Fitness Articles

8 Lessons from My First 5K Race

The Most Fun You'll Have Running

2.9KSHARES
I never considered myself a runner. I ran maybe once a week for 30 or 40 minutes, and then I wouldn’t feel like doing it again for a few days. Needless to say, I never really “get better” at running—I pretty much stayed the same because I didn’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 my first 5K race.

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, as 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.
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.

Member Comments

  • Thanks for sharing ur experience! I am running my first 5K in 4 weeks, and have been feeling stressed out about it. Your article helped me become excited for it again!
    - 2/26/2015 3:22:32 PM
  • MR_PANDIT
    Well noted! After reading this i'm heading for a 5K Run. :) Thanks - 12/12/2014 6:56:41 AM
  • This is very encouraging. I'm planning on doing a 5K this winter and it's been probably 15 years since my last one. I ran/walked my first one and totally ran my second one. This time I will probably walk the whole thing. This article was a great reminder that even finishing last is FINISHING. That's a thing to celebrate. Looking forward to the race. - 11/26/2014 10:32:00 AM
  • Races are different everywhere I think. All the local races here have walkers and runners and people who do both :). Even the half-marathon here has a category for walkers. - 10/24/2014 6:28:31 PM
  • Hi! Great post, but I just want to say, in a lot of 5k races nobody walks! By the way, I just won my first 5k 2 weeks ago! I'm in middle school! It was a fun run with adults and the high school cross-country team. If anyone is thinking about doing a 5k I would encourage you to give it a try, they are a great experience. - 9/28/2014 6:34:24 AM
  • congratulations! - 7/28/2014 6:07:14 AM
  • Congratulations! - 7/25/2014 2:09:16 PM
  • I did my first 5k last year and came in 17th in my age range, 337th out of 415 participants. (54:45) I walked most of the way because I had no idea how long the route would be OR IF I could even finish. Now that I've done one, I know I can walk and jog the next one. - 7/25/2014 9:13:34 AM
  • LWPOWELL
    Seriously, well my first 5K was a little demoralizing. I finished in 44:30, and finished in front of a 70 year old guy with a knee brace. There was a huge hill that I was not prepared for and for my first 5K ever at 55 years old, I was a little embarrassed. To me this first race made me realize not only that I had come a long way in two months, and I had so far to go. I want to do a sub 30 minute that is my goal. I don't want to discourage anyone, but don't be fooled, no one walked my race, and I was a little embarrassed I was so slow. - 7/22/2014 2:35:54 PM
  • Wow, amazing!! This one motivated me to try it once myself.. - 3/25/2014 6:32:24 PM
  • I couldn't do a 5K run if my life depended on it!I am doing good just to walk around our little block.I do work out on my elliptical machine everyday except sundays and I consider that to be my primary exercise.Love reading about all the exercises and marathons but will just keep on walking around our little block. - 3/22/2014 12:21:03 PM
  • Walking is just fine. Everyone was thrilled for me, even if I did sit down TWICE. I did fine: bad knees, way over weight, sedentary. Good for me. Good for us all. - 3/21/2014 8:48:45 PM
  • Did my first 5k last week and will be doing another one soon. Met a man who had been running for years and he "walked" me through the whole thing. With his help it was a great experience and I had a great time. I knocked about 30 secs off my best time, so onward and upward. - 3/21/2014 7:37:44 PM
  • CHERRYZMB60
    I've only done 5K's walking and my fastest time is 55min which i must say i'm very happy with the last one has start and ending pictures and all I can say is WOW what a differenece in facial expression - 3/21/2014 11:51:45 AM
  • This is a great article, Nicole. Thank you for the tips and for your honesty. I have done 3 5k's, one each year, and 54 minutes was my fastest time. I have never in my life been a runner, but I love these events. I began training in January. My goal this year 3 more 5k's, jogging the last in its entirety.

    - 3/21/2014 10:46:15 AM

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