So you've decided to run a 5k. First off, congratulations!! You've made the decision to try something new, to put yourself out there and to challenge yourself. Most people will not take this step. A 5k is 3.12 miles, no easy task!
I had been running for about 2 months when I ran my first 5k. It was the Rotary Zombie 5k and 1 mile fun run in Cranberry Township, PA. The event was well organized and had an excellent spread of food and drinks. Coffee, bananas, donuts, cookies, and lots of water. I thought it was going to be a run away from zombies kind of race. It was not. Still, I am glad I signed up. It gave me the motivation to train and gave me a taste of the race atmosphere.
Now that you've decided to run the 5k it's time to pick a race! Maybe it will benefit an organization close to your heart or maybe it will be a fun run event like the Color Run. Sign up right away. Even if the race is 3 months away sign up. And tell people! Friends, family, coworkers. This is going to help keep you motivated to train.
You've got a goal, you put your money down, told everyone you are running a 5k, and now it's time to prepare. Do you have some experience running? Or are you going from the couch to a 5k? Either way I believe the approach should be the same.
1. Set a schedule!
Plan to build up to your 5k over 2-4 months based on your fitness level. Make time to run 3 days a week and give yourself 30-45 minutes to do so. If you want to do more maybe add a 4th day where you take an active recovery day with a walk, yoga, or a bike ride.
2. Follow the schedule!
It sounds easy enough, but it's also easy to make excuses. "It is raining out I think I'll skip today. I'm too busy. It's cold out." Get in the habit of getting out there when you plan to. Sure, things come up and maybe you need to move a workout day. That's fine. Just move that day in the schedule and carry on. Training is a balance of workouts, rest days, and being consistent. Consistently getting out there will give you the best payout for your efforts.
What happens if you miss a training day or two? Just pickup the schedule and carry on!
If you can't run a mile that's fine! I couldn't either. If I ran 1/8 of mile I was doubled over out of breath! Start slow. Walk when you need to. The idea is to gradually build up to the distance. So run 1/8 mile and then walk a bit, then run, then walk. Maybe the next day or the day after that go a little farther before walking. Just keep on keeping on and before you know it you'll be running a mile without stopping. And then 2 miles. And 3.
I clearly remember going out for my walk/run one day. As I moseyed along I looked at my phone. I was using Map My Run at the time. And lo and behold the distance readout said 1 mile! I hadn't stopped to walk and I wasn't out of breath! When did this happen? It happened little by little by consistently getting out there and putting in the work.
Running is a great analog for many of life's challenges. Quite simply the more time you put into it the more you get out of it! And don't forget rest days are a necessary part of the training!
3. Get ready for the Race!
You've put in the work and now race day is almost here! Take 2 days off before the race. Maybe take a walk or a bike ride. The night before pull out your race clothes. If you have already picked your race packet up affix your bib onto your shirt. If there is a chip timer put it on your shoe.
The morning of the race you will likely be excited and maybe a little forgetful. Having it all ready makes the morning easy! Don't eat a huge breakfast or try a new food out. Stick with what worked for you while training. I like to have a banana and a cup of coffee. Maybe a piece of toast or oatmeal. Try to eat at least 2 hours before the race start time. You don't want a full belly trying to run! Make sure to get to the race area at the time recommended. If you have not received your packet yet you'll need to be a little earlier.
4. Run! Walk! Go claim victory over the 5k!
You have trained. You have prepared yourself. Now is the time to reap the reward of your efforts. If you can't run the whole 5k no worries. Walk when you need to. And most importantly, DO NOT FORGET THIS: HAVE FUN!!! This is your day so enjoy it.
5. Have a banana! You've earned it.
A few things worth mentioning. There will be all kinds of people running at the 5k. There will be seasoned racers looking to perform their best, there will be new runners looking to finish their first or second 5k. There will be people walking, maybe pushing strollers. Here are a few things to keep in mind so that you and everyone else can enjoy the race:
1. If you aren't planning to run at the front of the pack for the race don't line up in the front. If you are running with a stroller or walking the race line up near the back.
2. Headphones are typically discouraged. If the race allows you to use headphones keep the volume low enough that you can hear your surroundings. This is for your safety and everyone's safety.
3. Do NOT stop moving as you come through the aid stations. Slow to a walk and if you need to stop do so after the aid station. Move to the side of the course until you are ready to resume.
4. Do NOT stop as soon as you cross the finish line. Move out of the chute before stopping.
In the next "So you want to run" we will talk about transitioning from a 5k to a 10k.