Have You Found Your 5k?
I would not call myself a runner. Running is something I’ve done for years as an occasional cardio workout. If I run more than 3 or 4 times each year, that’s a lot. Now, I’m signed up for my first 5k. Woo-hoo!
One effect of this upcoming event is that I’ve been running a lot more. I’ve also noticed that Fall is definitely 5k season. Perhaps not the only one. I’m guessing there are plenty in the Spring as well. But as soon as I started talking about running this race I began hearing about lots of other races. I decided to see if I could find a general list of 5k events. For this month alone, just in my state, there were 40 listed and the one I’m doing wasn’t even on the list!
So, if you have even the slightest interest in doing a 5k, now is your time. One of the cool things about a lot of these races is that they raise money for charity… a little extra bit of incentive. Because they’re for charity, another great thing is that many of them are walk/run. This makes them accessible to more people and much less intimidating for us newbies.
As a complete beginner in the world of “official” running I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far in case it might inspire you to give it a try.
First of all, you want to consider you current fitness level. Ideally, I wanted to choose a race date far enough out that I would have time to train to be able do as well I would like to. As a trainer, I do feel a little bit of pressure to run a good race! But I had only been running once all season. However, I’ve done enough running over the years to know that with the 5k being a distance equal to just 3.1 miles, it wouldn’t take too much to get ready. So, signing up for a race 6 weeks out seemed reasonable. When you’re choosing a race date, think about where your current fitness level is, how long it would take to train to perform the way you’d like to, and how much time you have to dedicate to training on a weekly basis.
Next, you want to consider how far you’re willing to travel and whether you want to try and get some running buddies to join you for the race and to train with you before hand. While travelling for a race might sound like fun, I thought it would be better to do something local for my first race. My friends and I were happy to find a race happening right in our town. Our schedules don’t always work for training together, but we’ve managed to get a few group sessions in and it has really helped to motivate me for my solo training runs.
One of the biggest surprises so far is how quickly my mile pace has improved. I was able to shave off more than a minute in just over a month. I have no idea if this is typical, but that’s what I was able to do running just once or twice per week over that month. So, if pace and race finishing time are things that interest/motivate you, then definitely track your training sessions. There are several apps you can use for this. My two favorites are MapMyRun and RunKeeper.
Something that I decided to do, for peace of mind, is to always run routes that are a little longer than the 5k. Typically, I’ll run anywhere from 3.5 to 4.5 miles. And just to be clear, I don’t run the whole way.
I used to think my goal should be to run the full distance. Then I learned about the Run Walk Run method developed by Jeff Galloway. I combine that idea with what I’ve learned from metabolic conditioning. I run until I can’t, then I walk until I can (run). Galloway claims that his method can help you run a faster race. I just like knowing I can stop and walk when I need to… which allows me to push harder and run faster on the stretches that I do run.
Last, but not least, make sure to dress for the weather and the activity. Just like with any other outdoor sport, you want to be comfortable. Find a good running shoe that, most importantly, fits well. The right running shoe will not give you blisters. A good shoe doesn’t have to be super expensive. With all the competition in the market these days you can easily find a good running shoe for around $50 to $80.
I’d love to hear about your 5k experiences and/or tips or when you’re running and what you’re doing to prepare if you’ve got a race coming up this Fall.