I ran my first 5K recently, and it was a blast. It was definitely harder than I’d anticipated. The race route was very hilly and when it was over, I realized I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been. After some reflection, I came up with six tips that would help anyone racing for the first time.
1). Find the right training plan: I did not do this. I have certainly been working out like a crazy lady for the past two months, so I am in shape, but being in shape generally is not the same as being in shape to run a race. I have been doing a lot of interval training then running maybe two days a week. I really have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing to train my body for a specific race. I’ve already gotten online to find my training plan for my next race.
To find a plan, you can Google “free 5k training plans” and plenty will pop up. If you don’t mind paying for a training plan, the app RunKeeper is free to install, but then you pay for the plans. The cool thing about this app, though, is that it tracks information for your body, your workouts, and specific plans. Eventually, I may pay for something like RunKeeper, but for now I’m sticking to the free plans.
2). Create a motivating playlist: I don’t know about you, but music is a major motivator for me. If I’ve got the right tunes, I feel like I can do anything. When running, I’m particular about the songs on my playlist because my strides end up matching the beat. If the song is slow and mellow, I tend to slow down. If the song is fast and loud, I speed up. Ironically, I read an article that supported this. After analyzing people walking to different types of music, researchers found that people walk faster to music that has constant loudness and little variation in melody while people walked slower to relaxing music with more melodic variation and contrast in volume levels. So while I would never choose to listen to fast, techno music when driving or cleaning my house, I will definitely listen to it while running.
3). Review the race route: I glanced at the route on the website but did not actually study it. I’m new to racing, but even as a novice, I learned very quickly that it would have been nice to know where I was going. Because I didn’t look at the route first, I sort of felt like I was running blindly into no man’s land. Living in a hilly area, I knew the route would not be flat, but I had no idea how steep the hills were going to be. I think I could have mentally prepared myself a little better had I known just how up and down the route was. Further, it’s just nice to have a general idea where you are going.
4). Set a personal goal: I have neither downloaded an app or bought a personal device to help me with training. I’m still getting my feet wet with this whole racing thing. I’ve been chatting with fellow runners who have suggested several ideas for tracking distances, splits, and workouts. Some of these are a Garmin Foreunner 110, Endomondo for smartphones, RunKeeper, and Map My Run. I’m going to be looking into some of these and will let you know what I think. If you’re a runner reading this, what do you use?
My personal goal for the race was 30 minutes. I ended up running it in a little over 28 minutes, which I was super excited about; however, I have no idea how I did it. I just ran as hard as I could and happened to reach my goal. It would have been nice to have a device to help me. A friend in one of my Google + running communities said to always think about cost, practicality, accuracy and features when selecting a device or app.
5). Wear the right clothing: This is so important. First and foremost, wear whatever you are comfortable working out in. For me, I like fitted running pants, a comfortable sports bra, a workout tank, and then a thin running shirt over my tank. This race was called the Frostbite race, but it happened to be 55 degrees that day. I got really hot in the middle of the race and had to take off my long-sleeve shirt while running which tangled up my earbuds and slowed me down. I’m sure this affected my time. Next time, I will just forego the long sleeve shirt and know that my body will heat up quickly, unless it’s freezing, of course.
Most importantly, be sure you find running shoes that are comfortable to you and make sure they are already broken in. A race is not a good time to wear a new pair of sneakers. Keep looking and trying out different brands and types until you find a running shoe that molds to your individual foot and is made for running.
6). Relax and have fun: This one needs little explanation. This is a post about a first race, so enjoy yourself and don’t worry about winning. Set a personal goal and focus on mastering that. Be proud of yourself that you’ve trained and entered in the first place.
Also, pat yourself on the back for even getting out there. Running any race is no easy feat. And follow these tips to make the experience even more enjoyable. Good luck and happy running!