So You Want To Run a 5K
Recently a blogging friend inspired by my recent Marathon race contacted me asking for advice on how to train for a 5K. Oh yeah, I love, love, love welcoming new runners into the fold! Making the decision to train and run a 5K is one that pays back amazing dividends. You will discover the delight of exceeding what you thought you were capable of accomplishing and understanding that your best is always yet to come.
When I decided to train and run a 5K, I consulted friends who have extensive running experience before I started my training. However, I didn’t know what I didn’t know about running and had crucial knowledge gaps when I first started training which lead to numerous mild injuries. Whether you join a running group or use a Couch to 5K program, there are a few things that you need to know before beginning any 5K training program. I’ve put together a list of recommendations that will help you avoid some of the pitfalls I experienced as you progress in your running journey. These recommendations are based on my personal experience and meant to be a useful guide for new runners. You should always consult a running professional for more detailed information.
1. Make sure you are healthy enough to run. This would be a good time to schedule the yearly physical you’ve been putting off all year.
2. Invest in running shoes. This does not mean walking into a sporting goods store and picking out running shoes that match your athletic gear. Find a local running store where the employees are runners themselves. Tell them you are beginning to train for a 5K and need help picking out an appropriate shoe. Also inquire if the store performs gait analysis as part of the decision process in helping you find appropriate shoes. If you want to read up on the bio-mechanics of running shoes – REI has a great summary of what you need to know when choosing running shoes. See also Cool Running - Running shoes for Dummies, Part 1. In summary, having the right shoe goes along way in preventing injury as you progress in your running journey.
3. After you have selected your running shoes, purchase running socks to wear with your shoes. Running socks are typically made of synthetic fibers that wick away moisture to help prevent blisters. Always wear your running socks with your running shoes. Believe me, you want to prevent blisters! Mizuno, an awesome running shoe, has a great post on why running socks matter.
4. Inquire at the running store if they organize group runs or do a google search for running groups in your area. Running in a group is a great way to meet runners of all levels and have fun at the same time. For example: Philly Runners is a great group that organizes runs in Philly all year long.
5. Invest in technology that will track your pace, distance and time. Nike+ for your iPhone or RunKeeper are free applications that will track your pace and distance. In time, you may want to invest in a sports watch such as Nike+ Sport Watch or Garmin Forerunner 910XT GPS -Enabled Sport Watch. As a beginner runner, save your dollars and work with the free applications until you gain more experience as a runner i.e. many moons from now. At that time, I would strongly suggest the two watches mentioned above.
6. BEDROCK RULE OF RUNNING: Warm up before each run regardless of the distance and stretch after every run. These two activities are non-negotiable, you will stretch before and after a run or suffer preventable injuries. I suggest dynamic stretching/warm-ups before running. Why? Here is good study on the impact of dynamic stretching and running. I also incorporate Pilate and yoga stretching in my post run stretching.
7. Even as a beginner, it is important to begin to incorporate proper running form into your training runs. As you gain more running experience, you will notice when your form slips and the difference in pace when this happens. It takes time to get proficient, but it is always best to start as you plan to proceed. Joining a good running group or training group such as Team Philly will have coaches/mentors available to help you perfect your running form.
8. You may believe that the 5K your are planning to participate in is your ‘Mt. Everest’. Although, at times during your training it may seem as though it is, I can tell you plainly that it is not. If you choose to continue, it is the beginning of an amazing running journey. I can promise you there will come a point where you stop qualifying yourself as only a ’5K runner’ to one that is training for the next running milestone of a 10K, 10 miler, Half Marathon or Marathon. Before long you might find yourself registered for a Sprint Triathlon as part of your training for an upcoming Marathon.
9. Everything you’ve heard about a runners high is true and it is magnificent.
10. As with every sport, there is a downside – race day photos. Oh holy running gods, mine are hideous and so will yours, it is an unavoidable aspect of race day. I typically cry when viewing my race day photos. However, I’m not alone in this misery when Mark Remy asks why Brightroom hates him. So say we all.
11. Cotton T-shirts are the enemy. Invest in running apparel with moisture wicking material for a more comfortable, chafe-free run. Speaking of chafe, you may want to pick up some Body Glide which is a skin lubricant that prevents blistering and chafing in sensitive areas.
12. One more important item – On race day make an effort to thank the volunteers who really make these races possible.
I hope this list is of use to new runners or those considering taking up running. I promise you will not regret the decision. New to running? Have you completed a 5K? Share your running journey (so far) in the comment section below.