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How to run your first 5k + 6 tips for your first 5k run

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Knowing how to run your first 5k can be a minefield, especially if you have a 5k as your goal in the next few months? What do you need to know?

A 5k run is often the first big milestone for a lot of beginner runners who have finished the Couch to 5k training plan.

It may not seem like a big deal, but a 5k actually requires a fair amount of training, especially if you want to run a 5k in a decent time.

In this guide we’ll explore:

  • How far is a 5k?
  • How to prepare for your first 5k
  • What is a good first 5k time?
  • How to run your first 5k: 5k training plan
  • 6 tips for your first 5k run

Ready?

Let’s get started!

how to run your first 5k

How far is a 5k?

A 5k in miles is 3.1 miles. This is equivalent to 16,368 feet or 5,000 metres.

According to the State of Running 2019 report, 5k races have the highest number of participants with 2.9 million participants in 2018.

However the report adds that 5k races also have suffered the biggest decline in participation – reducing by 13% from 3.4 million to 2.9 million.

Related: How to run a 5k in 25 minutes or less

How to prepare for your first 5k

Preparation is key when it comes to preparing and training for your first 5k.

A training plan is essential when running your first 5k and you will find a sample 5k training in this guide.

Other things to think about when training for your first 5k are:

  • Fuel your runs. Proper nutrition still plays an important role when training for a 5k. Ensure you are fueling your training in the right way.
  • Stay hydrated. Hydration is incredibly important for any type of exercise. Dehydration can cause a few issues such as tiredness and fatigue, so make sure you are drinking enough water before and after your runs.
  • Take rest days seriously. Rest days play an important role in every running training plan, no matter whether you’re training for a 5k or a marathon. Take rest days seriously to avoid overtraining or burnout.
  • Stretch it out. When you start your 5k training plan your body will likely need some time to adjust to your new training routine. Many beginner runners experience muscle soreness in the first few weeks of a new training plan. Stretching is a great way to prevent muscle soreness (either as part of a cool down or within a morning stretching routine).

What is a good first 5k time?

How fast you run your first 5k will depend on a number of factors, including your age, gender and fitness levels.

Even the race course terrain and weather on the day can affect how fast you run your first 5k.

If you’re a beginner runner, a good 5k time is between 30 and 40 minutes. If you manage to run your first 5k in 30 minutes or less then this is an excellent time.

You will find a full breakdown of average 5k times based on age, gender and running ability in my guide on average 5k times.

how to run your first 5k

How to run your first 5k: 5k training plan

There are many 5k training plans out there – the key is to find the right plan for you to help you run your first 5k.

Training plans are designed with various factors in mind, such as your fitness level and your desired race time.

If this is going to be your first 5k run then I suggest you start with a beginner 5k training plan.

A beginner 5k training plan will include the following runs:

  • 2 to 3 easy runs
  • 1 long run

Also, not forgetting the all important rest days!

Easy runs

Easy runs are designed to be run at a comfortable pace, so you should be able to hold a conversation while running.

Long run

A long run in a beginner 5k training plan will be anywhere between 2 to 6 miles.

Some beginner plans may even include walking as this is a great way to build your endurance and stamina as a beginner runner.

If you feel that a beginner 5k training is not quite for you, then check out my intermediate 5k training plan.

6 tips for your first 5k run

#1 Wear the right running shoes

I cannot stress enough the importance of a good pair of running shoes when training to run your first 5k.

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

I recommend you visit a specialist running shop in order to find the right pair of running shoes.

They will help you pick a pair of shoes based on:

  • the shape of your foot
  • how you walk and run (known as gait)
  • how your foot lands on the ground (known as foot strike)

Most running shoe shops offer a gait analysis to help determine your gait and foot strike.

During this process they will get you to run on a treadmill wearing a pair of running shoes and assess how you walk and run.

#2 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.

#3 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.

#4 Check out the race 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.

#5 Remember to warm up

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

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

#6 Remember to cool down

As with a proper warm up, a cool down has many benefits including reducing the risk of injury and muscle soreness after a run.

A cool down should include a light jog and static stretches. Read my guide on the best cool down stretches to do after a run for more information.

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