Preparing For Your First 5K!

Happy Thursday! It’s almost Friday and the weekend is almost upon us!  I have a nice 3 mile tempo run with a warm up and cool down tonight and then some study time is in order.  I can’t believe how close the marathon is and that I’ll be taking my test in a few short weeks! Crazy how time flies!

Speaking of time flying by, spring has arrived and with that comes 5K races.   It seems like in the spring months there are multiple 5Ks every Saturday and Sunday and everyone is signing up for them!  I’ve heard lots of people talking about how they are tackling their very first 5K this spring.  New runners make me so happy and I love to hear people are tackling the 5K and starting to race.  A few of my friends are doing their first race and were wondering what my tips were for race day.  They are a pretty fit and active group just not “runners”.  A plan like the couch to 5K would not be challenging enough for them.  If we had to give them a category I’d say they are intermediate runners.  So here’s my tips to be successful!

Follow a Plan of Sorts. 

I’d say many intermediate runners are people who regularly workout but aren’t the type to run religiously 4 or 5 days a week.  My advice to them is to take a look at some intermediate running plans on sites like Runner’s World and Cool Running.  You don’t have to give up your normal workout routine you love but do add some miles into your week.

  • If your someone who regularly does the elliptical try replacing that time with some time on the treadmill or out on the road.  Aim to run 2 or 3 miles instead of your normal 30 to 40 minutes on the elliptical.
  • For those who like to weight lift, add a mile or two to your cool-down or warm-up.
  • Love Zumba and classes?  Get in two miles before class and then another mile after.  You’ll warm your body up for your class and get some miles in to be ready for your race!

Ideally you should be running about 4 days a week.  One of those days should be a long run.  You might start at 2 miles and build up to 9 miles over the course of a few weeks to help build your endurance.  Also add in a day of speed work to help give you that final kick over the finish line.  Need some ideas for speed work?

  • Try 4 x800m with 400m rest.  Include a mile warm up and a mile cool-down.  Aim to run your race pace for these workouts.
  • Don’t like the track?  Try doing 45 second to 1 minutes bursts throughout a 2 to 3 mile run.   Think 1 minute on, 1 minute off.  It will keep your heart rate elevated and improve your speed.
  • Try a tempo workout!  You would do a mile warm up and then run 2 or 3 miles at a hard but comfortable pace, then do a 1 mile cool down.

Runner’s World Intermediate 5K Plan

Preparing for the Race. 

  • The day before your race be sure to eat well and balanced.  It’s not the day to skip lunch and eat fries at the bar after work with your co-workers.  Your best bet is to eat a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner and include a snack or two.  Make sure you get some carbohydrates and protein into your diet.  The goal is to fill your muscles with glycogen so you’ll have enough fuel to push through your race!
  • Hydrate.  Be sure to drink plenty of water the day before your race!  Since your likely racing on a Saturday or Sunday the night before is not the time to go out with your friends and have one too many to drink.  One beer won’t kill you but don’t push it much more than that.
  • Get a good night’s rest.  Make sure you wake up feeling rested and energetic.  Get to bed early and catch some extra z’s!
  • Layout your race clothes the night before.  Look at the weather and wear something you’ll be comfortable in.  If you lay it out the night before you’ll be sure to have everything you need!
  • Pack a bag with dry clothes and whatever else you may need the night before.  You don’t want to rush in the morning!

Race Day!

  • Give yourself plenty of time to get up, get dressed and be ready for your race!
  • Eat a light breakfast.  A bowl of plain oatmeal with some applesauce is perfect or a couple of pieces of toast with a banana.  You don’t want to over eat but rather just be satisfied.
  • Get there early.  You don’t want to rush to find parking, take an extra layers off or get your bib number.
  • Warm up a little bit.  Do a few laps or sprints in an open area near the start.  You want to get the blood flowing and warm your muscles up.
  • Find a place in the back of the pack.  I recommend this because you don’t want to go out too fast.  Staying in the back of the pack will force you to do this.
  • Start slowly and build your speed over the race.  Your last mile should be the fastest!

Start Slow and Build Speed!

Post Race. 

  • Catch your breath and change into warm dry clothes.
  • Cheer on your fellow runners and have a fun time at the after party! Be sure to celebrate your first race!

As always you can leave any questions or additional tips I may have missed in the comment section!  Good luck to all of the new runners out there who are tackling their very first 5K this spring!  Runners are an amazing group of people!

Enjoy Your Big Finish!

What are your tips to running your first 5k?  What do you do to train for the race?  What are your pre-race rituals?  What makes you successful in a 5k?  What’s your favorite way to celebrate?


8 thoughts on “Preparing For Your First 5K!

  1. Margret Bagwell says:

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!


  2. Miz says:

    it seems there are so many half marathon and marathon guides and tips and books and magazine articles and…
    this was so so needed.


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