Race season is here and maybe you’re contemplating signing up for your first 5k. You may be wondering how do I train for my first 5k? and how do I prepare for race day?
Regardless of whether you’re new to running or if you have run in the past, running your first 5k can be nerve-racking. I’m here to tell you don’t be nervous — be excited! You have a wonderful journey ahead of you!
First things first, get crystal clear on two things:
1. Why do you want to run a 5k?
What is the reason you want to run a 5k? Is it to raise money for a charitable organization, to check it off of your bucket list, or to join a friend who has already signed up? Know the specific reason you want to run your first 5k.
2. How will running a 5k make you feel?
This is important, and the reason why is because when you are faced with obstacles, you can you use this tool to fall back on. Will you feel accomplished after your first 5k? Will you be inspired to sign up for another race? How will running a 5k make you feel?
I started running for one reason: my step-father lost his life to cancer. I decided to find a 5k race that would provide financial resources to families affected by cancer in my area. That was my reason. I wanted to feel accomplished and to support a cause that mattered dearly to me. Little did I know after my first 5k that I’d find a new love for running. Fast forward to two years later, I am now training for my first marathon. Running inspired me to reach my full athletic potential — or, at least, to go after it!
Now onto the work. Training for a race can seem like an overwhelming thing to do, but keep in mind that thousands of people each and every year, of all shapes and sizes, run 5k races and have fun while doing so!
1. Start 2 months before your race
Pick a race that allows for 60 days of training. Running a 5k may be an easy feat for some, and for others, it may be frightening. No matter where you are with respect to physical capabilities, 60 days will allow for adequate training for race day. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
2. Start small
That’s right! One foot in front of the other. During the first portions of your training, you may be incorporating a run/walk routine and building off that — that’s okay! I remember when I first started training for my first 5k, I would run a block then walk a block. When I became comfortable with the running portion, I slowly increased the distance I was running and decreased the distance I was walking.
Tip: Create a training schedule like this one. Sticking to a schedule will you help you stay on track without overwhelming your body.
3. Enlist the support of friends
Perhaps you have a friend who can run with you or maybe simply cheer for you at the start and finish line. Either way, having support from people in your life will keep you motivated to stick to your training plan and to do your best on race day.
Tip: When you’re faced with an obstacle, refer to your answers for why you want to run a 5k and how you will feel after you finish your first 5k.
Race Day Tips:
1. What to wear
Since you have been training for your race, you will be knowledgeable of possible weather conditions on race day. The biggest thing to remember is to be comfortable when you run. Find attire that provides comfort while allowing for physical activity. Don’t focus on what you will look like or having the newest running attire — if you’re comfortable, you can focus on the race ahead of you.
Be sure to adequately hydrate your body before and on race day. Drink plenty of water the day and evening before the race and immediately when you wake up on race day. With respect to nutrition, let’s simplify this a bit: a 5k is 3.1 miles. It isn’t a marathon, but it isn’t an easy feat. Fuel your body the day before with nutrient-rich foods high in fat, protein, and calories. For race day, depending on the time of your race, be sure to eat and fuel your body, but don’t overdo it.
3. Handling the crowd at the start line
This is often where the nerves start kicking in, but let these nerves motivate you. Your best bet is to know your average pace and position yourself in the crowd accordingly. Sometimes, with larger crowds’, runners are lined up based on their pace. Find your pace group and start and finish with them. If this isn’t an option, position yourself with the crowd accordingly. For example, fast runners up front, average pace in the middle, and slower runners in the back. From experience, I will admit I position myself with runners that are 30 seconds ahead of my pace. This way, I keep my pace up and am always looking to push myself to the next level throughout the course.
Running your first 5k can be a scary and exciting thing all at the same time. Training for your first 5k can seem like a daunting task, but it’s something thousands of people take on every year, and so can you! Be sure to train properly, research 5k running plans, enlist friends for support, and always remember: this isn’t the Olympics, have some fun!