Tips for First-time 5K Runners

Did You Know?
In 2009, nearly 4 million racers participated in the roughly 8,500 5Ks held across the United States.

Race day represents everything you've been working toward for the last several weeks, so obviously you don't want to make a mistake that could jeopardize your goals or your health. Even though you'll only be racing for about 30 minutes, a number of things can go wrong due to careless preparation, poor strategy or other elements out of your control. If you do your homework beforehand, however, you will have little trouble dealing with anything race day throws at you.

Here are a few things you should do before a race:

Prevent blisters: During a training run, test the pair of socks and shoes you plan to wear during the race. This will help you to avoid blisters, a common and painful problem among new runners.

Eat right: What you consume is critically important to race-day success. You can actually run a 5K with stored energy, so you don't really need to eat that much before you start. Running with too much food in your system can also cause painful side stitches. Try eating small meals the day before a race, and something easily-digested, like a glass of skim milk and a banana, the morning of the race.

Warm up: Performing a proper warm-up routine will help you race better and avoid injuries. Set aside 15 minutes before the race starts to walk, run and stretch, to help acclimate your body to high-intensity activity.

Once the race begins, you'll need to be ready for any problem that may come your way:

Pace yourself: For your first 5K, you won't try to set the world record. So, start at the back of the pack. That way you won't be tricked into starting too fast by those who are trying to win. Ideally, your last mile should be the fastest.

Side stitches: No one's exactly sure what causes these gut pains, but it probably has something to do with strain on your diaphragm. If you experience this condition during the race, slow down to ease this stress and take a series of short, shallow breaths for about a minute. Then breathe deeply. If this doesn't work, stop and bend sideways to stretch the side that hurts.

Inclement weather: It can be difficult to run a 5K on a hot day. If you find yourself in this situation, take a slower pace than you might have otherwise and make sure to drink plenty of fluids. Wet weather can also cause problems if conditions are slippery. Line up in the back of the back to avoid getting caught in the aftermath of an unexpected fall.

Sick stomach: If your stomach feels upset before a race, it may just be butterflies. If the nausea gets worse after you start, you may need to start walking.

For more information about running and training for races, take a look at the links on the next page.