Love to run: How to run your first 5k

  • Post last modified:May 25, 2020
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Knowing how to run your first 5k is instinctive for a lot of people, but what if you have a 5k as your goal in the next few months? What do you need to know?

I felt so incredibly proud of myself when I ran my first 5k all those years ago. All those months of runs and training had all paid off!

I remember starting running back in 2008 and thinking if I could run more than 100 metres, let alone 5k.

A 5k may not seem like a big deal, especially if you’ve now graduated to longer distances like 10k or a half marathon.

But I’ve found over the years that there is a knack to running one, certainly if you want to run a 5k in under 25 minutes or less.

Training for a 5k still requires a lot of discipline on and off the running track.

A 5k is often the first big milestone for a lot of beginner runners who have perhaps finished the Couch to 5k programme (if you haven’t heard of Couch to 5k, read my Couch to 5k blog).

In this blog post, I’d like to offer some tips on how to run your first 5k.

how to run your first 5k

How to run your first 5k: Get the right gear

I cannot stress enough the importance of a good pair of running shoes when running your first 5k. A good pair are important to help support your feet and prevent injury.

A comfortable pair of running shoes can help to prevent a lot of common running injuries like shin splints and IT band syndrome.

During your training plan, you will get the opportunity to test running shoes in the lead up to your 5k.

I recommend you visit a specialist running shop in order to find the perfect pair. They will help you pick a pair based on the shape of your foot, how you walk and run (known as gait), and how your foot lands on the ground (known as footstrike).

Some running shoe shops will offer a free gait analysis to help determine your gait and footstrike. This is when they get you to run on a treadmill wearing a pair of running shoes and assess how you walk and run.

Read my beginner’s guide to running where I discuss some of the key bits of kit you need to consider when starting your running journey.

Along with running shoes, a comfortable and supportive sports bra (for the ladies, at least) is also a must.

You could also consider other gadgets like a running watch or a running app, but these are by no means essential.

How to run your first 5k: Pace yourself

The basic principle to pacing is to stick to a pace that you can comfortably sustain for the whole race without becoming overly tired or burning yourself out too soon.

Some runners start slow then pick up their pace later in the race when they feel comfortable to do so. Some runners stick to a slow, steady pace for the whole race.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t make the mistake of speeding off at the start line, as you will quickly run out of energy and this will impact the rest of your race. You’ll also have a sour taste in your mouth after the race as it just didn’t go to plan.

Another reason to start slow is that it makes it easier and more fun to pass people later in the race. This is a huge confident boost and is a good way to motivate you to stay the distance.

Read my post on how to pace your run for more information and tips.

how to run your first 5k

How to run your first 5k: Ignore your time

While it’s great to have a goal time in mind, just focus on crossing the finish line, whether it takes you 25 minutes or 45 minutes.

You’ll likely develop an idea of your finish time during your training plan in the weeks running up to the race.

A lot of things can happen on the day to affect this – from the race conditions to the weather – so don’t worry too much if the plan you practiced during training doesn’t go entirely to, well, plan!

Run at a pace comfortable for you – there will be plenty of opportunities to improve on your time in follow up races.

Parkrun is a great (and free) way to run a weekly, timed 5k and have a log of all your races.

Never ran at Parkrun before? Check out my blog post on what to expect at your first Parkrun.

It’s a great motivating factor to try and beat your previous race time.

How to run your first 5k: Check out the course before you run

If you’re going to run your first 5k as part of a race or Parkrun, a good tip is to check out the course and terrain before you run.

If the course is hilly or along trails, for example, you will have to give more consideration to your pace and speed as you won’t be able to adopt your normal pace and speed on a hilly terrain.

A good rule of thumb is to add one to three minutes to your overall time.

For example, if you normally run a 5k in under 25 minutes on a flat terrain, you’ll probably end up doing it in 27-29 minutes on a hilly course.

how to run your first 5k

How to run your first 5k: Remember to warm up and cool down

There has been a lot of debate over the years as to whether or not a warm up and cool down is beneficial for you before and after a run.

I personally believe a warm up is a great way to get your body and mind ready for the race ahead. It also gives your muscles, bones and joints a chance to loosen up.

A warm up also gently brings up your heart rate and makes it easier to get into the swing of things.

A good warm up should leave you exhilarated, energised and excited!

Do some dynamic stretches, or walk or jog for a short period of time to get your heart rate going.

Check out my post on how to warm up before a run for more tips and advice.


Caroline Geoghegan

Caroline Geoghegan (aka Run With Caroline) helps people become faster and stronger runners. She started her blog in 2018 to share her passion for running. Caroline is a UK Athletics qualified Run Leader and Run Coach and NASM qualified Personal Trainer.

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