Over the past week or so, several folks at Gear Diary have started (or re-started) running as part of training for a 5K road race. We’ve been having a number of discussions, and Carly and I have been recalling running our first races. Since spring has officially started and even in the northeast we’re starting to see temperatures climb to near 50ºF during the day – which means weekend runners! So I thought it would make sense to take a bit and offer up some tips for your First 5K!
Here we go:
- Get an App: Dan & Judie are using RunKeeper’s plan, which is NOT a ‘Couch to 5K’ plan. There are plenty of those apps available, particularly the ‘official’ C25K® – 5K Trainer FREE – Zen Labs. Why get an app? If you have a smartphone – Android or iOS – you have a timer and a GPS, and therefore can have something track your progress! Also, make sure to ‘right-size’ your app. If the thought of running a mile scares you and ‘Day One’ has you at 1.75 miles … then it is time for a new app!
- Follow a Plan: Whether you are a first time runner, or returning after time away, it is too easy to let ‘day one enthusiasm’ carry you to running too far too fast, and possibly wind up exhausted or injured, ruining your ability to run at all! I am not the best role model here, since I basically just stepped up my running to 5 miles daily and kept going from there!
- STRETCH Once again I am not the model person for advice, as I was never much of a stretching person. But in the last year since I started my REAL running, I now stretch every day, and even at other times when I am not running. Stretching is important to get your body ready for activity.
- Model Your Race it is important to know what race you will be running and how it compares to your daily runs. If you run before dawn like I do, you will realize that daytime races are warmer and challenge you by being sunny and so on. Check out the expected conditions, and try to get in a couple of ‘race runs’ to see how it feels. The other important thing is to plan your nutrition and hydration. It is easy to think ‘it is only 3.1 miles’ and just do everything as if you weren’t running a race, but you ARE! There will likely be one or two water stops, and especially if it is warmer or sunnier than your normal runs, you should plan to stop for water. They say 5K is short enough not to need in-race nutrition, but plan your breakfast and night-before dinner to have plenty of fuel without being loaded down.
- Nobody Cares I laugh at myself, looking back and seeing how I would work around things to NOT have people see me when I ran for years … I would tweak my start time a few minutes earlier, alter my route, and so on. Why? I had a long-time fear of being laughably slow, which I have documented before. After running my first 5K and NOT being last, I realized that runners come in all shapes and sizes. And since I was starting to run on the weekends, I ended up running during the day and seeing others and we would wave and occasionally comment on clothes or shoes … and it occurred to me: nobody cared, and I wasn’t even the slowest runner in the area! And as I have gotten better and faster, it has further occurred to me that I really don’t care how fast someone is going, although I DID offer someone some of my water once!
- Have Fun! If this is your first 5K chances are you are NOT going to win … so just go out there, keep your pace and HAVE FUN! If you know people there, run with them even if they are a bit faster or slower and even if you can only keep up for a bit). This is just the first one, you don’t want to get hurt, but you do want it to be memorable.
I know many of our readers have also run 5Ks; Do YOU have any advice for folks just starting out with a goal of their first 5k? Let us know. And I’ll leave with a funny picture that most non-competitive runner will find at least amusing if not relatable.