I ran my first 5k on Saturday, and it was nothing like I expected. I read so many articles about how to run a 5k, took in all of the information, and I still felt unprepared.
I knew I had to actually run a 5k, to understand how to run a 5k.
Here’s what I learned:
Establish a Morning Routine
My 5k race was at 8:30 in the morning, which means I had to wake up at 6:00am to make sure I had breakfast at least two hours before start time, a shower, and time to get dressed. I wanted to show up to the race at least an hour before start time in order pick up my number and ensure I was ready.
But here’s the thing, my body is very regular. Yes, I’m talking about pooping. And when I wake up earlier, or change my morning routine too much, my body stops being regular, which is not an awesome feeling when you’re about to 3.1 miles.
I know this is probably TMI, but before the race I tried to clear the pipes and I was not as successful as I would have liked. I wasn’t the only one clearing the pipes either, the Porta-Potty before the race was a really active scene. Holy moly!
Tip: If you have to wake up earlier than usual on the day of the race, start your morning routine a week before, so your body has time to adjust.
Don’t Start the Race Too Fast
Everything you read about training for your first 5K, says not to start your race too fast. Also everything I read said that everyone starts too fast. Everyone. And I told myself that of course I wouldn’t do that. I had a goal of 13 minutes per mile, and that’s plenty of time to start out slow.
And then, I did it. I started too fast. My first mile was 11 minutes. And even though trained runners would scoff at that number, for me, it was too fast.
Tip: Run before your run. Even if it’s just for ten minutes. Get your stride going, to remind your body to breathe deep. Get your mind in the race, and get ready!
Control Your Breathing
I’ve done a lot of reading about breathing recently, since my heart rate has been off the map. And breathing is literally half the training when it comes to running. My legs and muscles could run all day, it’s my breathing and heart rate that slow me down.
The problem with starting too fast, is that you run out of breath and your body goes into fight or flight mode. I felt like I couldn’t breathe for the first half mile.
Again, if I had practiced more the week before, and some time before the actual race, I think I would have been in better shape.
Tip: Start your breathing routine before the race starts, to remind yourself how to do it. If you’re a beginner, you’re going to forget everything you learned before the first race, so try to remind yourself right before.
Crossing the finish line felt amazing. And even better than that was hearing the announcer call my name and number before I actually crossed it. But it was freakin hard, and I felt like I was going to die.
My mouth was so dry, I could barely swallow, my forearm skin looked like an orange peel, my chest was tight, and my heart rate was up around 200.
After the race I drank some water, ate a banana, and even tried an ice pop, and it did nothing for me. What I needed was a Gatorade, and lots of it. But no one had any! There was a street fair and a 5k/8 milk run happening all around us, and no one had Gatorade.
Tip: Bring a bit fat Gatorade, or whatever electrolyte drink you prefer, and keep it cold for the end of the race!
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
I suck at hydrating. And it really hit me in my third mile. My mouth has never been that dry! Honestly, it felt like I just ate a cup of flour with nothing to wash it down.
Next time, I’m tying a button to a string as an emergency hydration measure. Sucking on a button (or any small object for that matter) forces the body to produce saliva. That’s literally the only thing I learned in history class. Also, I might run with a small water bottle in my waste pouch.
Tip: Drink a ton of water the week prior to the race. Carry a small bottle of water for when things get really desperate. Also the Gatorade tip up there.
Train, A Lot
I started training with Couch to 5k, and then when I was ready, I started running 3.1 miles on my own. Once I got into the groove of running the distance I started reading about how to run better. Focusing on my heart rate, my breathing, and my stride.
The week before my 5k, I didn’t train at all, I honestly forgot the 5k was happening. Luckily I got a text to remind me. And on the day of the race, I was walking in pretty cold.
Because of that, I forgot every ounce of training I’d learned. I started my race too fast, I didn’t breathe right, and I didn’t reach my goal times.
Tip: Train for a week straight before your run, even if it’s just breathing exercises.
Schedule Another Race and Set New Goals!
I’ve already scheduled another race for this Friday. It’s easy to feel a sense of accomplishment and ride that all the way back to the couch. But I’ve got some more goals to accomplish!
The goal for my first race was simply to run a 5k. I really only had myself on the hook for crossing the finish line. I was hoping to hit 13 minutes for each mile, just because it would be my best time, but I didn’t make it. I did, however, get my best time.
For my next race, I want to beat my time again, and finish in less than 14 minutes for each mile. I’d really like to work on my speed and become a real seasoned runner. And a medal wouldn’t suck.
Tip: Schedule another race a day or two after your first race, this will give you something to work toward, and will ensure that you keep up your training.