Running Your First 5K

Jennifer Bonn

I have friends who have been talking about how much they want to run a 5k, but there is something daunting about signing up for the first one. You might think you will show up at the race and everyone will instantly know you are not a real runner, or everyone around you will be in Simon Bile’s shape and you won’t fit in. First, if you run you are a real runner and if you show up you will be surprised to see all shapes and sizes, and every fitness level.

The next fear is that you won’t be fast enough, and you might come in last. Running is about improving and making goals. At the last race, I saw someone doing the whole race on crutches, and although he probably came in last I have a feeling the crowd cheered him in as if he was the winner.

We met a woman at a local half-marathon who said she did a few 5ks and then she couldn’t get enough of racing. She said 5ks are the gateway drug of running. One minute you sign up for a 5k and before you know it you are doing an ultra across the desert.

Here is some running vocabulary before we talk about the actual race.

5k 3.1 miles (give or take)

Course descriptions Mostly white lies especially when it says rolling hills. That’s when you know you are in trouble.

Chip time This is when there is a start mat and a finish mat. Your time starts when you cross the first mat and finishes when you cross the second.

Gun time This means that the time starts as soon as the gun goes off, so if it takes you longer to cross the start it could make your time slower.

The bib Your bib has all your information on it as well as a chip that will track your time.

Swag the t-shirt and other gifts that the race organizers offer.

Packet pick up Your bib and your swag.

Pacing How fast or slow you are running.

Masters the winner who is over 40

Grandmaster the winner over 50

Senior grandmaster The winner over 60

Here are a few things that will help you have a great 5K.

· Run and walk at least three times a week for thirty to forty minutes several weeks before the race.

· Do some cross-training like biking and swimming.

· Do strength training and work on strengthening your core. Strong muscles will help you avoid injury.

· Stretch. We can forget how important flexibility is to performance.

· The day of the race don’t start out too fast. It is easy to be caught up in the excitement of the start. Most of the time, you will see many of the people who sprinted out of the start walking by the first mile.

· You might have race nerves so do a body check and make sure you are running relaxed with your shoulders loose. Practice regular breathing because when you are nervous you might hold your breath for a few seconds, and that never ends well.

· Pick your rabbit. About a half-mile in there will be someone running right in front of you. Make it your goal to stay near that person unless of course you can pass that person and pick a new rabbit. The goal is to have someone who pushes you slightly.

· Don’t let hills defeat you. Slow your stride, bend slightly, and look right in front of you instead of gazing up at the looming mountain. So much of running is mental and hills are a good example of this. I used to tell my cross-country runners to trash-talk the hills. It took their minds off the challenge and gave them some motivation to crush the hill.

· Practice positive self-talk. This is another example of the power of your mind. When you feel as if you are not running well it is easy to let the negative voices in your head. I guarantee you that just the fact that you are doing a race makes you a badass in almost everyone’s eyes, so find the positives in your performance.

· Every racer has that moment, (sometimes the entire race) when you have entered the pain cave, and you really want to stop. Go slower for a few seconds instead of stopping and focus on something else like catching the person in front of you.

The most important piece of advice is to have fun. When you go to races you will experience a community atmosphere and you will be surrounded by veteran runners who can help you improve.

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I am passionate about running, parenting, education, and self-help information. I enjoy writing articles that will offer readers the information needed to help them in some way. I recently retired from teaching French and Spanish for forty years. I run every day and have done all kinds of races from 5ks to ultra-marathons. I have three children and three grandchildren. I write for several magazines in my area, I am a contributor and in charge of the Pinterest board for a parenting magazine called Screamin Mamas, and I have a second book about to be released through Loving, Healing Press called 101 Tips to Ease Your Burdens.

Kennesaw, GA

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