You’ve seen all the pictures on Facebook of your friends running races these past few weeks, and you think “I want to do that.” Except you’re not quite sure how to get started or what exactly is involved.

When I ran in my first 5K, I was just beginning on the path to a healthier lifestyle. I was eating better and exercising regularly.

I heard about a road race through some co-workers and decided it would be a great opportunity to see just what racing with other people was all about.

Selecting your first 5KNot only was it a great chance to get introduced to the sport of running, but it was a springboard for me to leap into larger races like my first marathon and eventually into my first ultra-marathon. And it all started with a 5K.

Here’s my 5 steps for selecting your first 5K:

1. Pick a date & location

It is vital to specify when you will be participating. Training levels will vary depending on your overall fitness level, but give yourself more time that you think if you can. That way you can track how you feel as you get closer to race day.

Ideally, you’ll want to find a race that’s 5-8 weeks out in order to have plenty of training time.

There are no shortage of different training schedules by doing a quick online image search. I suggest picking a schedule you feel confident you can stick with so that you’re not changing your plan halfway through.

The best places to start looking for a specific race might be:

  • a running store’s event calendar
  • a local restaurant’s flyer & advertising board
  • A running site like Active.com

2. Find a Charity

Many races are sponsored by some kind of charity, and a portion of your registration fees go to that charity as a donation. If you’re passionate about a cause, see if they are sponsoring any upcoming races in your area. This way, you can feel good knowing you are helping others as well as yourself.

3. Check the Cost

If pricing is a roadblock for you, be happy knowing that running can be one of the cheapest sports to get into. There’s no need to go crazy with all of the gear that’s available. If you have a decent pair of shoes (my first pair were $30), most of the rest of the gear is optional.

Race registrations range in price, usually between $10-30 based on several factors:

  • Food and water support during and after the race
  • Participant or finisher freebies (like shirts and medals)
  • Civil work (road closures, police & EMS on site, etc.)
  • Charity donations
  • The amount of sponsors to help defray costs

4. Pick a race you’ll enjoy

Does the idea of running for over 3 miles bore you? Are you looking for something more exciting?

There are plenty of exciting and new races available now that go beyond the simple 5K course.

Maybe a 5K with a twist is more up your alley.

The Color Run is an exciting new race that is not timed, and it is meant to serve as a way to promote happiness and health. You start out in all white and finish the race in streaks of wild color!

There are also Dog Jog races which promote running with your pooch. This gives you both a chance to get some exercise and meet new friends.

There are even several Zombie runs in which you are running away from the undead in order to stay alive!

5K’s have become a lot more accommodating to all different personalities, and as a result, it’s much easier to find one you’ll enjoy.

5. Register early…like RIGHT NOW!

Once you’ve picked a race that aligns with your timeframe and needs, it’s time to get Serious. Stop reading this, and go get signed up.

I know you’ve wanted to because you’re reading this article!

Do this before you think you should. Most races make the process very easy to register with online forms and race day packet pickup. All you’ll need to do is sign up & show up!

Remember – It is much easier to stay with your training plan if you know you’ve already paid for the race.

You can train and plan and prepare until the cows come home, but registration is where the rubber hits the pavement.

 

Running in your first 5K is definitely a great accomplishment. It may be a springboard to a new healthy way of living or an exciting way to meet new and like-minded people.

There’s some criticism that anyone and everyone can run a 5K. I disagree. According to answers.com, about 1 in 5 Americans register for a 5K every year. If anyone and everyone could do it, that percentage would be closer to 100%, not 20%

Embrace where you are as a beginner, and get out there and do something good for yourself and others!

Do you have some essential advice for 5K beginners? I look forward to hearing your feedback!