by Jen Besten
Chances are, no matter where you live, there are local 5K races. To seasoned runners, they are sometimes overlooked as an “easy race” or “just a 5K”. But in a world where live races seem few and far between, and that bucket list marathon may need to be put off, a small local 5K can be a great goal race.
- 5K races are for everyone. Literally everyone! I believe all three of my children completed their first 5Ks in strollers. We see people in their 80s and 90s hitting course records, and thousands of new runners race this distance every year. The great part about a 5K is you can train to run one in eight weeks. If you are already a runner, you can prepare to run a fast race in as little as six weeks.
- They are fun. A local 5K is a great way to meet new people and hang out with old friends. There is nothing like finishing a 5K on a Saturday morning and having a post-run beer with your local run club! Plus, they usually support a worthwhile charity.
- They can be used for speed work. Runners who train for more extended events like half or full marathons can use 5Ks in place of speed work. Some runners use this strategy weekly when they are in a training cycle. Here is a sample schedule:
- Saturday – 5K Race
- Sunday – Rest
- Monday – Tempo Run
- Tuesday – Cross training
- Wednesday – Long Run
- Thursday – Easy Run
- Friday – Cross training
- For a runner who has race day jitters (every runner ever), towing the line at a 5K can help with the transition from training to racing. A 5K also gives you the chance to line up at the start line, which is excellent race preparation for longer races.
- 3.1 Miles is a great distance to learn how to hold back. If you are used to starting out too fast during your goal races, forcing yourself to start out a little slower in your next local 5K can help you better pace yourself when it is go-time. This can be very hard to do but can pay off dividends later. A 5K is such a short distance that teaching yourself control and how to hold back in the beginning can prove to be beneficial in the end.
- Or don’t hold back. It’s also a great distance to go all out. Going all out in a 5K could be a teachable experience whether you are a brand-new runner or an experienced runner. If you’re a novice runner, you will probably learn that holding back is better. If you’re more experienced, you can really see what you’re made of.
- Local 5Ks are less intimidating than bigger races. As a new runner, there is something calming about waking up on a Saturday morning and knowing you only have a short drive to the start line. It is also comforting to be familiar with the area where you will run. Finally, with such a wide range of experience and skill levels at local 5Ks, your run speed may not feel as important.
- It’s an excuse to wear racing flats. When it comes to running, personally, I am not much of a shoe person. I have a couple pairs I like, and that is all I need. However, I have friends whose sneaker game would make most professional athletes jealous. 3.1 miles is such a short distance that wearing your lightest shoes can be a great benefit.
- 5Ks do not take as much pre-race prep time as longer races. As we said above, local 5Ks are usually close to where you live, so you don’t need to get up in the wee hours of the morning on race day. Also, since the distance is so short, you may not need to worry about eating enough to fuel yourself. In fact, some people prefer not to eat before a 5K. Technically if you ate a proper dinner, you should be fueled well enough to run a hard 3 miles.
Things to Remember When Preparing for your next 5K
- Warm-ups are extremely important. If you are racing a 5K for time, performing a 1- to 2-mile warm-up jog beforehand can be very beneficial.
- Watch your hydration. You do not need to drink a ton of water before the race, but in the hot, humid summer months, make sure you have adequate hydration the day before and the morning of.
- Use the bathroom. Yes, this is important. Get up early and make sure you use the bathroom. When you have to go at mile 1, it makes miles 2 & 3 flat out terrible.
Finally, remember to celebrate. Local 5K races bring some of the nicest, most welcoming people together. If you don’t have anyone to hang out with post-run, I guarantee you can strike up a conversation with almost anyone. Don’t be afraid to stay for the after-race party and make new friends. Have fun!