilometres to be prepared also increases. This ultimately means more time. For a first time 15km runner who has only ever done a 5km run building your program up slowly as well multiple runs per week is crucial to help prepare your body for the 15km.
  • Now that your running a longer distance it might be worth adding in some interval running and running drills to help with speed and strength rather than just lots of long slow runs. A rough guide for 15km run would be to start on an interval session of 20 minutes building up to 30 minutes with a session including intervals such as 6x1minute and 5x 2 minutes at a pace around 10-15 seconds faster than your long slower runs.



The Do’s and Don’ts of progressing from 5km to 15km:


  • Find a running partner or group.

Keeping motivation to stick to your training program can sometimes be hard. By finding a running partner or joining a running group your normal excuses wont be as acceptable such as “your tired”. Running groups are often run by physios or run coaches so they can also be really informative and teach you good running drills etc.


  • Continue with core and lower limb strength.

Completing Pilates or going to the gym for general lower limb strength can make the difference in helping build the muscle strength required which will help to cross over into your running endurance, speed and help to prevent injuries.


  • Taper your training in the final week.

One week before a 15km race should be enough to let your body recover so that it is refreshed for your actual competition day. Keep the speed the same but reduce your total amount for the week – roughly 50% less.


  • Ensure you have updated your shoes.

Running more kilometres per week in preparation for 15km is going to be a lot more mileage than a 5km. This means that the support and shock absorption in the shoe will reduce a lot faster so you may need to update your shoes quicker depending on how much training you do in them. There are some really nice set ups in shoe shops or physio clinics such as ours that do run assessments that can tell you what sort of shoe would suit your foot type and running style the best.

Sole Motive in Melbourne is a great example of this in Melbourne CBD where they complete running assessments on a treadmill to help find the right shoe for your bio-mechanical needs.  Active feet is another example of a shoe shop run by podiatrists where they film your foot biomechanics whilst running and can then give suggestions on which type of shoes are the most appropriate for you.


  • Mix up your training.

No one manages to run the same route pumping out kilometres each week without getting bored and boredom is likely the biggest factor after injury in people losing motivation in the middle of their training program.

Mixing up your training route is the number one suggestion – find yourself a different training park, beach track etc., so you don’t lose interest. Cross training can also be effective in mixing up your training and changing the same repetitive load on your joints.

Stair running is a great example which can be really beneficial in improving your hip drive, quads and gluteals power and preventing boredom from simply pounding the pavement every run. Using a cross trainer at the gym is another style that might be a good alternative every now and then on a rainy day. Interval training is another great mix up for your program and also benefits your strength and speed.


Sandringham Stair Running



  • Increase your km’s too quickly in training.

A lot of the injuries I see in running tend to be from overload which often comes from over-training and big jumps in kilometres. Slowly increasing your kilometres each week is vital in letting your body adapt and cope with the load your putting it under. Most weeks you should aim to increase your total running kilometres by 10%. However every few weeks you can have a taper week where you reduce the total kilometres which actually helps in allowing your body to refresh and adapt to load.


– Push through an injury in training.

Many people often try to “tough out” niggles and injuries and push on with their running to try and stay on schedule. However, it is best to get on top of things early to avoid niggles turning into more chronic injuries that will hamper not only your training but also your event. Seeking a medical professionals opinion early can really help to nip it in the butt before it really hits its peak so you are not sidelined from the running track for too long.


– Forget to stretch.

Stretching becomes even more critical when you are running longer distances and more kilometres per week.  Your muscles are working a lot more so will naturally tighten up with time if you don’t stretch or release them. This can lead to injury as a tight muscle can’t function properly and can tug on the bone where it inserts.  Stretching is a good way to release muscles but so is massage or self massage with a foam roller.


photo (6)

– Lose motivation half way through training.

Losing motivation and routine with running and then really cramming your running close to the event can exponentially increase your risk of injury and hinder your performance.  It’s best to keep your running as consistent as you can so that your body can gradually get used to the load. Having a big break can not only reduce your cardiovascular fitness but also overload your joints when you quickly cram in your training leading up to the event when you should in fact be tapering.


Happy running.


About the author

Julia Allan
Julia Allan

I'm a physiotherapist working majority in the sports field. I'm based in Melbourne working with a variety of different athletes which is currently predominantly with the Victorian Under 19 netball side and the Victorian Fury netball side through Eltham Physio Centre. I also play high level netball myself in the State League competition (VNL) here in Melbourne and I want to share my knowledge to help all athletes prevent injury and improve performance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Copyright © 2015