What to Know Before You Run a 5K

Congrats! You've decided to run a 5K. That's awesome, because if you can get through those 3.1 miles, who knows what you'll be able to conquer next — you know people run ultra-marathons across deserts, right?

Signing up for a race can be totally empowering (goals!), but when you actually start to think about running , it can feel intimidating. No worries — we tapped Monica Olivas, a personal trainer, running coach, marathoner and blogger over at RunEatRepeat, to walk you through everything you need to know before you cross that finish line.

Set a date.

As ambitious as you might be, you can't just jump into a race on super-short notice. Part of the fun is setting a goal and striving to reach it — and giving yourself time to accurately prepare. "Find a race about ten weeks away," suggests Olivas. "This will keep you on the training plan since you have that end date on the calendar."

Pick a running partner.

Isn't every workout better with a buddy? "It’s always more fun (and less nerve-wracking) to run a race with a friend," says Olivas. "Get them to sign up with you, then train together, too — it'll help you stay accountable."

Be realistic.

Don't push yourself to do too much, too fast. "Find a training program that is realistic and works with your current ability," says Olivas. "Try the app Couch to 5K if you're not running right now. Most 5K training plans are nine to 12 weeks long and require you to run three to five days a week."

Stick to your schedule.

It's easy to come up with excuses for skipping workouts, but that won't fly when it comes to training for a race. "You have a busy life with work, school, family, wild boar hunting, whatever — but you must stick to your training as best you can," says Olivas. "Sure, you can miss a day due to illness or travel, but you should complete 90 percent of it."

Stayed fueled.

What you eat can make you faster or slow you down, so be careful what you're putting into your body. "It’s important to figure out what your body likes to eat before and after a run," explains Olivas. "It’s best to do easy-to-digest carbs and a little fat before a longer run. Things like toast or rice cakes with peanut butter work for many runners — but figure out what works for you."

Train like you run.

"Eat the same food, wear the same clothes, pace yourself the same on race day," suggest Olivas. "There is a golden rule to never try anything new on the day of the race, so make sure you have your race day outfit and food planned out beforehand." No one wants surprise chafing, blisters or stomach issues on race day!

Just finish.

Don't worry about breaking a personal record, standing on a podium, or winning any medal. "Your number one goal should be to finish the race — no matter how long it takes!" says Olivas. "Next time, you can give yourself a time goal. The first race should be a learning experience."

Have fun!

You signed up for this, remember? So even if it hurts, even if you're tired, whatever, it's not like your running laps for high school PE. "You only get one chance to run your first 5K — enjoy it!" reminds Olivas. "Remember the excitement, the crowds, and the accomplishment. Take pictures and soak it all in."

Image: Syda Productions/Fotolia