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7 tips on how to prepare for your first 5k run


Running your first 5k run is a huge achievement and is a major milestone for many beginner runners.

5k is still my favourite running distance, even after years of running and half marathons. It’s such a fun and versatile race and really allows you to focus on your speed and performance.

There’s so much more to running a 5k than meets the eye.

Despite only being 3.1 miles, there are a lot of things that you need to think about, from pacing to form.

In this guide, we’ll explore:

  • How many miles is a 5k?
  • 5k training plans
  • 7 tips on how to prepare for your first 5k run


Let’s get started!

How many miles is a 5k?

A 5k in miles is 3.1 miles.

5k training plans

If you’re training for your first 5k run, then you’ll need a beginner training plan.

There are different types of beginner training plans depending on your running goals, fitness levels and running experience.

Couch to 5k training plan

The Couch to 5k training plan is one of the most popular training programs.

It combines running and walking, meaning it’s a beginner-friendly plan for those new to running.

Couch to 5k training plans typically last between 9 to 12 weeks and they are designed to slowly build your endurance and stamina over the course of the program.

The idea is that you gradually increase the amount of time in which you run and decrease the amount of walking intervals.

Many runners who complete Couch to 5k go on to run 5ks, 10ks and even half marathons.

Related: Couch to 5k training plan: A complete guide + 10 tips to run Couch to 5k

5k training plan for beginners

A beginner 5k training plan is ideal if you’ve recently started running and have a good base level of fitness.

Most beginner 5k training plans will get you running at least 1 mile in the first week and will typically include:

  • 2-3 easy runs per week
  • 1 long run per week
  • 3 rest days

7 tips on how to prepare for your first 5k run

#1 Fuel your run

Plan to eat something substantial before your race as your body will require fuel for energy.

Try and have something at least two hours before you plan to run so your body has time to fully digest the food.

Here are some good options:

  • Porridge with bananas or blueberries (check out my other porridge recipes for runners)

  • Wholegrain toast with avocado and scrambled or poached eggs

  • Wholegrain toast with salmon and scrambled eggs

  • Healthy granola

  • A bagel with banana and peanut butter on top

  • Freshly made smoothie

Related: What to eat before a run: 3 essential tips for runners

#2 Make time for recovery

Don’t be tempted to overdo it before race day. Make time for recovery and ensure you have adequate rest days in the lead up to the run.

Rest and recovery are essential for any runner looking to stay injury free.

Many runners consider rest days lost time. Don’t worry – you won’t lose all your running fitness in one day!

Instead, view your rest day differently. Take some time to do something other than running.

Cross training (or ‘active recovery’) activities like yoga and walking are all good examples.

Also get some good quality sleep the night before the race.

#3 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.

This is because 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 28-29 minutes on a hilly course.

Related: Love to run: What to expect at your first Parkrun

#4 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, and 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.

Read my post on how to warm up before a run for more tips and advice on what to include in your warm up.

Related: How to warm up before a run: 4 actionable tips

#5 Pace yourself

This is probably one of the most important tips when it comes to running your first 5k.

Many runners make the mistake of speeding off from the start line, and quickly run out of energy.

This not only impacts the rest of your race, but also affects your confidence as your race didn’t quite go to plan.

Start slow then pick up your pace later in the race when you feel comfortable to do so.

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 confidence boost and is a good way to motivate you to stay the distance.

Related: How to pace your run

#6 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 race day to affect this – from the race conditions to the weather.

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.

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

Related: Run a faster 5k: What is the average time to run a 5k?

#7 Stay motivated

Fear and fear of the unknown is often what holds us back and makes our inner critic ever more powerful.

All those negative thoughts whirring around your head: “I’m not good enough”, “I can’t do this” and “I’m a failure”.

These are all the work of your inner critic – that little monster on your shoulder.

Start replacing your inner critic with your positive inner voice.

Put aside the negative self talk and practice positive affirmation: “I am good enough”, “I can do this” and “I will succeed”.

The more you create a positive, confident internal dialogue, the more your mind will start to believe it and finish your 5k with success.

Related: 5 practicable tips to keep your running motivation during the pandemic