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5K runners have an advantage in longer races.
Brad Barket/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Sprinters and distance athletes are both types of runners. But all runners are not equally equipped for the same events. A sprinter trains for short distances that rely on power and speed. In contrast, a 5K runner needs greater endurance. In spite of these differences a sprinter can likely complete a 5K run but will benefit from specific endurance training.
If your goal is simply to finish a 5K race then you should be able to meet this goal as a sprinter. Noted running coach Hal Higdon writes on his website that, "Individuals who possess a reasonably good level of fitnessвЂ¦ could probably go out and run 3 miles on very little training." Higdon warns however, that even a fit individual who has not trained for a 5K race will likely be sore afterward.
While a sprinter may be able to finish a 5K race he will be at a disadvantage compared to a distance runner. Brian Mackenzie, a British athletics coach, notes that a 100-meter sprinter's workout typically does not exceed 3,000 meters -- only 60 percent of the 5K distance. Even a beginner distance runner program, such as the one advocated by Higdon, will involve distance runs of three miles and timed runs lasting up to one hour.
A sprinter's muscle structure may also impact her performance in a 5K race. People have two types of muscle fibers: type I, or slow-twitch fibers, and type II, or fast-twitch fibers. Slow-twitch muscle fibers are what your body uses in endurance events like a 5K race, while fast-twitch muscle fibers are used for rapid motions like sprinting. Your makeup of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fiber is genetically predetermined, but people who are natural sprinters tend to have more fast-twitch muscle fiber and natural distance runners tend to have more slow-twitch muscle fibers. If you are naturally gifted as a sprinter, your advantage won't translate into the 5K.
If you really want to try your hand -- or your feet -- at the 5K distance then you should train specifically for the event. Higdon recommends a four-day-a-week plan for first time 5K runners. This plan lasts eight weeks and includes runs as short as 1-1/2 miles but also includes long runs lasting anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. If you're unable to run for these distances Higdon suggests alternating between running and walking.
- Brad Barket/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images