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I finally entered my first 5k race. It only took me 34 years. But, hey — it’s never too late to try something new, right?
I thought I’d share some 5K training tips that helped me to improve my pace and physical endurance. Perhaps they’ll help you too, if you’re preparing for your first 5K!
#1 – Determine Your Ideal Pace
While some 5K races allow entrants to walk and even push strollers or wheelchairs, the event I participated in required everyone to finish within a certain timeframe.
For this 5K (which stands for the distance of the race — 5 kilometers), I needed to walk or run roughly 3.11 miles in 48 minutes or less.
So, I needed to maintain a pace of about 3.75 miles per hour, or otherwise complete each mile in 16 minutes.
#2 – Stretch And Walk… A Lot!
While I’m a professional blogger, I’m not a medical professional.
So, please, like your life depends on it (and it might), be sure to ask your doctor if it’s safe to begin any new exercise training program — including training for a 5K!
Before doing any workout (including walking), make sure you stretch — this helps prevent injury and improves your physical stamina.
It’s important for me to make this point though:
You don’t have to run a 5K to take part in one of these events. You can walk!
The way I began preparing for my first 5K was to build on the physical endurance I already have from my daily walking routine.
I’ve been exercise walking just about every day since I was 10 years old. I normally walk between 30 and 45 minutes and cover anywhere from 1.7 miles to 3 miles during that timeframe. That means I’ve been walking about 3 to 4 miles per hour, which is a decent brisk walking pace.
The slower speed isn’t quite fast enough to finish a 5K event in less than 48 minutes. But if I could maintain that 4 mile-per-hour pace, then I could cut it in the race.
Even though my goal was simply to finish the 5K without getting kicked off the trail by the race organizers, I really wanted to do better than just barely make it within the 48-minute time limit.
So, here’s what I did to improve my overall pace and physical endurance…
#3 – Add Short Jogs To Your Routine Walks
I started my first day of 5K training roughly 8 weeks prior to race day.
My goal was to simply walk 30 minutes and see how quickly I could finish the exercise without becoming too exhausted.
From that day on, I began incorporating short-distance jogs into my walking routine. I began by jogging about 100 feet just once during my walking routine. Within 1 week, I was jogging 2 or 3 short distances during every walk.
My goal was to see if I could improve my per-mile time and also build up my physical stamina. By the end of the 2nd week, I was able to jog a long city block or two with ease.
Even if I intended to simply speed walk the entire race, I needed to have the physical ability to jog for at least a short period in case something happened during the race (like needing to tie my shoes) that would require me to jog for a short distance to maintain my overall time.
After I felt comfortable with jogging for 3 or 4 city blocks (which I could do by the end of the 4th week), I refocused my efforts on walking 1 full hour instead of just 30 minutes while ensuring that I covered at least 4 miles during that 1-hour walk.
Over the last 4 weeks of my 5K training, I continued building my endurance by speed walking at incrementally quicker paces.
I thought maybe, just maybe, I could finish the race in less than 45 minutes — definitely not a world record by any stretch of the imagination, but a nice goal I could set for myself nonetheless.
How Did My First 5K Go?
Even though I knew I had built up my endurance and was physically able to meet the speed requirements to finish the 5K on time, I was a tad nervous about something going wrong during the event — a loose shoelace, or even exhaustion due to an unusually humid morning. (Though it was held in November, the event was located in Central Florida and on a morning with temperatures well above average.)
My dad, who also enjoys staying physically fit, joined me that morning in what was his first 5K, too.
The race crowd was large — more than 1,400 people participated.
Being that my dad and I aren’t really runners, we situated ourselves near the back of the starting lineup, so as not to get in the way of more seasoned runners up at the front of the pack.
The race started promptly at 7:30 AM, and my dad and I were off without skipping a beat (…except for the fact that we placed ourselves so far back that there were 1,000+ people ahead of us). Our part of the pack wasn’t really moving at full tilt until probably a good 60 seconds after the race began.
The 5K event, which wound through a major theme park and its parking lot, was a lot of fun. There were plenty of people lined up along the course to cheer us on. The water stop at the aid station around the 2.5 kilometer mark was refreshing, too.
Halfway through the race, we were only about 21 minutes into our allotted time and knew we could definitely finish the 5K with time to spare. But we didn’t slow down!
Rounding the many bends along the theme park’s path, we got to the 4-kilometer mark and were already entering the guest parking area, where the start-finish line was located. Jogging the last 500 feet, we made it past the finish line at 44 minutes — 4 minutes ahead of the minimum time.
While I hadn’t finished anywhere near the top of the field and was 49th in my age group, I didn’t care about those stats. I finished my first 5K with time to spare, and best — of all — got to complete that race with my dad.
I enjoyed the experience, and now I have a PB (personal best time) that I can work on beating down the line.
All in all, it’s safe to say that I’ve got many more 5K races in my future!
More 5K Training Tips
- What To Expect At Your First 5K Event
- 8 Lessons Learned From My First 5K
- Complete Couch To Marathon Training & Tips
- The Dos And Dont’s Of Race Day Etiquette
- 9 Race Day Tips For Your First 5K
- 10 Ridiculously Easy Ways To Beat Your PB
- Couch To 5K & Couch To Half Marathon Training Tips
I’m a roller coaster junkie, a weather enthusiast, a frequent traveler, and a numismatist. My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I’m a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG). I’ve also been studying meteorology and watching weather patterns for years. I enjoy sharing little-known facts and fun stuff about coins, weather, travel, health, food, and living green… on a budget. I work from home full-time as a journalist, reporter, and author.