One of the great things about running is that each of us chooses our own destiny. We alone decide where and when to run. We alone decide to race – or not. No one is less of a runner if they don’t race. However, there are several reasons you might want to sign up for an event.
1/ To get motivated
If you’re having trouble getting out the door, having a deadline – in this case, race day – may inspire you to do the workouts needed to properly prepare. For a 5K, that means run-walking every other day or so, working up to a weekly long run of at least three miles. If you’re still on the fence, try spectating at a local race: if you could bottle the energy you’ll find at the start and finish lines, you could run your car for a year on it.
2/ To push yourself
When runners gather at a race, the excitement inspires us to run harder with less perceived effort. After your first race, you’ll probably want to go faster. We love to improve and races give us an evaluation tool.
3/ To explore
If you’re tired of the same old loops, a race in a new location can help you break out of your rut. You can test the terrain and enjoy the scenery, and if you enjoy yourself, you can return for a regular run in the future.
4/ To support a cause
Many small 5Ks exist to raise money. In general, these events support new racers, but there is a wide range of quality in such races. A local running store can tell you which are managed best, but if a cause is truly dear to your heart, you may not care that its ‘5K’ is not precisely 3.1 miles or that organisers run out of snacks before the last finishers arrive.
Is there a perfect goal distance for a first-time racer?
The 5K (3.1 miles) is definitely a doable goal for a beginner and most areas or communities have plenty of options at this distance, the most obvious being weekly parkruns. Pay attention to how your goal event is marketed: the words ‘fun run’ usually mean the event is untimed, so if you want to know your official finishing time and see how you measured up, choose another race.
What’s the most common mistake made by first-time racers?
With the excitement of the day it’s all too easy to start too fast. To avoid this mistake ensure your first mile is your slowest, with more walk breaks than you usually take (if, indeed, you take them at all). By not using up too much energy early on, you can enjoy the feeling of passing people at the end without sprinting. Your goal should be to finish cross the line with a big smile and a great sense of achievement.
Is it true I shouldn’t walk during a race?
Some runners find a run-walk strategy keeps their legs strong to the end and helps them avoid a slowdown. Some even find walk breaks help them finish faster. There’s also the rule ‘Never try anything new on race day’. If you don’t run continuously in training, don’t do it in a race.