Running Your First 5k – What to Expect

At the beginning of the year, I decided I wanted to run a 5k race. If you have been following along on the blog you might remember a post about it back in January – The Road to a 5K. This goal was also mentioned in my New Years Resolution post – New Year, New Me. When I made those posts it seemed like a lofty goal, one that I might not achieve. I never imagined that I would manage to do it so quickly into the year! If I can do this, then anyone can and if running your first 5k is one of your fitness goals this year then this post is for you!

If you have never considered running but are curious about starting I highly suggest giving it a chance. when I first started I couldn’t run to the end of the road. I could barely make it to the neighbor’s driveway. At the time I never would have imagined that running would become such a fixture in my life. I thought all those people who talked about loving to go for a run were crazy. They weren’t crazy. Running is how I clear my head on a bad day and as a hobby that we can share its even become bonding time between myself and my family. Even our dog Connor has benefited from the addition of running to our lives – How to enjoy Running with your Dog.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I will receive a small commision if you make a purchase after following these links at no extra cost to you!

Running Your First 5k – Training

Jogging with your Dog. How to enjoy running with your dog.

Training for your first 5k can seem daunting. Especially if you have never run before. Good new’s though! It’s really not that bad. 3.1 miles might seem like a marathon when you start but if you stick with it you will look back and start wondering if you can manage a 10k.

There are many apps available to help you train. My favorite and the one I use is made by Under Armor called Map My Run.  Map my run has a basic version that is free to use and a paid version. My husband uses the paid version but he is now training for a half marathon. The free version works perfectly fine for me and is all I need.

When you start out running it’s perfectly fine to take things slow! In fact, you should work on building distance before worrying about speed. I started out by running intervals. I would run for 30 seconds and then walk for 4 minutes and would repeat this six times at least three times a week. Every week I would increase the run time and decrease the walk time. When I could run for 5 minutes straight I switched to distance goals – first a half mile, then one mile. I slowly built the distance until I could run the full 5k. It’s okay if this takes a long time! It’s also okay if you still have to walk a little bit when you enter your first race!

Right before your race

It’s beneficial to give your body a few days of rest before running your first 5k race.  Before my first race, which was on a Saturday, I ran 3.1 miles on Monday, 2 miles on Tuesday and an easy 1 mile on Wednesday. I took Thursday and Friday off.

Spend the week before your race making sure you are drinking your water and eating well! I know I can tell if I have been drinking too much coffee and not enough water when I run. Especially now that the weather is warming up!

Running Your first 5k – Finding a Race

In the age of the internet, finding a race is pretty simple! There are local 5k clubs all over the place and generally, a search of events in your area on Facebook will bring some 5k results. If you live in the United States then Running in the USA is a pretty good place to look and I’m sure there are similar sites for other countries!

Most races have a charity function attached to them. If you are fond of a particular charity then it might be worthwhile to reach out and see if they sponsor any 5k races in your area. I know our local humane society has an annual run and since Connor has been such a large part of my running I am seriously looking into entering. The entrance fee for a race will generally cover your swag (medals, t-shirts, trophies) as well as a donation. Most entrance fees are 25-30 dollars.

It can also be fun to look for races close to holidays. My husband and daughter did an Ugly Christmas Sweater run this year and there is normally costume runs close to Halloween.

Running your first 5k – Race Day

running your first 5k race

I have found that the running community is really great! On race day you will find people of all fitness levels. Some people walk, some people run/walk and others speed along like the road runner but everyone is supportive and kind! It’s important to remember that a 5k is a race against yourself, you are trying to be better then you were yesterday and if you do that then you have succeeded no matter what your time is! When you cross the finish line people will clap and cheer. If you are struggling with the course and someone is nearby they will encourage you.

If you are like me and terribly directionally challenged (pretty sure I could get lost in my own neighborhood) you don’t have to worry! Courses are generally well marked and often there are police to help with traffic (though you should keep an eye out for cars anyways!).

Most races start early in the morning, you should arrive early enough to check in and get your number without having to rush to the starting line. You should also take the weather into account and dress in appropriate running gear.

Race Tips for first timers

  • Start closer to the back of the pack for your first race. You don’t want to be in the way of the speedsters in the front!
  • Check your pace. Everyone is excited and the starting pace can be fast. If you don’t want to burn out halfway through remember to slow down! It can be easy to get carried away by the excitement.
  • It’s okay if you have to walk part of the course! You won’t be the only one.
  • Stop at the water station if you need it. There is normally one located around the 2-mile mark but every race is different.
  • Remember that you are racing against yourself, don’t compare yourself to the other runners. Some of them have probably been running for a very long time. Do your best and rejoice in the fact that you are doing it at all!

Running your first 5k – After the Race

After the race, they typically have an awards ceremony. Awards are normally split by age group and gender although some races will have special categories. Be happy that you have achieved your goal, take a note of your time and see if you can beat it next time!

Running my first 5k was somewhat emotional. I suspect that a part of me was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Right up until the end of the race there were doubts in the back of my mind – I would have to stop, I would get lost.

But none of those happened and I DID do it and it felt great. In achieving this goal I gained self-confidence, I can look back on my progress and feel proud. I have asthma, I couldn’t run and I doubted myself – but I stuck with it and I did it. You can too.

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  1. These are some great tips! I ran a 5k a few years ago when I was into running, but since I haven’t run very regularly. However, I do want to get into it again. I’ll have to save this post and come back to it again when I’m ready to run a 5k again.

    Megan xx

    1. Author

      I never would have thought running was a hobby I would enjoy but its funny how quickly it can suck you in once you get started! Hope the article helps when you get back to it!

  2. I’ve just started running again and can now comfortably run 5K only having to stop to walk once or twice for a minute so I’m hoping to up it and be able to run 10k by the summer! I’ve never been and done an actual race although I’d love to! This was a really good detailed post for people who are new to running! There’s an app called couch to 5k for beginners which talks you through a run 3 times a week to help build it up and then there is a 5k to 10k one if you’re interested in increasing your run! You’ve done a fab job to be able to run 5K since the beginning of the year though, go you!

    Jess //

    1. Author

      I have heard of that app before! Though I never tried it as I found Map my Run first haha. I might have to look into it when I try to go for a 10k.

      1. Yeah it’s definitely worth it you can have your music on as normal and it’ll just tell you when to walk and when to run through your earphones it’s super handy! x

        1. Author

          Awesome! Thanks for the info about it. I will have to check it out for sure!

  3. Congrats on reaching this achievement so quickly in the year! I know my knees are too bad to run, plus my ankle won’t allow it, but I cannot wait until the weather gets warmer so I can go for nice long walks every day. Much like running, I need to build myself up to those longer walks, but looking forward to it.

    1. Author

      Walking is also cathartic. I especially love nature walks.

  4. I love this post! Your photos make it really personal and a lovley way to document your experience. This is so great because it really encourages beginners and proves that taking it slow is okay, you make me want to get out there and train!

    1. Author

      Thank you so much! Good luck with your training if you decide to start!

  5. These are great tips and super useful! I’m so glad you had a great time! xx

  6. This is such a helpful post!!! I used to run all the time throughout my school years, but unfortunately as I got older and went into uni I got lazy and then unfit and now i’m ashamed to say I can barely run for 10 minutes! I’ve decided I want to get back into running, and my first goal is to complete a 5k run! I really didnt know where to start, but this post has been super helpful! You have so many great posts on running, I will be deffs coming back here for more tips and advice, thank you so much!!

    1. Author

      So glad you found it helpful! I also gave up running for a while after getting out of school so I know the struggle of getting back into it! I know you can do it!

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