Get marathon fit with your smartphone: getting 5K ready

Start thinking first race

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If the New Year has inspired you to get fighting fit, then you've hit the right page. Technology has the tools to help you get in the shape of your life but it's not easy to know which product is right for your goals.

We've enlisted the help of T3.com Editor-in-chief and ultra runner Kieran Alger to put together a four-part guide to help you uncover everything you need to go from couch slouch to marathon finisher.

So you've done the hard part. You've successfully taken the first steps on your journey to becoming a fitter, leaner running machine. By now you'll have logged a few runs on your Endomondo app and be able to confidently run for a full thirty minutes. Now it's time to move up a gear and start thinking about your first race.

Sign up for a race

Giving yourself a target race is the perfect motivation. You'll have something to train for with a definitive deadline. If you're feeling brave enough, it's also a good idea to tell everyone what you're planning to do. Once it's up on Facebook it's official. You'll get plenty of support and have nowhere to hide.

Finding a race can be tricky but there are a few great websites to help you pick the right one for you. Runner's World, The Running Bug and Run247 all have good events calendars that let you search for races by date, distance and location.

Find something that captures your imagination and gives you about three months to prepare.

Next up, it's time to start the training but for that you're going to need a plan. You could sign up to a running club for some organised coaching, but there are plenty of apps that'll guide you just as well.

Start a training plan

Upgrading your Endomondo run-tracking app is a great place to start. The Endomondo Pro app has a Training Plan feature that lets you select a distance-based goal.

You simply enter your target and the app will look at your current weekly mileage and your fitness levels from past workouts and then provides a comprehensive run-by-run training plan to get you to your goal.

The app lets you dictate your race date, the number of times you'd like to run and the days you prefer to train on. Each session on your plan comes with detailed description to help you focus on the right areas.

A great alternative is Adidas miCoach. It has similar build-your-own training plans functionality with the added bonus of audio feedback through your headphones while you're on the road. It'll also pair with a heart rate monitor so you can make sure you're running with the right intensity during your runs.

  • Train with others: Parkrun - organised runs all over the UK

If community is something that fires you up, then the Nike+ Running app is a good option. You can connect with friends and other runners, tracking each other's progress and posting messages of support.

Couch-to-5K

All of these apps will also let you benchmark your progress against other runners for a quick confidence boost, or a swift kick up the backside, depending on which is most needed.

If being told exactly what to do at all times feels like more your style then the official Couch-to-5K (iOS, Android) app should be your weapon of choice.

This fun app is based on a popular training programme started in 1996 by Josh Clark. It guides you through a nine-week programme, combing running and walking, taking you from 90 second runs all the way up to your target 5k.

During each run, audio feedback tells you when to run and when to walk and after your run you'll get feedback on your pace and distance. All you have to do is follow the instructions and in just over two months you'll be ready to take on your official race.

Invest in a GPS running watch

Now that you're getting a little more serious, it might also be time to invest in a GPS running watch.

The benefits of a watch over an app are having your pace, distance and vital stats where you can see them at all times. It's much easier to make sure you're not starting too fast or pushing yourself beyond your training plan.

You can spend over £300 for the most advanced trackers but there are some great cheaper options that'll do an ample job at this stage in the game.

The Garmin Forerunner 10 is a great entry-level option at £99. It'll track your runs with built-in GPS, it's waterproof and lightweight.

If you want something future-proofed in case your running needs become more serious and demanding, then the Polar RCSGPS is a solid all rounder. At £199.50, it's a step up in price but you do get a whole lot more spec for your spend. If you decide to turn marathon runner, this will be all the watch you need.

It's very easy to set up and to use but has the option to be brilliantly customisable, if you feel the need. It can be paired with a heart rate monitor for feedback on your training intensity and has an array of web-based training tools that will help you reach you goals. The battery life is also impressive with more than five days without needing more juice.

Other options worth considering are the TomTom Runner and Nike+ Sportswatch.

  • Part 3 of our "Get marathon fit with your smartphone" series is now online!

Apps to download