Unless you have been living under a rock, it is possible that you have heard someone talking about running a 5K. With a distance of 3.1 miles, this race is common among experienced runners and beginners alike.
According to the Pine Belt Pacers online calendar, there are five local 5Ks on Saturday alone. As common as these races are, many ask, “how do you prepare for something like that?”
I began running less than a year ago and completed my first 5K in February. The distance was intimidating at first because I could not run for three minutes, much more three miles. But with a little advice and encouragement I accomplished my goal, and with these tips from some Southern Miss runners, you can, too.
1. Download a running app or online training program.
Getting started is always the hardest part. Vicki Truly-Copeland, assistant director of family housing, encourages beginners to consider an online training program to keep from doing too much too soon.
I used the Couch to 5K app for iPhone to train for my first race. The program is split into three workouts each week consisting of walking and running intervals. With workouts lasting only 30 minutes, this program will fit into even the busiest student’s schedule and have you ready to race in just eight weeks.
Couch to 5K is not the only option available. If you prefer an online program, many websites, including Runner’s World, offer printable programs for all races. So whether you’re training for a 5K, 10K, half or full marathon, there are many resources to help you get to the next level.
2. Reward yourself.
It is easy to get bored with your training or just get tired. Copeland said a good way to combat those feelings is to reward yourself. Whether it is with something sweet or a new outfit, treat yourself when you make improvements. “And be sure to listen to your body and take a rest day when needed,” Copeland said.
3. Find a friend or group to keep you motivated.
While there are many runners who swear by running alone, I prefer to run with a group of friends. The ladies I run with each week are what force me out of bed and onto the Longleaf Trace.
Meeting friends to run is the best way to keep you motivated and helps to make the time pass quickly.
Jenny Boudreaux, assistant director of communications for the Alumni Association, said running is better with company and accountability is key.
“I believe that the best way to improve your running is to surround yourself and run with people (who) are faster than you,” Boudreaux said. “Yes, it will be hard but if you’re like me I have a hard time pushing myself when I’m alone. Finding a running buddy or a few is a sure way to get better.”
4. Sign up for a race.
The best way to get motivated to complete your workouts is to go ahead and sign up for a race. Once you’ve committed to it – and paid for it – you’re less likely to back out.
“If you’ve been thinking about running a 5K, sign up today,” Boudreaux said. “Making that initial commitment is the hardest part. Once you’ve signed up, the only option is to follow through and train.”
Make it fun and sign up for a theme race or one supporting one of your favorite charities. The anticipation and knowing that you’re helping others will help push you to the finish line.
5. Make a new playlist.
For those who like to run alone, a good playlist is crucial. Nothing is better than running on a cool morning as the sun comes up, but music helps.
I’ve had a few bad runs when the only thing that got me back to my car was one of my favorite songs. The boost you get from hearing an encouraging song can help you power through that last mile.
A few of my favorites that complete my running playlist are: “Campus” by Vampire Weekend, “Daylight” by Matt & Kim and “1901” by Phoenix.
6. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Jim Coll, chief communication officer for university communications, said the toughest challenge for beginners and experienced runners is comparing yourself to others. He said the best races are not about what place you finished in, but if you fulfilled your potential.
“All races are different, even those of the same distance. A 5K in June is different than a 5K in October. A 10K in Hattiesburg is different than a 10K in Birmingham,” Coll said. “The temperature, humidity, hills, number of turns and the size of the field all affect your time in a race. You can make a mistake when you judge your time versus a previous time at the same distance. You may run the same time, but have made tremendous progress.”
No matter how long you have been running, you will have good runs when you feel like you could keep going for a couple more miles, and you will have terrible runs when your legs feel like lead and your lungs could collapse. It happens. Don’t freak out and quit. Push through and you will be glad you did.
“It’s okay to walk some, especially during your first 5K,” Boudreaux said. “A mile is a mile.”
“Running, like many forms of exercise, is not always fun,” Coll said. “But it’s not all about fun; it’s about fulfillment. The feeling you get when you hit a goal, or finish your first race, in many cases means much more than simple enjoyment. Running can change or add value to your life.”
“Most important: have fun and now that you’ve started running – don’t ever stop,” Copeland said.