Running a 5K is an impressive undertaking, especially if you have never done it before. Here is how to get started:
Get an early start
Give yourself plenty of time to get ready for a 5k. Most training plans allow six to eight weeks for race preparation, and they start off short and gradually build up to the full distance. A 5K is a little over 3 miles, and before you begin training, you need to test yourself. See how long it takes you to go 1 mile, then set your training accordingly. Once you start, you can alternate between brisk walking, jogging, and running as you build up to going the full distance. Yes, it is a race, but it is a distance race, so don't expect to be perfect right away. Training should focus on building up endurance, starting at around 1.5 miles a day, and gradually adding on running time and distance about half a mile at a time.
Before you run, it's a good idea to stretch or lift weights. Do something simple that gets your muscles used to rigorous activity. Sit ups, push ups, or yoga stretches are good ways to prepare yourself for exertion, and these exercises will help build strength in other parts of your body in addition to your legs.
Take rest seriously
When training for a 5K, it is important to pace yourself. Training for a 5K takes months, not days. Allowing adequate time to catch your breath is essential, otherwise you will burn out. Most training programs recommend running three days, then taking a day to rest or cross-train. Focus on a gradual buildup of strength to be sure you can reach the finish line in one piece.
Set a realistic goal
Since you already know the distance that you will be running, focus on setting a time goal for yourself. Be honest about what you can achieve; you are running 5K for the first time, after all. Whether your goal is simply to finish, to run the whole time, or to lead the pack, use your training time to take stock of your capabilities. You can always run another 5K with a new objective later, so be realistic about what you can achieve on this first race and scale your goals up later.
Decrease your activity the week before
During the week of a race you should be running, but decreasing your time. The days before a 5K is all about saving up and storing strength, so don't overdo it. Instead, stick to running in quick bursts that get your legs moving and allows them used to the faster pace of a 5K race. Take a break from running the day before a 5K. If you cannot keep yourself from lacing up your shoes and getting out on the track, then consider a brisk walk or simply jog around your block. Do not overexert yourself the night before - you will regret it the next day.
Get plenty of rest two nights before
There is a good chance that jitters will strike you in the hours before the race, making gettng a good night's sleep a challenge. You will feel better if you have rest stored up for the big day rather than hinging it all on the night before the big race.
Get there early
There is a lot to do on the morning of a race, so get an early start. You will need to find a place to park and have time to get your race packet, warm up and find your starting position.
Keep your eyes on the prize
A 5K always attracts many runners with a numerous range of skill sets; some of the experienced runners finish in fewer than 20 minutes. Do not judge yourself based on other participants who may be on their 10th race of the season. Remember that you started out at zero, and that gazelle-like runner out in front had to start at zero, too.
Perhaps most importantly, you should have fun! Be proud of yourself and your great accomplishment - you've done it!