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  • Writer's pictureLynne Patzelt

Running Your First 5K: 5 Frequently Asked Questions

Updated: Oct 11, 2019

You have finally decided to run your first 5K. Whether you are running for charity, to support a friend, or get fit, you are unsure of what to expect in the race. Running your first 5K can be exciting and nerve-wracking. If you complete the race, it will be a huge milestone. However, you are not sure what to expect. At this point, you have many questions running through your mind. This article answers five frequently asked questions about running your first 5K to maximize your enjoyment and make it stress-free and fun.

1. How do I prepare for the run?

If you haven’t started getting yourself conditioned, look for a program that can work your body, but not too hard. The first few days can get tough on the joints so it’s best to ease into it -- check out Couch to 5K, which is a wonderful resource for the novice runner.

Once you are used to physical activity, get out on the actual course you’ll run. This will help you train and know the terrain. It will also prepare you psychologically for the run. Second, prepare your running gear, shoes, sunscreen, and stay hydrated. Organizing everything you need before the race ensures you don't forget essential items. It will also save you time and reduce pre-race anxiety.

Third, during the big day, do not go straight to the race; take about 25 minutes to get warmed up. Start with an easy jog and build it up slowly. Do not forget to stretch after the warm-up.

2. What equipment will I need for the race?

You need comfortable sports clothing and a pair of well-fitting shoes. Women require a good sports bra. Ensure you choose a perfect pair of running shoes. Do not go for new shoes; a pair of shoes you have already tested is best. You don't want blisters and aches to affect your run. Importantly, do not overdress, as it can make you uncomfortable and unable to run optimally.

You can use a fitness tracker or smartwatch to monitor your progress. Although a smartwatch is not mandatory in a 5K run, it can be beneficial for your run. A smartwatch keeps you healthy and safe in your runs, tracks your activity, and serves as a motivator. For example, Apple’s latest, the Apple Watch Series 5, has features like fall detection, emergency SOS, and ECG generation to help you crush your 5K run. Of course, if you don't fancy smartwatches, you can use fitness trackers like Fitbit Charge 3, which tracks not only your performance but also your health. It is prominent for being lightweight and water-resistant, and features a long battery life.      

3. What should I eat before the run?

An excellent all-round diet is ideal before the race. Aim for a variety of foods that are high-energy and easily digestible. A bowl of oatmeal topped with fruit, a bagel with peanut butter, or a protein-packed sports bar are great pre-race snack options. Make sure to hydrate with a glass or water before your sneakers hit the pavement.

The golden rule when eating before a race is to stick to a familiar diet; don't try anything new. It is best practice to eat two hours before the race. Do not forget to carry water and a sports drink.     

4. How fast should I run?

For a beginner, it is advisable to go with a friend and run at a “chatting” pace. If you can't talk as you run, your speed is too high. Do not run too fast at the start; it will drain you. Start conservatively and increase pace throughout the run. 

Your goal should be to complete the race with a smile of achievement. Whether you take 25 minutes or 45 minutes to finish the race, aim to cross the finish line.

5. Will I have aches and pains after the race?

You may feel a bit achy after the race. You can minimize the aches by warming up before the run. Also, as you finish the run, do gentle jogging, walking, and stretching.     

Running your first 5K can be exciting and fun if you know what to expect. This article answers the frequently asked questions to ensure your run is enjoyable and stress-free. Remember that in the running, your real opponent is yourself. By just taking part in the 5K run, you have achieved something incredible, even if you don’t make it to the finish line on your first go. Be proud of yourself!

About the author: Sheila Olson has been a personal trainer for five years. She created Fit Sheila to spread the word about her fitness philosophy and encourage her clients to stay positive. She incorporates mindfulness and practices for reducing negative talk into her sessions

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