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Running your first 5K is a huge feat, and the satisfaction that comes with it makes it so much better.

You may be wondering where to start, though, so here’s a compilation of all the bits and pieces that you will need to know along the way.

Pick the right shoes

The biggest roadblock to beginning a running routine is not having the proper footwear. As it turns out, the best shoes aren’t usually the cheapest pair on the internet or the brightest colored pair on the shelf. Instead, take a visit to a small running store. Employees at the small, local stores tend to be very attentive and knowledgeable about a wide range of brands and shoe styles, and they will take your preferences and needs into consideration when looking for the right shoe.

Many brands (like Nike, Adidas and Reebok) will offer you gait analysis to determine how your particular foot strikes the ground. These type of evaluations will help the sales person find the best shoe for you.

Learn proper form

  • You should be looking down the road rather than toward the ground, so be sure to keep your head up. 
  • Stand tall without slouching while also leaning forward into your stride. 
  • Bend your elbows slightly, keeping them loosely swinging rather than stiff and raised. 
  • Take short steps with hard arm swings on the uphill, and lean into downhills while taking advantage of gravity’s assistance. 

Stick to a training plan.  

Start training at least 3 months in advance, but more time is better. If you are new to running, begin with an alternating run/walk plan. Run about three days a week to start, increasing your running days and time as you improve. This will give your body a chance to recover and gain strength.

Focus on the amount of time that you can run continuously.

Speed and distance is not important at the beginning. Instead, focus on the amount of time that you can run continuously. Build up the amount of time that you can run to about 30 minutes before you start running for distance. Your first 5K should not be focused on a time, so don’t worry about speed until after you have tackled a race.

What about the soreness?

If you are new to running, you need to know that it is going to hurt. That said, you won’t be sore forever. Shin splints are very common in beginners, and they can be combatted with some ice. Eventually, your body will become acclimated to the type of strain that running induces. Don’t give in simply because it hurts, but know that it will be at least a month before you begin to get used to it.

Know what to expect on race day

  • Collect all the information that you can before race day. 
  • Check the weather in the days leading up to the race. 
  • Also, most races have a course map online to see what the course looks like and where the mile markers and water stations are. 
  • If the race is near home, run parts of the course or even walk to course to get a sense of what to expect on race day. 

The night before

  • Lay out your clothes, shoes, and socks ahead of time. 
  • If you have already picked up your bib number, make sure to have that on hand. 
  • If you wear headphones when you run, be sure to pack them as well. 
  • Stay hydrated by carrying a water bottle with you for a few days before the race. 
  • Don’t eat anything out of the ordinary to avoid stomach pain, and be sure to have a well-rounded healthy meal.

The big day

  • Get there 45 minutes to an hour in advance of the start time. 
  • Get to the bathroom before a line forms. 
  • Do a light warmup jog about 20 minutes before the race, and mix in some dynamic stretches (i.e. hold a fence and swing one leg at a time). 
  • Don’t line yourself up at the front of the line. If you know anyone with similar goals to yourself, line up in the same area as them. 
Now that you have all these tricks up your sleeve you are ready to go. It is fine to be nervous, but don’t stress yourself out. This is what you have been training for. You’re ready.

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Written by Katie Carsky , B.S. in Medical Humanities from Boston College | MD/MPH candidate at Tulane University School of Medicine
Katie runs everything from road 5K’s to trail 50K ultramarathons, and she is the captain of Eagles Club XC at Boston College. She enjoys using research to make comprehensible articles for readers.

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