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How to Get in Shape to Run a 5-K Race
The first thing about getting ready to run your first 5-K is to make sure you're physically fit enough to start an exercise program and that you are in reasonable health. For most beginners, a running program should include some walking.
But for some folks that's the problem - how do you start to get in shape to run 3.1 miles?
If you're older than 35, I would recommend consulting a doctor to see if running is an option to improve your health.
Collapsing from a bad heart or other illness or ailment is not really the point.
For most beginners, starting up a running program should include some walking. It is critically important to stretch for at least 10 minutes after each session to improve flexibility and prevent soreness.
After a person spends enough time getting to the point where it becomes comfortable walking for about 30 minutes at a time, begin to mix in some running with your training.
The key is not to run too many miles too soon and not to go too fast while completing those miles. The temptation is usually there to make progress quickly, but what a person really needs to do is gradually build their endurance.
Once you get to the point where you can run a mile as part of your 30-minute walk, you are ready to start training a little harder.
You'll need to make sure you have quality running shoes. If possible, pick up a running magazine or do some research online to check out what is available. Don't just head to a sporting goods store and buy the first thing that looks cool.
Find a store where the employees can offer a shoe that fits your feet properly and will give you the proper support.
Gradually build up your running mileage per week. Work to the point where you can run for a half hour without walking. Speed isn't critical now, just focus on running for a certain length of time.
If you can run for a half hour without stopping you're ready to run in a 5-K race. Be prepared not to win, so instead just focus on completing the distance and having fun.
Prior to the race, make sure you do a short warm-up jog to get ready for the action. If you believe in stretching prior to running, as I do, make sure to spend about 10 to 15 minutes conducting various stretches for your legs, groin and arms to get yourself loose.
When the race starts, most runners take off rather quickly and the people who are good will usually sprint. Don't worry, if you're a beginner there is no need to sprint, remember it's still a 3.1 mile run.
Most 5-K races will have someone at the 1-mile mark shouting out split times. You may actually be amazed at how fast you're going. That's because during a race, most people are running at their race pace, which is typically faster than the pace a person trains.
After the first mile, you will realize that you still have 2 more to go and fatigue might be settling in. That's OK, it's normal.
Concentrate on getting through the next half mile and think to yourself if you can make it that far, then you're halfway done.
Most races don't have a split time after 1.5 miles, but they do at the 2-mile mark. Once you get to that point, you're about two-thirds of the way done!
If you have a bit of energy, feel free to pick up the pace a little bit now and gear up for a strong finish.
When you anticipate about a half mile to go, try kicking it up as fast as you feel comfortable, this is where it gets fun and you may be able to pass a few folks who weren't as good as you were training for the race.
But if you're having a hard time at this point, remember not to overdo it. If you're in severe pain, stop running or at least slow down to a light jog. It's OK to walk. The main goal here is to have fun while increasing your fitness.
When you're able to see the finish line, try to kick it up as quickly as you can. I always try to think this, "the sooner I finish, the sooner the pain stops."
That philosophy may not work for everyone, but it seems to motivate me.
At the finish line, make sure to turn in your race number or electronic timing device, then quickly grab something to drink, preferably water.
You'll want to hydrate as quickly as possible. If a sports drink is available I usually wait until I drink water first because sometimes the sports drink will give me heartburn, not always though.
An important thing to remember is to keep moving either by walking or light jogging for about 5 to 10 minutes after the run so you're muscles can cool off gradually.
Then find a comfortable place to stretch as I recommend at least 15 minutes of stretching at this point. If you fail to stretch after a race, I can assure you that you will be pretty sore the next day.
Most races have some kind of award ceremony. I always try to stay for these, not because I always win, rather I like to see who finished well and I just like soak up the friendly atmosphere and spirit there seems to always be at a road race. Sometimes door prizes are available as well.
If you don't win anything, don't feel badly, because most people don't win. Just enjoy the moment and use the experience as a motivator to continue running and to get in shape.
Remember if you can complete a 5-K race, you have accomplished a wonderful thing that most people just wish they could do.