Running your first 5K can be a little intimidating. It is important to know what to expect, and to properly prepare yourself. Below are some tips and guidelines that will help make your first 5K race successful, and fun too!
Do Your Research – Don’t pick just any 5K to be your first one. Make sure it is a race that will be enjoyable, as well as far enough out to give you some time to train. There are a lot of themed 5K races (holiday races, color runs, etc.) out there that are great if you have never raced before. They usually include more families and more people that aren’t maybe as serious about running.
Train – You don’t need to run 3+ miles everyday before your first 5K, but you should definitely get a few runs in each week that are at least 1-3 miles to get your body moving and used to running. It’s important to warm up and stretch too before your runs, as well as a cool down after – this helps prevent injuries.
Do It With a Friend – Some people find more motivation in running with someone else. Maybe you have a friend or family member who has never done a 5K before either – train and race together! If you have a friend who has done 5K races before, they can be a great person to give you training tips and then help pace and cheer you on during race day.
Properly Hydrate – It is important to hydrate more than usual the day before your race, especially if you are going to be racing in warmer weather. But do not chug a bunch of water right before the start. Instead, drink a large glass of water 2 to 3 hours before the race to allow your body time to process the fluid. During the race, there will usually be at least one water stop so definitely take some if it is a hot day, but again, do not chug or drink too much. The amount they give you (a small cup) is usually plenty.
Properly Eat – Less is more the morning of a race. Eating too much right before the start can cause stomach pain. The best thing to do is eat a light meal about 2-3 hours before the start, which allows your body to digest the food and store necessary energy. Try and stay away from fatty foods (they take longer to digest) and stick with simple foods such as a banana, bagel with peanut butter or a sports bar.
Wear Proper Shoes – Too many people wear improper shoes during a race if they have never run before. Not only will this affect your overall performance, but it can lead to injuries. You don’t need a high-tech, expensive running shoe, but at the very least you should wear appropriate athletic sneakers that have laces and provide support (no Converse, no Vans, no Keds). It is also important to not wear new shoes – make sure you have run in them at least a few times before to break them in and get used to how they feel.
Start Towards the Back – At the start line, the front is usually for faster runners who are trying to win awards or get a PR (personal record). If you start with them, you will feel pressure to go out faster than you should. It is also beneficial to those runners so they do not have to worry about passing you, which can actually be dangerous if it is a larger race – tripping and falling trying to pass slower runners near the start happens a lot more than you think.
It’s OK to Walk – Don’t feel pressured to run the entire race. Listen to your body, especially if you didn’t do much training. It’s definitely a great goal to try to finish a 5K without stopping, but don’t feel like you should do it during your first one. Many people don’t accomplish that until they have done a few races and have formed a consistent training schedule.
Hopefully you find these tips helpful and maybe your first 5K will be with us! We have many great 5K races throughout the year, and all of them are welcome to those who have never raced before. Don’t hesitate to tell us if it is your first race too – we will be happy to answer any questions you may have! Check out our upcoming events HERE.