How to Train for Your First 5K


Working up to your first 5K run can be an exciting time.  Maybe you have just started running and wanted a goal to keep you focused on those days when you just don’t feel like getting out there.  Perhaps you are a long-time runner who has never made the choice to enter a race until now.  Whatever your motivations happens to be, a 5K run is a great chance to have fun with friends and strangers alike while working on your fitness and testing your limits.  One of the great things about running in races is that you can always compete against your own best time – so it does not matter if you are the fastest or slowest runner on the course.

When figuring out how to train for your first 5K properly, you should consider following the three simple rules below.  Before I ran my first 5K race last summer, I used these rules to keep myself on track and ready for race day.  When the time came, I had a lot of fun and could not wait to sign up for another.

Rule #1 – Set a Time Goal

Many people argue against setting a time goal for your first race of any kind, but I disagree.  For me personally (and I think for many others), having a competitive motivation is what keeps me going when my lungs are burning or my legs are heavy.  By setting a goal time for your race early on in your training, you will have a mark to work towards and you will push to be better with each subsequent run.

Before you set your goal, think about two things – how fast you are currently, and the specifics of the race.  If you know that the course will be hilly, take that into consideration and set a more conservative mark for yourself to shoot for.  Also, don’t plan on gaining much speed during your training, especially if it is only a few weeks.  Aim for shaving a few seconds off of your time for each mile and you should have a great chance at reaching your goal.

Rule #2 – Slow and Steady

This rule does not apply to the running speed you use, but rather the distance that you run each week.  If you add too many miles to your training runs week after week, you are likely on a path toward injury and missing the race altogether.  Instead of trying to rack up as many miles as you can, make your goal to run good quality miles at your best possible form.  The general rule of thumb is to increase mileage by no more than 20% each week.

For example, imagine you are currently running 5 miles per week for your running routine.  From that point, do not add more than 1 mile per week while you are in training.  Going from 5 to 6, and 6 to 7, will help you stay healthy and build endurance at a more natural pace.  It will not be long before you are logging an impressive number of miles, and your legs will be ready for the challenge.

Rule #3 – Find a Partner

Nothing will keep you motivated to do you training runs quite as effectively as having a partner that you are working with.  Try to schedule a time when you both can run regularly for your training before the 5K.  It is ideal if your partner is at a similar running level to you so you can stick together on the trail easily.  On those days that you don’t feel like running, your partner can give you the little kick that you need to get out the door.  If your partner is feeling sluggish on another day, you can return the favor and make sure they put in the miles.  When you cross the finish line of the 5K together, all of the training effort will be rewarded.

If you need direction on how to train for your first 5K, the three rules above are a great place to start.  They worked for me when I was getting ready for my first race, and I hope they can be of benefit to you as well.  Enjoying your training and best of luck in the race!

This article was written for by Matt R., a guest author