Now that spring is in full swing, and summer is peeping from beyond the horizon, many Austin-area runners (except those headed to run Boston on Monday, April 16) are turning their attention to shorter distances like the 5K. You often hear of folks building from shorter races like the 5K and 10K into full marathon training and racing. But can it work, the other way?

The answer is yes. You can take that hard-earned marathon fitness and convert it into 5K racing shape for spring and summer races. Here’s an interesting example.

You can Carry your half and full marathon fitness into 5K and 10K racing.

Japanese marathoner Yuki Kawauchi, who has won numerous marathons, including the Fukuoka Marathon and the Oslo Marathon, is known to race frequently. A week after he posted a 2:11:52 to win the Sydney Marathon in 2012, he set personal bests in the 1,500 and at 5,000 meters—running 3:50 and 13:58 respectively. Kawauchi, who follows New Zealand running coach Arthur Lydiard’s training philosophy, believes that focusing on distance work would improve his speed, rather than the more common approach where speed training leads to middle-distance PRs.

Generally, it’s not a good idea to hop into a 5K one week after a marathon. Your body still has a long way to go to recover- at least two or three more weeks at minimum. And trying to race a short, fast distance that soon could likely result in injury. But what we can learn from Kawauchi’s racing is that a big aerobic base, while standard for marathon training, can also lead to faster times in the shorter distances.

Former Austinite, and nationally-known coach Greg McMillan has found that runners can “carry their half and full marathon fitness into 5K and 10K racing. They just have to be smart.”

Emphasizing a healthy two-to-three-week post-marathon recovery period, McMillan then advises runners to begin adding some intensity back into your training in the form of surges during some of your weekly runs.

The idea is to take advantage of your marathon fitness, but cautiously at first. Five or six weeks after your marathon (that would be about now for those who ran the Austin Marathon) you can get back into some race-specific speed-work like the standard 400 and 800-meter track repeats that offer direct fitness gains.

The major difference is that your not putting in the big weekly mileage that you were during marathon training, yet you are taking advantage of your aerobic base. Happy 5K racing, and don’t be surprised if you set a PR!

Upcoming Races: Saturday, April 21 at 10:00 a.m., Bun Run for the Cure 5K/10K at Pocket’s Grille, 205 Fawcett Street in Smithville. Saturday, April 21 at 8:00 a.m., River Rally Run 5K at Fisherman’s Park, 1200 Willow Street in Bastrop.