A competitive swimmer into her teens and a cross-country runner in high school, Jane Couto, of MomGenerations.com, rediscovered her love for these sports only after a decade-long hiatus. She enjoys helping others rediscover – or discover for the first time – the rewards that come from an active lifestyle.
For many novice runners, a 5K is the ultimate first race. It’s a popular distance (3.1 miles), so finding one isn’t difficult. It’s long enough to require training, but short enough to be an attainable goal within a few months – or even weeks – depending on your fitness level.
Ready for the challenge? (The answer is “yes!”) Here are some tips to help you choose your first 5K:
- Race Size. Decide if you want your first experience to be a large, corporate-sponsored race with thousands of runners and a lot of fanfare, giving you the option to remain very anonymous. Or a smaller race, one to which you can bring a few proud fans and be sure they’ll see you as you run by and/or cross the finish line. There isn’t a right or wrong choice here – it’s a personal preference.
- Race Course. Choose a course with some familiarity. If you’re used to running on relatively flat roads, a hill during your first race can come as a shock. Prepare either by training on all types of terrain, or by finding a course map (look on the race’s website) and training on the route prior to the race. (And if your training has been primarily on a treadmill, make sure you run outside multiple times prior to your race. Get used to adjusting your speed on your own, not by pushing the “slow down” button!)
- Race Buddies. See if you know anyone else who has signed up for a particular race. In addition to gaining potential training buddies, you’re also apt to find a support network to motivate you when your inspiration isn’t there.
- Race Prep. Don’t be afraid! Many people put off their first race because they don’t want to finish last. Unless you’re signing up for an inaugural race, you can find previous years’ results on www.coolrunning.com, www.athlinks.com or www.onlineraceresults.com. Estimate your 5K time and see where it falls in past race results. Chances are it won’t be the slowest time. And even if you are the last finisher, who cares? You’re out there racing, and that’s what counts.
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