Death. That is what it probably felt it like when you first started running. You gasped for air as you alternated between jogging and walking, with more jogging than walking. It was hard. It was humbling. The thought of quitting entered your mind once or twice. Then it happened. You experienced the runner’s high and along with it a sense of unparalleled freedom and empowerment. All the benefits of running you had read about you began to experience. All sorts of numbers have dropped—pounds, inches, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
But now you are ready to take on a new challenge: your first race. It is not as hard as you think, but everything you need to help get you through it is here in our 5K or Bust: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide.
Pick a running shoe not just a worn-in, comfortable sneaker. Running shoes are designed to be light, absorb impact, provide cushion to the heel and support the arch. They must also be flexible and stiff in the right places for proper mobility and stability. The right running shoe will fit your own body, foot and running mechanics. You can use your current running shoe, but it is recommended to swap out old running shoes for new ones at 400-500 miles of wear and aiming for a good fit at 100-200 miles of usage.
Invest in a timer or watch that syncs with your smartphone. The key here is to develop a simple but effective way to track progress. There are many watch and smartphone combinations in various price ranges to track your running. Find one that best suits your budget and needs.
You want to focus on your running, not on dripping sweat, dangling strings, or material that chafes the skin. Clothing should be sweat-absorbent, breathable, and fitted (not too tight or loose.) Lightly layer clothing to be removed as your body heats up and you begin to sweat.
Training for the Race
Setting the right pace, weekly training goals and tracking progress in a calendar for your 5k preparation will be your keys to success. The overall goals are to increase running time and reduce walk time from week to week and run 4 to 5 days a week, consecutively. The natural urge for newbies would be to run as long possible until you can run for a very long time. A more efficient approach would be following a plan of weekly running and walking splits rather than go sheer distance.
Warm up with walking or a light jog for two minutes. Aim for 20 minutes of walking and running intervals. Run 30 seconds then walk for 2 minutes. Track and log how long it takes for you to catch your breath. If it takes longer than 2 minutes adjust your walk time accordingly keeping with 30 seconds of running. Continue at this pace until week 2.
Weeks 2 and 3
Increase run time to 60 seconds from 30 seconds and keep rest time at 2 minutes. If this is too difficult it is okay to go back to the week 1 split. Focus on decreasing walk time while running 30-60 seconds.
Weeks 4 and On
If you have been running as suggested for 4-5 days in a row, you should be narrowing your running and walking gap. What you want to work toward is 1 minute running with 1 minute rest until you are increasing your consecutive running time.
Your Finish Time
Since it’s your first race you might be wondering what your time will be. Just because it’s your first 5k doesn’t mean you want to be last. Running across the finish line without being carried would be ideal. Finish times vary depending on a person’s age and running experience but you can get an estimate using this race calculator.
Entering your first 5K race can be both nerveracking and exhilarating but it could be the push a boring and predictable running routine needs. You will be pushing your physical and mental limits to another level and the competitive aspect adds purpose and motivation, possibly taking you from enthusiast to athlete. Pick your routes. Lace up your running shoes. Strap on your tracker. Most importantly, follow our 5k or Bust: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide for race day success!