8 Lessons from My First 5K Race

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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CD2693807 4/21/2021
everyone thinks that they have to run.... except me.... I am glad to let everyone else run and I will walk or sit on the sidelines and ring the cowbells Report
CECELW 4/20/2021
I can walk a 5k. no running though Report
ELSCO55 11/14/2020
I miss coach NIcole too Report
I miss Coach Nicole so much! I love her house flipping now but she was so motivating on Spark. They don't have that anymore here. Report
Well done! Thank you for the great tips! Report
Great. Thanks for sharing. Report
Too much knee & hip pain to run so I walk them now. It's fun and I get the same pretty medal the runners get. Plus I'm not in pain for days after wards. Report
AWESOME! Thanks for sharing! Report
Nothing like the race atmosphere! 10k is my preferred distance and every year I think I might quit doing races, and every year I enter, and after that first race I am hooked again for another year ??I'm 57 and have only been running for 5 years. Report
Awesome! Thanks! Report
getting ready for my second 5K....... Report
Thank you for sharing!
I'm getting ready my first 5K coming up.
I'm thinking I hope I can do this !!
I can !! Report
Awesome...thanks... Report
2018 and you're still able to teach and motivate even now. Thanks for all your work,DVD's. Hope all well!! Report
The first 5k I ran, i was scared and my goal was to just finish it... now as I've gone along, I've made strides *haha punny* towards running and walking to running the entire race... I've also got goals to get 40K by my 40th birthday in July and 40 miles throughout the year. Report
Good advice and congrats. Thankfully there are so many audiobooks, podcasts and music that there's little reason to be bored while running. Report
A sub 30 5k is actually extremely well. I typically run a 5k in 34 to 35 minutes (and I train for racing). There is a 70 year old female runner in our area that runs a 5k in under 30 minutes. She's got 20 years and 5 minutes on me LOL. Report
Well, I DID a 5K and Coach Nichole is right in every aspect!!! It was exhilarating, I walked and ran, I felt accomplished, the people cheering by the side of the course were incredibly motivating, and I immediately signed up for two more 5Ks. I don't like running either, but I do like the finishers' medals and I had a great time at the events. You can walk, run, both, whatever. Just do it! It's so worth it! Report
These blogs are very interesting and with good information but it sure would be nice to have some more recent ones. Report
Until my recent surgery I hadn't been able to run for many years. Today for the first time I bumped the treadmill up to "jog" (5.5mph) and was able to do it...for a minute or two. :-)
I am SO excited to be able to run again (it is MUCH harder than I remembered!) and SO excited to do a 5K in the near future. I signed the family up for the Color Run at the end of February, so we have about 10 weeks or so to train for the race. I CAN'T WAIT! Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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 Report
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 Report
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!!! Report
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! Report
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! Report
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!!! Report
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."
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! Report
My first 5k this weekend also thank you for the blog. Report
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. Report
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. Report
I love that this is the first link to pop up when I searched "First time 5k Run". Great tips, thank you Nicole!! Report
Very informative. Looking to do my first 5k a couple months from now. Thanks! Report
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. Report
Lovely I am training for my 1st one. I started training this week. Report
nicely written - we could all add our tips!

Double tie your shoe laces! Report
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. Report
Way to go!! Report
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! Report
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! Report
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. Report
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!!!! Report
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! Report
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. Report
I sooooo want to do a 5k. I need to sign up for one. Thanks for the blog Report
Oh I am so going to organizer a fundraiser this year on Halloween, sorry stealing the name!! Report