8 Lessons from My First 5K Race

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
10/7/2008 11:33 AM   :  162 comments

I am not a runner. I really do not enjoy running. To me, it's more challenging than other cardio activities, and I think it can be boring. So it’s not the kind of thing I do very regularly. I run maybe once a month for 30-40 minutes, and then I don’t feel like doing it again for another few weeks. Needless to say, I don’t really “get better” at running—I pretty much stay the same since I don’t put time into it. But after I read a recent SparkPeople article about the benefits of taking part in charity races, I was really motivated to try one myself. I thought that maybe running for a cause would make running less boring—maybe even fun—and encourage me to do it more often. So this past weekend I laced up my new running shoes for Cincinnati’s annual Reggae Run.

Now, I really didn’t train properly for this 5K (3.1 miles), but I figured I was in good enough shape to handle it, since I do cardio regularly and run my occasional 3 miles without any problems. Here’s what I learned along the course:

1. Don’t be nervous. I'll admit that I was nervous once I arrived! I was having flashbacks to high school track meets, which always put butterflies in my stomach. I mentioned to a friend that I felt nervous and he said to me, “Don’t be. There will always be people who finish before you and people who finish after you.” And he was right. I knew that I wouldn’t finish in last place and I knew that I wasn’t competing against the other runners—I was there for me.

2. Pace yourself. I am no good at this. I started out running faster than I’ve ever run in my life. I think the adrenaline got me going! But I was also near the front pack of people who are really, really fast. So I sort of stayed with them the best I could, even though their pace was much faster than what I could handle. I finished my first mile in under 7 minutes (believe me, I am as shocked as you are), but lost steam along the way and each mile thereafter was slower. I liked that the fast runners really pushed me to work harder, but if I were to do it again, I’d try to find people closer to the pace I could keep up with more comfortably.

3. There is no shame in walking. Some people run; some people walk. Others do a little of both. Even the fastest runners pulled over to the sidewalk to take walking breaks along the way, and I was one of them! I wouldn’t have thought that I would need to walk, but the combination of a fast pace and steep hills (and maybe the lack of training) made it necessary for me. I took walking breaks four times throughout the short race. Once I got my heart rate down, I’d start jogging again.

4. Enjoy the moment. The whole experience was unlike anything else. Along the way, you hear the collective pounding of sneakers on the pavement all around you. People sit in their front yards and gather on the sidewalks just to cheer on complete strangers. When you look around, you see people who are all there for one common goal. I listened to some rockin’ songs on my iPod (without which I might have lost motivation when it got really tough). And when you see the finish line approaching, no matter how tired you feel, somehow you dig down deep and give it everything you’ve got left. It's the most fun you'll ever have running.

5. Keep moving. Don’t stop moving just because you cross the finish line. Keep walking for several minutes to cool down, and visit the water station to get hydrated. Stay on your feet as much as possible—this will help you avoid cramps and post-workout soreness. Spend several minutes stretching, too, focusing on the calves, quads and hips, which are likely to be sore in the coming days.

6. Be proud. I never thought that a 5K was really a big deal—I mean, it’s no marathon, right? But it was a challenge and I was glad that I had pushed myself to the end! I crossed the finish line in 27 minutes and 58 seconds. I couldn’t believe it! Never would I have expected to have done so well or have been so proud of myself.

7. You CAN do it. I saw children under 10, seniors over 60, pregnant women, dads pushing strollers, tall, short—every size, shape and age imaginable. Everyone was there and they all did it! Don’t let the fear of coming in last deter you—it’s still better than all the people who never try.

8. Try again. I am 100% motivated to try again! I want to get a better time and I want to run the whole course without taking a break. These goals are enough to inspire me to finally take up a regular running program (never saw that one coming!). In fact, there’s another race in a couple weeks that I think I might try—the Halloween-inspired Run Like Hell, in which all the runners wear costumes and run through a cemetery (yikes)! I hear Forrest Gump won the costume contest last year. Got any ideas for me?


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Comments

  • 162
    I completed my 1st 5k just a little over a week ago and I agree with everything in this article. It was sooooo much fun and I've already signed up for 3 more future races. Can't wait! - 7/1/2014   9:02:15 PM
  • 161
    This is really helpful. I know I can walk a 5k but I really want to run. I have done the couch potato to 5k runner plan and it worked. I saw there was one on spark and I am going to try that. I already started looking into one I might do so I can give myself a timeline. - 12/19/2013   11:52:58 PM
  • 160
    I'm trying to get into the walk/jog program but it's so hard it will take a while. Maybe I'm too happy being able to walk 5k, I'll keep trying. Well done on your success. - 10/2/2013   2:56:53 AM
  • ROSESARERED5
    159
    Started running about a year ago and can do up to 3 miles BUT always get "the runs" when I run, so am afraid to enter 5k race. Have tried not eating fibre/dairy, eating a good few hours before run but nothing works. Have read that Immodium works but don't want to be dosing myself up with that if there is any other way. Really want to run in public but am afraid of consequences. Any ideas - 8/28/2012   7:26:54 AM
  • ROSESARERED5
    158
    Started running about a year ago and can do up to 3 miles BUT always get "the runs" when I run, so am afraid to enter 5k race. Have tried not eating fibre/dairy, eating a good few hours before run but nothing works. Have read that Immodium works but don't want to be dosing myself up with that if there is any other way. Really want to run in public but am afraid of consequences. Any ideas - 8/28/2012   7:26:31 AM
  • 157
    Thanks for the inspiration. I have ALWAYS wanted to do a 5K but, fear always gets the best of me and I have been waiting to get in better shape, waiting until I am more athletic, waiting until I can run the whole way, waiting, waiting and waiting. The list goes on and on. I really don't want to come in last but, your comment about even if you come in last it is better than not doing it at all, it struck me. I did my first "relay for life" this past May in memory of my mom and was so proud that our team stayed on the track all night. I have actually planned 5k for our church youth in August and I am looking forward to finishing the race! Thanks for the inspiration!!! - 7/11/2012   10:42:40 AM
  • 156
    I just came across this article in perfect timing! My first 5k will be July 4th this year, less than a month away! I've been running every day based off of the Couch 2 5k program. This was definitely motivational, and I thank you so much for that! - 6/6/2012   9:19:47 AM
  • 155
    My sister and I have decided to start running at the end of this month. We're 4 hours away from each other, but we'll be checking in to see how each other is progressing. I loved your running tips--thanks for sharing! - 5/20/2012   8:10:19 PM
  • 154
    That is great advice! There are so many FUN runs out there these days to get involved in. Sign up some friends, train together, and have fun. I love the different variety of races these days, Dirty Dashes and there is even a Zombie themed fun run I signed up for this fall where I get to be chased my zombies!!! - 2/25/2012   11:52:08 AM
  • 153
    Thanks for this blog. I just signed up for my first 5K next month with some training friends and was already getting nervous. Love this statement, "Don’t let the fear of coming in last deter you—it’s still better than all the people who never try."
    - 2/25/2012   8:49:35 AM
  • 152
    Thanks so much for this blog. I'm running my first 5K on 03/17/2012 The St. Patrick's Day 'Run for the Gold' fun run, and this will be my very first one! I've never run a race in my life! I'm walk/running about a 16 minute mile, and hope to finish the 5K w/in 30-40 minutes. I'm still in training, and very excited! Thanks again for this! - 2/23/2012   1:03:21 PM
  • 151
    My first 5k this weekend also thank you for the blog. - 2/23/2012   10:34:07 AM
  • CLHIGHAM
    150
    I just registered to run my first one on Friday in the dark. I ran my virutal 5k a few weeks ago. I feel better now that I read this article. My running partner decided not to do it and so I was feeling unsure but this helped. - 11/7/2011   7:48:19 PM
  • 149
    did my first 5k yesterday.

    used walk2mins/jog3mins and ran the last 100 meteres

    the people were great.

    all the other runners sped off

    but spark has given me confidence to do my own race.

    yesterday has left me motivated to do a better time next month.

    i am stepping up to running program

    i am still overweight so i will be mindful of that

    but my body can do things i never realized before.

    ty spark and ty for sharing.

    i will remember to wind down more carefully next time and drink some water. - 8/28/2011   3:41:50 AM
  • 148
    I love that this is the first link to pop up when I searched "First time 5k Run". Great tips, thank you Nicole!! - 5/3/2011   3:45:37 PM
  • 147
    Very informative. Looking to do my first 5k a couple months from now. Thanks! - 3/2/2011   12:14:24 PM
  • 146
    This blog was a great help. I plan on running my first 5k this summer and this just motivated me and made me realize I can do it. - 3/2/2011   10:06:04 AM
  • 145
    Lovely I am training for my 1st one. I started training this week. - 2/1/2011   9:11:46 PM
  • 144
    nicely written - we could all add our tips!

    Double tie your shoe laces! - 1/27/2011   10:36:27 AM
  • 143
    I'm so glad I found this post. I know it's 2 years later, but I'm going to run/walk (ok mostly walk) the Resolution Run 5K tonight. It was a goal for 2010 to do a 5k, and I'm coming in at the wire, but I'm so proud of myself for getting it done. My goal is to be under 45 minutes. I'm so nervous, and your tips have helped ease my mind. Thank you so much for sharing. - 12/31/2010   6:22:39 PM
  • 142
    Way to go!! - 11/16/2010   7:38:21 PM
  • 141
    I'm two hours from my first 5K and l browsing for a little inspiration to calm my anxiousness, I can't believe this is the first link I picked. Thanks! - 9/17/2010   4:49:47 PM
  • 140
    Perfect timing! Thanks for sharing this, Nicole. I am not a runner either, but my friend Liliana, who is training for a MARATHON, is always encouraging me to try it. Well, what did it for me was a charity race, too. I just signed up for Mercy Ministries 5k run for mercy, and thanks to my friend Liliana I'm training for it. It's not a whole lot of training, since I have 2 weeks to do so, but it's something! And I think I'm kinda liking this thing, too! - 9/13/2010   4:23:27 PM
  • 139
    I'm so glad to find this, I've got a 5k this weekend and its my first one and I was nervice a bit but now I feel better about it. - 9/12/2010   5:45:47 PM
  • 138
    Nicole, I am sure you are one among MANY here , who do not care to run. I WAS a runner (more jogger) years ago, but stopped when I began to worry about my knees, which were NOT bothering me at the time. I HATED running, but LOVED the feeling of edorphins afterwards.... When I participate in those kind of races, I am NOT running!

    Hey I ran the Bay to Breakers about 40 years ago now, in San Francisio, I was RUNNING up Haight Asbury hill, when I looked to my left and saw this person going as fast as I was, and they were WALKING!!!! MUCH can be said of walking, and HIKING for that matter!!!! - 9/12/2010   12:00:35 AM
  • 137
    Wow, I just now came across your blog. It was absolute perfect timing. I just bought my first pair (ever) of running shoes THIS MORNING. I don't intend to start out running, but walking, and have 5K "in the back of my mind". I'm 67 years old. I presently walk 2.97 miles and am working my way up to 5K. Your blog really has me excited now. THANK YOU SO MUCH! - 9/11/2010   10:11:02 PM
  • 136
    Thanks for this blog, you basically addressed everything stopping me from finally taking that last step and registering (meaning handing over $ I can't really waste). We have a pumpkin run (oct) turkey trot (nov) coming up and I want to try one, just a matter of which one I'll be ready for. - 9/11/2010   3:05:51 PM
  • VANILLAMAMA
    135
    I sooooo want to do a 5k. I need to sign up for one. Thanks for the blog - 9/11/2010   1:41:30 PM
  • 134
    Oh I am so going to organizer a fundraiser this year on Halloween, sorry stealing the name!! - 6/13/2010   9:17:29 AM
  • ESBELL
    133
    Your "Run Like Hell!" race looks so fun!! I wish our local running community wasn't so snobbish, and provided more whimsical events for us to participate in. - 5/20/2010   11:39:54 AM
  • 132
    Great job! You should be proud!

    How about a Lucille Ball outfit - red lipstick, VERY short (to run in) shirtwaist dress, red curls and a bandana tied as a headband. - 5/20/2010   9:32:02 AM
  • 131
    Dear Nicole,

    I also wish to jog and run, but i am not able to. Even when i do 10 min cardio it is so difficult for me to do the jumping part, my shin bone starts paining. Please help me to find solution of this problem. It may be because of weight, but if i do not increase my cardio weight would not come down. So this has become a catch 22 situation for me.

    Please suggest.

    Sonea Mudgal - 5/20/2010   6:55:26 AM
  • 130
    I was the oldest woman at the last 5K I did, and I brrought home my first award, 2nd place in my age group. There was a 90 year old man there that finished almost 5 full minutes ahead of me..........what an inspiration he is! - 5/19/2010   5:26:59 PM
  • 129
    I'm doing my first 5K on Sunday and am really and truly nervous. Until I read this article. I still have some butterflies but i know they're just my own doing. Thank you for this article. - 5/14/2010   11:38:42 AM
  • DUANEENIS
    128
    I'm leaving the house to go to my first 5k.. Reading the above story will help me have a better time! My goal is finish the race! Thanks for the timely tips! - 4/10/2010   8:05:02 AM
  • MELLIL
    127
    LOL! I just completed MY first 5K this past weekend - our church's Resurrection Run/Walk. I walked. I came in LAST. It took me almost 100 minutes! I was TOTALLY proud of myself! I'm not a WALKER, much less a RUNNER! I pedal - on my stationary bike. That is my preferred cardio. But my daughter and my 5 year old granddaughter walked with me, and we had FUN! - 4/7/2010   6:45:51 PM
  • 126
    You are such an inspiration, Nicole! I have just begun a running program (tentatively, I must admit) and I was inspired by this blog. And, Run Like Hell sound like my kind of 5K!!! - 4/7/2010   12:41:08 PM
  • 125
    i am beginning preparation for my first 5k marathon ever!!!!
    wish me luck! - 3/30/2010   9:25:13 AM
  • 124
    I am on week 5 of the 9 week couch to 5 km running program... I am loving it! I just fire up my music, switch on the program on my player and out the door I go! seriosly could not remember running before this. Another benifit of learning to run has been remembering I used to love running outside as a teen. The program builds your running time slowly, which means I have not injured myself, a true fear of mine! My goal is a 5 km charity run on about a month! Thanks Nicole! - 3/11/2010   5:32:32 AM
  • SUSANGO123
    123
    Heya Nicole,

    I ran my first 5k September 2009 in 44:22 minutes. I have had surgery since then and had to stop running awhile. Now, I am back training for a 5k in April. You know what? I just did a practice run and I am now at 42:30 minutes. I have shaved a whole 2 minutes off! I know that is not very fast but, my personal goal is to do a 5k under 39 minutes. Wish me luck! - 2/26/2010   9:27:44 PM
  • 122
    It's really fun to run in a "race", even if you're not racing. I've done a 10K (walked the whole way one time and ran/walked it the 2nd time) and a 15K (ran/walked). My time on the last 2 was about 14 min/mile. I'm now training myself to be able to run faster and expect I will probably run about a 12 min/mile next time I'm out there. One thing for sure, having an iPod to listen to really helps! The 15K didn't allow them (many officially registered road races now have a "no headphones in the race" rule that may disqualify runners who are caught wearing them). Still, it's fun enough that I'll probably do it again next year. - 1/18/2010   5:38:07 AM
  • 121
    If anyone is thinking of doing a 5k, do it. I call what I do 'wogging' as in walking and jogging. I trained most of last summer to do the 5k that happens the same day as our local marathon, and I can tell you that crossing that finish line was one of the proudest moments of my entire life. I have a lot of weight to lose and a long way to go but that was such a huge step for me and I know that if I can do that I can do absolutely anything. It's incredibly empowering. - 1/16/2010   5:44:07 PM
  • ADHITYANI
    120
    I love this post. Am a walker turned runner, but a pretty lazy one, and I never ran a race in my whole life (well, except for the mandatory ones at school!). My 2010 resolution is to do a number of 5k race (to keep myself motivated), but the thought of doing my first in Feb always sends chills down my spine. I am so nervous! However, this post got me motivated to train and to just try out. Thank you! - 1/5/2010   2:26:12 AM
  • DARLINGDEBBIE1
    119
    That's awesome! I am a walker just recently started training to be a runner, I am training for a 10 k run in 4 months......this has really motiviated me to keep going..... - 11/25/2009   12:19:14 PM
  • 118
    I ran 4 races this past year, and enjoyed every minute of it! I never thought it possible, but Spark People really helped me train and push myself!! I never thought of myself as a runner either... but I am hooked!!! - 11/19/2009   4:57:51 PM
  • 117
    vow!!! perfect timing! my running buddy and i are training ourselves for 10k in Jan,,, we are walker turned runners very much in beginning stages of running... am glad that i read your post,, it has got me motivated and excited,, am gonna read it again after few days to keep me going ;) - 9/11/2009   2:31:45 PM
  • BUNCHES8
    116
    I enjoyed reading this. You are on your way to running in a marathon. All it takes is discpline and determination. You got it! You will be surprise how your body and mind will cooperate. This is how I got started. I have participated in 3 marathons. Each race brought on different challenges for me. Now I race to complete the race not for competition. It is still FUN! Thank you for sharing! - 9/9/2009   5:30:00 PM
  • TECHLADY
    115
    In my 'previous life', I made the statement "I'd never run unless being chased by a dog". LOL Now however, I'm hooked on 5Ks. When my knee permits, I do them. I did a Turkey Trot Thanksgiving morning @ about 6:30 LOL

    As for your costume....how about going as an Olympic runner? Heck, its easier to run in and the ghosts & goblins won't have much material to grab onto! LOL - 9/6/2009   11:16:52 AM
  • 114
    I just stumbled over this article and its perfect timing! My first 5K is coming up next weekend and I was starting to get a little nervous (the excited kind!) I am running it with a friend who has done several runs (she is training for the NYC marathon also). I keep asking her what to expect and because she's done so many, she can't really say because it all seems normal to her! I started training in June. It was hard at first but then I started being able to run farther and farther and it because about being my own times. Now I'm addicted to running! Great job on your 5K! I hope to finish in under 40 minutes. Thanks again for this article even though is it old. I'm so excited!
    ~Ang - 9/4/2009   2:38:56 PM
  • 113
    I am running my very first 10K tomorrow, reading your blog has helped ease my mind about alot of things. I know I cannot run it all but the last time I did a practice run it took me 1hr 38min to do 10.9KM, I jog some and walk some. But even if I do come in last, I keep think back to 8 months ago when I could not walk down my own basement steps to the laundry and make it back up without huffing and puffing. I am now 66lbs lighter and looking forward to tomorrow and more running in the future. - 9/4/2009   12:04:26 PM

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