Top 5 Tips To Finish Your First 5K

Have you been thinking about participating in a 5K but don't know where to start? We're here to help with some tips on how to finish your first race.

Graphic t-shirts, participation medals and personal satisfaction await everyone who completes a 5K race, but finishing this popular distance may seem impossible, particularly if you’ve always hated running. People who run for fun are crazy, right? Who could enjoy waking up at the crack of dawn, trudging to a starting line, and hitting the pavement for 3.1 grueling miles?

Apparently, a lot of people.

According to statistics from Running USA, finisher totals for road races in the United States ballooned from around five million in 1990 to more than 19 million by 2015. These days, half the people working out at the gym tend to have a finisher t-shirt from some road race or another, but it’s not just the dedicated gym rats earning all that race swag.

You can earn a finisher medal and a groovy t-shirt, too. All you have to do is take a look at these five tips that will help you cross the finish line, even if you’ve never run a single race in your entire life.

1.) Find a Running Buddy

The only person you may disappoint if you don’t wake up on race day and attend your race is yourself, unless you enlist the camaraderie and partnership of a friend to run with you. You might partner with a coworker and sign up to run a local 5K race together, or you might see if a friend or relative is interested in lacing up some running shoes and heading out with you.

An article from Women’s Running reveals that a running buddy can help you reach your running goals.

“…every runner needs a friend and running buddy during any running journey. Each adds support and motivation to carry you from start to finish.”

Completing your first 5K is always better when you can hug a friend at the finish line.

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2.) Buy a Pair of Running Shoes

In truth, you could run a 5K race in bare feet and nothing but your skivvies and complete the race without issue. However, it’s rare to have the ground-hardened soles of a famous African runner, and you shouldn’t need to possess the talents of someone like Abebe Bikila, who ran and won an Olympic marathon without shoes, to finish a 5K.

As long as the shoes you wear fit your feet well and are designed for the way your feet hit the ground when you run, any pair of shoes will do. For example, a pair of Adidas Supernova shoes will fit you well if you run on the outside of your feet. A pair of Nike Lunarglide shoes will do the trick if you run on the inside of your feet.

Not sure what type of shoes will help you complete your first 5K? Try a specialty running store. They usually have folks on staff who will examine your gait and recommend the best pair of shoes for the way you run.

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3.) Walk The Race

Millions of people complete 5K races each year, but many of those finishers never actually run the race. Many participants simply walk the race in some comfy yoga pants and a t-shirt while others move at a pace that we might describe as jogging. Local 5K races tend to offer participants generous timelines for completion, which means you don’t need to hurl yourself down the pavement at breakneck speed to score a finisher medal.

In fact, many race organizers include “walk” in the title to let everyone know the race is open to runners, walkers, joggers, and wheelchair participants of any athletic level. Additionally, the internet is awash in plans for training. Prevention Magazine offers a tidy schedule for walking your first 5K and offers another that will train you to walk a 5K in six weeks.

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4.) There’s An App For That

Today’s smart phones help us accomplish many tasks each day. Developers have released several apps dedicated to helping you train for a 5K race. We know that not everyone wants to pay for smart phone apps, which is why we’ve included a few apps in our quick list that cost nothing, as well as an app that costs less than $3.

If you wish to gain some purposeful direction in your journey to finishing a 5K, here are a few recommendations:

Couch-to-5K ($2.99) – You’ll train to complete your first 5K in eight weeks with this app.
Map My Run (Free) – Works with GPS and is ideal for finding new routes.
Proof. (Free) – Compete with other runners to reach your training and race goals.

You may wish to consider adding a fitness watch, like a Fitbit or Garmin, if you’d like to keep track of your heart rate, distance, and pace during your 5K training.

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5.) Try a Night Race

One of the biggest stumbling blocks novice runners may experience is the crack-of-dawn approach to training. Anyone with night owl tendencies will cringe at the thought of races with starting times before 8 AM. Most races also occur on the weekend, which cheats you out of one of the only days of the week where you can sleep in for a few extra hours.

The majority of 5K races have a start time on Saturday or Sunday around 8 AM, but a quick search online can reveal alternatives where you can use your long-sleeve running shirt rather than your usual tank top. For example, if you live near San Antonio, you might consider participating in The Stars at Night race, which is run at 5:45 PM. If you hail from Philadelphia, you might try the Black Light Run that begins at 7:00 PM.

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