Running Your First 5k Event

Worried about your first 5k? Find out how to prepare and what to expect when you tackle your first race over this distance.

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Running your first 5k event can be daunting. Take the stress out of running your first 5k and learn exactly how to train, what to eat and drink and what to expect on race day. Remember, a race is meant to be fun so go prepared and run the time your effort deserves.

A true endurance test

A 5k (3.11 mile) race is an endurance race, rather than a proper full on speed race, purely because even the top 5k runners aren’t racing at anywhere near their top speed. What they're doing is running at a good speed for as long as they possibly can. By definition this makes the 5k race a test of endurance.

5k training

Endurance for runners involves developing two basic elements — aerobic endurance and muscular endurance. Training for a 5k must test both in order to be properly prepared for race day. The best way to achieve both is frequent running — ideally trying to run at least every other day. Also, try and keep your running pace consistent, because if you tire and ease back, you won’t be building endurance.

Fuelling your 5k run

Just because you're unlikely to 'hit the wall' in a 5k race like you would in a marathon, that doesn't mean your energy levels are maximized. What you consume has a direct effect on how much energy you have and how readily available it is. The faster or harder you run, the more you use up your carbohydrate stores for energy, while the slower you run the more you tap into fat stores. This means in shorter races like the 5k, you need carbohydrate stores to be high and readily accessible.

What to expect on race day

Make sure you're prepared for race day with these tips. Your running pace in your 5k needs to be even — this really is the only way to run it. Serious runners will train their body to handle tactical surges and fast starts, but for most runners the best way to race is what we call even or negative splits.

  • Even splits means knowing what your race pace is and running that pace all the way.
  • Negative splits mean starting slightly slowly and coming home faster.

The 5k is a great distance to race. For new runners it provides a good introduction to the running scene, and for experienced runners, it's a great challenge combining both elements of speed and endurance. The key to enjoying the distance and performing well is simply to apply the specific demands (endurance and speed) to your training.

As a distance race that will usually take around 15 to 30 minutes to complete, it is an event that doesn't take long to recover from. This means in theory that you could race a 5k event every week provided that you can find one.

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