Running can be intimidating. But with a little consistency, and a lot of determination, even the out-of-shape can train to run a 5k.
A 5k race is 3.1 miles, and it’s a great distance for people who want to edge into running with a shorter race.
According to experienced runners, nearly everyone, barring injuries or disability, can run a 5k eventually. For some, it might take as little as four to six weeks of running to finish a 5k at a decent pace.
Pick the right race
Paul Boone, a cross country coach at Eudora, says to study the descriptions of all the upcoming races in the area in order identify the one for you. Some things to think about are whether you would like to race on a road or a trail, whether you would like to stay in town or travel to another location, and whether you would like to compete with few or many people. If it’s your first race, it might be a good idea to go for an event with slimmer participation.
“Determine what you want in a race,” Boone says. “Pick a first race that has a good track record."
Some races are designed to benefit charities. This, for some people, can provide added inspiration to participate.
Get the right pair of shoes/clothes
Before trudging onto the treadmill or pounding onto the pavement, it’s important to find a pair of running shoes that will facilitate a swift run. It might be tempting to shake the dust from a pair of ratty sneakers, but that could cause an injury down the road.
“The first thing (you) should do is go to a good running shoe store that has people who know how to fit shoes,” says Dee Boeck, a Lawrence resident and competitive runner for more than 30 years. “It will make your running experience so much better.”
When Boeck first started running 33 years ago, buying the right pair of shoes was a pain. Many stores didn’t offer options for women runners. The sport was viewed primarily as a man’s activity, she says, so she started off with a pair of men’s running shoes. Now whenever she wanders into Garry Gribble’s Running Sports, 839 Mass., she’s in awe of the swatches of yellows, pinks and blues that feature women’s running clothing and shoes.
Many employees at stores like Garry Gribbles are runners themselves, which gives them some shoe-selecting authority that’s not typical for department stores, says Boeck.
Shannon Hodges, an award-winning runner and a running coach, agrees.
“The first thing I encourage people to do when coaching is to go to a running-specific store and get fitted for shoes that are right for you,” the Lawrence resident says. “Not having the right shoes is an easy way to get injured really quickly.”
Hodges has a lot of experience training first-time runners. She was certified by the National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association as a running coach in 2007. And she’s helped many women stroll over the 5k finish line since. She says some people are initially so enthusiastic they want to lunge right into their first marathon race: a bad idea.
“Often times you’ll see people that within a year they’re doing their first marathon,” Hodges says. “I say start with the 5k, then the 10k, then the first marathon. It’s really easy to get physically injured when you go from no running to running a long distance.”
It’s also easier to become mentally fatigued. Easing into running by completing shorter distances can make the sport more sustainable over time.
Train for the race
Start walking. Hodges says that, if you’re not a runner, walk for 20 to 30 minutes a day at a comfortable pace. When that’s a breeze, add in running intervals. Walk for two minutes, then jog for a minute. When you’ve mastered that, jog for two minutes, then walk for one minute for the duration of a half-hour. The idea is to increase the amount of time you can run without stopping.
And there are other strategies to reach that goal. Boeck advises beginners to run until they can’t anymore, and only then to walk. She also suggests strength training on the days you’re not running. Ideally, though, you should be able to maintain a conversation while you're running; your breath should never be ragged or frantic.
Set yourself up for success
Establish a running schedule. Pick the days you plan to run in advance, dedicating at least 3 to 4 days a week to running, with rest days in between. After you’ve drafted your running schedule, stick to it: Soreness, injury, and ice are the only obstacles that should keep you from running.
And to ensure accountability, inform friends and family members of your plans. Rallying support is one way to keep morale high. If possible, get a workout partner, someone who will run the race with you, preferably, or at the very least, someone to go the gym or race trail with.
And allow yourself to be proud or what you’re doing.
“Understand there will be ups and downs, but relish in the fact that you are getting better and more fit daily,” Boone says.