How Did You Get to Your First 5-K?

My little sister has signed up for her first 5-K. Hooray!

Maybe all my nonstop talk about running has inspired her.  Although, she lives in Austin, so maybe she was influenced by Lunchbox (the radio DJ who ran a marathon without training). The other twin did her first 5-K in December, so maybe she just didn’t want to be the last person in our family to join the 5-K party.

In any case, yesterday she asked me for advice.

I have completely forgotten what it’s like to train into a first 5-K.

I ran my first before I started blogging, so I don’t have a log of what I was doing to prepare. Obviously I had to work myself up to running that many miles. Even though I did a lot of running in college, I fell off the bandwagon, and as recently as two years ago Aaron was having to prod me along, kicking and screaming the whole way.

But the pain and suffering has been blocked from my memory. I’m having a hard time remembering anything aside from the excitement of waiting for that first gun to go off, and the euphoric feeling of accomplishment after crossing the finish line with a bunch of crazy people cheering me on (thanks, P13!).

{At the finish of my first 5-K in May 2010. I’m the one-legged hopping t-rex in the center. Cute.}

But I’m thinking that getting to that first 5-K is probably a lot like getting to that first marathon.  I have started really training yet for my October marathon, but already I’m nervous.  There are so many new considerations and new tricks to try.  And the stress of just wanting to be able to get through it can be overwhelming.

So I’ve been trying to think of some sisterly advice that will help both twins with their 5-K’s based on my splotchy memories and my recent training.  What was I nervous about? What did I wish I had known?  Why does everyone in the world know how to fasten that little chip timer on their shoe except for me?

(disclaimer….I am not in any way a certified professional.  Even though I’m married to one, all I can do is speak from experience).

Training up to it:

1) First and foremost, do not be a weenie.  Whining, complaining, and self-doubt are not allowed.  It won’t feel great at first.  It doesn’t feel great at first for anybody.  If you want to get this thing done, you’ll have to get over it.

2) If you aren’t already, go out for 3 miles.  Try and run as much of it as you can, but if you have to walk, that’s ok.  Repeat this 3-4 times a week until you can run the entire distance.  Remember to push yourself.  Check out a “Couch to 5-K” plan.

3) Hydrate.  Side cramps and muscle cramps are usually the results of not drinking enough water.

4) Do crunches and/or planks everyday.  A strong core is the basis for everything else.

5) Pay attention to your pre-running eating habits. Do you eat before you run? What do you eat before you run? How long do you usually wait after eating before you run? The last thing you want is an upset stomach.

6) If you are running on a treadmill exclusively, get out there in the real world! Treadmill running is a lot different from road running. Also, most courses aren’t completely flat.  Have you tried running uphill?

7) Build up your confidence level.  You can do this!

On race day:

1) Eat something about an hour and a half beforehand.  A banana, some oatmeal, or some granola bar are all good choices. I usually avoid dairy and anything with too much sugar.

2) I usually stop drinking water an hour before I have to leave to the race.  And then I get to the race with enough time to use the facilities twice before starting.  Also, get over your fear of porta-potties.  They are gross and awful, but you must learn to love them (We were raised to fear public restrooms).

3) Don’t overdress.  Unless it is literally below freezing outside, you probably don’t need lots of layers. Once you get moving, you’ll warm up.

4) Read the race emails and instructions very carefully! Is there race day packet pick-up? Where is the starting line? Will there be a gear check? These are all very important details. I’ve seen so many people freak out the night before a race when they realize they’ve missed packet pick-up.

5) I always bring extra safety pins for bib pinning just in case.  I’ve yet to need them, but you never know.

6) Make sure your iPod is charged if you are going to use one (I ran my first half with my dead iPod in my pocket).

7) If this is your first 5-K, you probably want to line up toward the back.  This is standard racing etiquette.  Faster people toward the front, less fast people toward the back.  On that note, if you need to stop and walk during the race, move over to the side first.  Otherwise the person behind will most likely run into you. And you will be judged without mercy.

8) ENJOY! This is supposed to be fun!  And you’ve worked hard for this!

9) CELEBRATE YOUR 5-K VICTORY!  I am a big believer in celebration.  I’m talking big juicy cheeseburgers, beer (except the twins who are underage until May), celebration pictures, and a happy dance.

{Chaunte Lowe’s Happy Dance}

I’m really happy to see my family participate in races.  I think 5-Ks are a huge fitness motivator.  They give people a concrete goal and deadline to work toward, not to mention a major sense of accomplishment after finishing.  And 5-Ks are the gateway to a lifestyle change.  Maybe soon my sisters and I will be running marathons together (stop rolling your eyes, sisters!).

Does anyone else have any words of wisdom for a first time 5-Ker?

Anything you wish you knew going into that first race?

7 thoughts on “How Did You Get to Your First 5-K?

  1. I think my advice would be to not get influenced by what other people do. If you see a lot of people stretching and doing all sorts of random things, don’t feel like you have to. Just do what you typically do before you go for a run. If that is just hopping out of a chair and out the door, stick to it if thats what you do!

    • That is good advice! Especially because some of these people are doing things that I don’t think are helpful! (I’ve actually been reading some interesting research about NOT stretching before running).

  2. Pingback: Just a Sleepy Thursday « 2 Fat Nerds

  3. First off, I have only recently started getting into running more often – meaning more than never. But, way back in my high school days I joined the cross country running team during my senior year as a way to get in shape for my main sport, ice hockey. Needless to say, I was far from prepared for my first, or any, of my 5-Ks. They took me at least 40 mintues to get through and honestly, I walked a lot. 😛

    What I found that helped me keep going and work through the, at times literally, uphill struggle was having someone by my side. I because friends with another girl on my team who was trying to get in shape and hadn’t run before, so we were able to keep the same pace. In fact, we made a point to cross the line at our last race, a 5-K, at the same time.

    So that’s what I would give as advice to first time 5-K runners, drag someone into it with you or even let yourself be dragged along! You’ll not only feel great finishing a 5-K, no matter how long it takes, but you’ll have a special memory with a friend.

    • That is a good one! It helps so much with motivation, too. Getting through those uphills is a little easier if you have someone cheering you along. And awesome that you played hockey! I can barely stay standing when I’m ice skating, so I admire anyone who can not only stand but also play a sport at the same time!

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