10 Things You Should Do to Run Your First Ever 5K (And 1 Thing You Really Shouldn’t)

May 12, 2015

I did this! And didn't die!

You guys, I did it!

I ran a 5K race the other week, and I totally didn’t even die!

Although I did become deathly ill for about a week, but that’s another story, and I’m sure that totally won’t happen to you if you decide to run your first ever 5K after reading this very inspirational post telling you that you should run your first ever 5K.

I promise.

(I think.)

Just to clarify, this wasn’t actually my first ever 5K. My first ever 5K was about seven years ago in Japan after my friends peer pressured me into signing up for one by telling me I’d get a free t-shirt.

That didn’t happen. Instead, I got a free box of frozen fish.

My first free box of fish!

My first free box of fish!

I’m sure that totally won’t happen to you if you decide to run your first ever 5K. Unless, you know, you live in Japan. In that case, you might want to clear out your freezer for your free box of fish.

Even though this wasn’t my first ever 5K, it definitely felt like it was, as I haven’t run a race of any kind in about five billion years.

So, in case, you too would like to run your first ever 5K (or your first ever 5K in 5 billion years, like me), I am here to help!

(You’re welcome.)

10 Things You Should Do to Run Your First Ever 5K (And 1 Thing You Really Shouldn’t)

Thing #1: Stop worrying about what other people are going to think about you.

A few months ago, I read this article about women worrying about being laughed at while working out. According to the article, some women are even so worried about feeling judged they’ve taken to running on treadmills in their garden sheds.

There was definitely a point in my life when I never, ever, ever would have run a race of any kind in public for fear that people would stare and laugh and point at me for being the slowest/fattest/sweatiest/red-facedest person in the race.

And then I moved to Asia.

Where people pretty much stared, laughed and pointed at me all the time. Even when I wasn’t running. But especially when I was running. (And often then they’d take pictures.)

Running the Great Wall 10K. Red-face and all.

Running the Great Wall 10K. Red-face and all.

And while I definitely got over a lot of my insecurities about running in public while living in Asia, I still felt a bit nervous about signing up for this race. It had been a long time since I’d run a race or even run at all. I was pretty sure I was going to be the slowest/fattest/sweatiest/red-facedest person in the race.

And then I started working out at the student gym on the campus where I work.

I have found that being approximately twice the age as the majority of my fellow gym-goers has made me a lot less self conscious. According to them, I’m practically ancient. I might as well be slow/fat/sweaty/red faced, too.

Plus, none of the students even make eye contact with me at the gym for fear that they might have me as a professor next semester.

They pretend I don’t exist.

I pretend I don’t look like I’m about to hyperventilate. (Even though I totally do.)

And we’re all good.

Thing #2: Sign up for the race already.

This is kind of important. I don’t think you can actually run in the race unless you’ve signed up for it.

Plus, once you sign up for a race, I believe it’s technically impossible to back out of doing the race. In fact, it might be illegal.

If you sign up, you’re just going to have to do it. Either that or go to jail. Your choice, really.

Thing #3: Peer pressure a whole bunch of other people into signing up for a race with you.

As I mentioned before, I signed up for my first ever 5K because my friends peer-pressured me into doing it by promising me a free t-shirt.

So, of course, the first thing I did after signing up for this past 5K was to start peer pressuring everyone I knew into signing up for the race. And, of course, promising them free t-shirts.

It’s the Circle of Life, you guys.

Thing #4: Download ALL THE APPS.

Hey, guys, remember waaayyyy back before smart phones and apps when if you wanted to do something, like, say, run a 5K, you’d actually have to sit down and research and figure out how you were going to do it?

Well, no more, my friends!

Now, you can get an app to do all of that for you!

I loved the Couch to 5K app that I used. It not only mapped out when and how long I would have to run each week, but a little robot voice would even tell me to start running during each workout. I’ll do pretty much anything if a robot voice tells me to do it!

Also, remember waaaayyyy back when going running meant that you had to spend like a billion hours every couple months agonizing over the perfect playlist for your iPod, so that you weren’t stuck trudging along to the Christmas music you put on your iPod for that holiday party you threw last year.

Well, those days are over, too, my friends!

Because you can download like a billion different streaming music apps, and all of them have at least a dozen different upbeat music stations with catchy names like Cardio Beatz and Pump Up Jamz.

I use Slacker Radio, which is free, but I pay a couple bucks a month for the Plus service, so I can use it offline when I’m running out of wifi range. Plus, they’ve got all the Taylor Swift hits a girl could ever want. And trust me, I WANT.

Thing #5: Buy yourself some cute running clothes.

It is a fact proven by science that cute running clothes will help you run a lot faster than those five-year-old running pants that are falling apart at the seams and that free t-shirt that you got at a conference last year.

And by “proven by science” I mean “proven by me.”

Thing #6: Start training waaaayyyyyy before you probably need to start training.

2015-03-07 06.57.33

According to the c25K app that I used, my training program was only supposed to take two months.

I, however, started a little over three months in advance.

This allowed me a little extra time to get in shape. Which, frankly, I needed.

It also allowed me to repeat a few weeks along the way when I felt like I hadn’t quite “gotten” that week’s workouts. (aka I almost hyperventilated.)

Thing #7: Start running outside more than a month before your race.

2015-05-03 08.34.55

I started training for my race by running on a treadmill. Because it was winter. In Michigan. And, you know, I like to keep my face from freezing off my head.

I eventually switched to running outside about a month before my race when the weather warmed up. And that’s when I realized that running outside is a looottttt harder than running on a treadmill because when you run outside the sidewalk doesn’t magically move beneath your feet. Funny that.

My first couple runs outside were brutal. I really didn’t think I was going to manage an entire 5K outside, and even contemplated dropping out of the race.

But that’s illegal, remember? And I don’t think I’d do well in jail.

Thing # 8. Pick up your race gear. Start to hyperventilate a little because you’re really going to do this thing.

2015-05-02 17.22.24


But, hey, look, FREE T-SHIRT!

Thing #9: Do this thing. Don’t die.

2015-05-03 08.19.19

I know a lot of runners who have time goals for their races.

My only goal for this race and every race I’ve ever run was to run the whole thing and not die. (And, to be honest, I have a pretty loose definition of what counts as “running.”)

I ran pretty slowly and, yes, I was fat and sweaty and red-faced, but I wasn’t the slowest or fattest or sweatiest or red-facest person in the race. In fact, what I loved about the race that I ran was that there were people of all shapes and sizes and ages and fitness levels participating.

I also loved the fact that there were crowds of people along the race course cheering us on with funny posters and noisemakers.

There was even a lady in a chicken costume giving us high-fives. And once you give a high-five to a lady in a chicken costume, you know that you have to finish the race and not die.


Thing #10: Pick a running buddy.

When I run a race, I like to pick a new running buddy to run with so I don’t feel so, you know, lonely.

Of course, my new running buddy has no idea that we’re buddies. Probably because we’ve never actually met before. I just pick someone out of the crowd who seems to be going at about the same pace as me and I stay behind them for the whole race.

Until the very last leg of the race, that is, when my new running buddy becomes my RUNNING ARCH NEMESIS.

That’s when I act like my running buddy and I are the only two people in that race, and I speed up and haul myself to the finish line, leaving my so-called buddy in my dust.

Sorry, buddy.

Thing #1 That You Really Shouldn’t Do: Check the official race photos.

Hey, guys, remember waaayyyy back when I crossed the finish line and I felt like I’d just won the Olympics when the only thing I’d really won was a free banana and bottle of water?

Victory is MINE!

Victory is MINE!

That was a fun feeling.

And it lasted approximately two days until I made the mistake of checking out the official race photos online.

And that’s when I discovered that the only picture of myself was this one:


Do you see me back there? I’m the one getting completely and totally smoked by the older lady WHO DOESN’T EVEN LOOK LIKE SHE’S RUNNING.

I’m sure that totally won’t happen to you if you decide to run your first ever 5K, though. Unless, you know, you’re ridiculously slow like me and you also have a pretty loose definition of the word “running”. In that case, you might want to prepare yourself to get smoked by a few older ladies.

But, hey, whatever, FREE T-SHIRT!

Have you run a 5K? What advice would you give to someone running their first ever 5K?


I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On May 12, 2015 at 8:58 am Ellen said:

    What you’re missing from the race photo is that you’re totally smokin’ that dude to the left. And all the other people behind you.

  2. On May 12, 2015 at 10:03 am Mel said:

    Hi Sally,
    love your blog!
    I will “run” my first 5K in September and now that I told you and the rest of the internet I can not back out of it any more.

    • On May 13, 2015 at 8:17 pm Sally said:

      Yes, this is true. Once you tell the Internet, you can’t back out. It’s like writing it in stone… but without the need for a chisel. 🙂

  3. On May 12, 2015 at 12:13 pm Linnéa said:

    Wow, this was actually superinspiring! I just downloaded the app and I’m about to go for a run now (and uhm, well, hope it’s not a one time thing…).

  4. On May 12, 2015 at 1:17 pm Heather said:

    Congrats Sally! Starting or returning to a running program is challenging, and after 7 or 8 months off, I know I’ll need to start from the beginning when I’m physically able to get out there again! Thinking of a 10k next?

    • On May 13, 2015 at 8:16 pm Sally said:

      Hmmm… not sure. The running aggravated my acid reflux which is what caused the laryngitis that I had all of last week. But I didn’t really know what was happening until it was too late and I couldn’t talk. I think I need to take a little running break for now while I get my acid reflux situation under control. I’m thinking I might switch over to biking for a while — I bought a bike last year but didn’t use it much. I think it’s time to dust off the cobwebs and take it for a few spins!
      Good luck getting back into your running! 🙂

  5. On May 12, 2015 at 5:33 pm Laura said:

    Congrats on running the 5K! OMG I’m cracking up at your one and only photo. The lady looks like she’s strolling down the street without a care in the world. I love the running apps… I have the C25K (and 10K) one, I listen to streaming radio, and I have an app that tells me how far and slow I’m running every mile.
    Laura recently posted..Adventures in Jasper National Park

    • On May 13, 2015 at 8:12 pm Sally said:

      It tells you how slow you’re running? Oh gosh, I think that would be way too depressing in my case. I’d rather like to believe I’m running like the wind (until I see the pictures of myself being smoked by old ladies proving otherwise).

  6. On May 14, 2015 at 3:28 am Leslie in Oregon said:

    You did it…BRAVO, Sally!!

  7. On May 14, 2015 at 9:04 pm Candice said:

    This is the first blog post ever in the history of mankind that actually kinda sorta made me consider signing up for a 5K. I mean the thought literally crossed my mind for two seconds.
    Candice recently posted..Things I loved (and didn’t love) about Central America

  8. On May 15, 2015 at 6:28 pm Ceri said:

    Congrats and Well done! You did it! 😀

    I would love to be able to run a 5K. Actually, I’d love to be able to run 100m without wanting to cry and curl up. Maybe I’ll have to start taking your advice and work my way up to it.
    Ceri recently posted..Thoughts From the North of South Korea

  9. On May 15, 2015 at 11:30 pm Choi Kum Fook said:

    Big claps for the five K race! Keep on training until you can achieved ten K next to come! Running is good for both, mental and physical health. But you must do it gradually.

    • On May 17, 2015 at 10:03 am Sally said:

      Thank you, Mr. Choi! Although I think I may be putting my running habit on hold for a bit and switching over to biking. That doesn’t aggravate my acid reflux and I can go a lot farther!


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