» Run Your First 5K Race

Run Your First 5K Race

“A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways as they’re capable of understanding.” – Steve Prefontaine

Are you ready for your first 5K race? The previous sections have walked through most of the preparation you will need to successfully run this entry-level race.

When I ran my first 5K, I was about four months into running. I knew I could complete the distance easily, since my training runs were up to three miles. I had elimintated my need to walk parts of the distance. Someone said that anyone can finish a 5K, you just might finish with the grannies at the end of the race. This would not do for me, so I worked on my pace and finished in the top third of the runners. It did not qualify me for elite status, but I was very happy with the result.

Here are 10 tips for selecting and succeeding in your first 5K:

1. Define success before you register for a race.

How will you define success? If you are not far into your training, you may be happy simply to complete the race. If you have had several months to prepare, you may have a time goal or want a good ranking in the results. Your definition of success should determine the type of race and when you are ready to run it.

2. Select a race that suits you.

Look at course characteristics. If you do not train on trails and hills, stay away from trail runs or runs that have challenging hills. If you are used to running on soft surfaces, such as developed trails, a road run may be very hard on your legs. You may have to drive a little farther to find a race suited for you, but it is worth it.

3. Select a date that allows you to meet your goal.

If you find the perfect race, but you can’t even run two thirds of that distance yet, make sure the race date allows time to slowly build up your distance. If your goal is just to finish, you may be fine with an earlier date. If you want to finish well, achieve your race distance in your training before you race.

4. Register.

Once you find a race, lock in your decision. Register early. It will save you money and help to keep you from backing out. Most races offer on-line, snail-mail, and in-person registrations. If you register early, you will usually receive a shirt or other participation prize. In-person registration on the day of the race is often an option, but supplies of shirts and other goodies may not be available.

5. Sign up with friends.

If you want to be sure to follow through and run your scheduled race, ask friends to run with you. You are bound to know at least one other person who would like to run with you. You can even train with that person, if you’d like. Running with a friend can be a great experience for both of you.

6. Prepare slowly.

After you have registered, be sure that you do not over-train. The motivation to run well in your event may drive you to run too hard. Running too hard can result in injuries, shin splints, sore feet and other maladies that will make your time worse, not better. In the week or two before the race, slow down your training and take it easy.

7. Warm up before the race.

Arrive early at your race to leave time to warm up. You’ll see people running, stretching, and walking before the race. When you are more advanced, you can try running, but for now, simply do some stretching and walk for five to ten minutes. Save your energy for the race.

8. Stay well hydrated.

Think about hydration before, during, and after your race. Don’t drink so much that you need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the race. If your race has stops for water along the way, grab a cup of water and slow down to drink it. At the end of the race, drink water – as much as you want.

9. Start in the middle of the pack.

When you line up, don’t start at the front of the crowd. The fast racers will be there, and you will get in their way. Or worse yet, you may try to keep up with them. Don’t start in the back either. You will end up moving very slow. For your first race, if you’ve been training as this guide suggests, start in the middle. It will start you at a slower pace, but you will be able to run faster as you go.

10. Run at your own pace.

You will be tempted to run fast in your first race. Resist the tempation. You will tire yourself out quickly. Don’t try to beat a speed record your first time. Aim for a consistent pace. Most races have markers of some kind at each mile. Check your time at each of these to confirm that you are running neither too fast nor too slow.

After your run, celebrate! This was an important milestone. You completed your first 5K. Keep running and developing a lifetime habit.