If you’re considering running your first 5K race–#C25K anyone?–you’re probably full of questions and scouring the internet for answers. I recently completed my first 5K just 3 weeks after deciding that I wanted to run one for.the.first.time.ever.
I have read dozens of articles, watched many YouTube videos, and have put together the one article that I wish I had read. The one article that I believe has everything a new runner needs to know.
I hope it helps you to run your first 5K too!
1. Ask your doctor first! You hear this advice a lot, but you will be pushing your lungs, legs, and heart beyond what they are used to, so why risk it?
2. Strengthen your core and legs. I am thankful that my first 5K came after 20+ months of tennis and strength training. If you’re not currently lifting weights, you will feel soreness in your legs and instability in your core. Spend at least 4 weeks, before you start running, doing squats, planks, kettlebell swings…whatever you feel most comfortable doing to add some strength and stability to your legs and core.
3. Get your feet measured at Fleet Feet. For twenty years I have been wearing size 10D shoes. After a 3D analysis of my foot (takes seconds) I learned that I should actually be wearing size 11EE for my running shoes. My puppies no longer bark at me, they purr like kittens!
4. Buy a cheap GPS/heart monitor watch. There are many expensive smartwatches out there, but I just needed something that would help me track my routes, my heart, and sync with other apps. The Amazfit Bip is just $80, has some amazing features, and 30-day battery life!
5. Buy running socks and shorts. Yes, you can start running with just gym shorts and crew socks, but you should keep an eye open for some running shorts–super lightweight, many with inner liner–and non-cotton socks with cushioning–less likely to get blisters!
6. Wear a hat and sunglasses. Ideally, you need a good lightweight baseball cap and some polarized sunglasses. The cap alone will shield you from the sun and absorb the sweat. Yes, you will sweat…a lot.
7. Bring your phone, ID or Road ID. When I go on neighborhood runs I don’t bring my ID. However, no matter where I run, I do wear a Road ID bracelet that lets everyone know who I am, emergency contact info, and my medical conditions. Good in case I collapse or fall in a ditch.
8. You don’t need to bring water or gels, but pre-hydrate. If you run less than an hour, you don’t need to bring water or fancy energy gels, just make sure you are normally hydrated before you leave the house.
9. Map out your run first. You can use Google Maps, Strava, or many other apps to map your run ahead of time and figure out your total mileage. You can also send it to your loved ones, so they know where you are running.
10. Start with walk/run, before attempting run/run. If you are starting from scratch, definitely don’t just start running non-stop. Start out your first few runs with walking, mix in some running and walking, finish up with walking. Once you build up stamina and confidence in your running, you can, well, run.
11. Find your conversation pace. The more you can talk while running, the further you can run. If you can barely talk, slow down and catch your breath.
12. Don’t think those fresh legs can maintain that fast pace after mile one. Don’t start your run flat out or you’ll burn out. Start at an easy pace so you have enough gas in the tank for your finish.
13. The cadence of your breathing is just as important as your steps. Breath in deeply and out fully, through your mouth. Inhalation is important, but that exhale expells the CO2 from your body!
14. Looking for running technique tips? This is the best summary I have seen for new runners.
15. Stretch! Yes, try some of those “ministry-of-funny-walks” dynamic stretches before you run, but certainly stretch your muscles after your run, while they are still warm and pliable.
16. P&P. Before you leave the house for your run, make sure you, ahem, take care of “business.”
17. Join Strava. There are many running communities that will help you stay motivated and connected, but I was introduced to Strava and highly recommend it!
18. Register for a medal! OK, this may just be a personal thing, but if I am gonna pay a fee to run a race, there better be a medal for finishing it.
19. Just run, don’t race. Speaking of races. By all means, enter them, but as a new runner you are not going to break any race records, so just run…and enjoy it!
20. Get a massage. After your first 5K race, treat yourself to a massage. You earned it and so have your muscles!
21. Brace yourself for the “runners high.” Yes, it does exist. It will likely not appear while you are actually running, but you will feel it afterward…and you may just get addicted to running. ;-)
Over to you! What advice would you add to the list for any new runner?