So You Want To Run A 5K?


My apologies on posting this a day late.  My plan is to do a series of posts on getting started for beginners and then all the way up to your first marathon.  l had to skip a day but am back and ready for action.

Two days ago I posted about starting running and received some great comments and questions about getting started.  Several readers told me they were going to get started this week.  Yay!  I am so excited for all of you whether you are just starting or are continuing to stick with it.

Once you have taken the leap into this healthy albeit addictive activity you might start to think about giving a race a try.  I actually ran for many years and insisted I had absolutely no interest in doing a race.  This was my healthy activity and I just couldn’t fathom why I would want to ruin it by joining a bunch of much speedier runners and pushing myself to the point of throwing up.  It just so happened that I was home visiting my parents in Northern Michigan during the National Cherry Festival and there was a 15K going on.  I had been running a lot at the time and figured it would be a good challenge and a way to get 9 miles in before I dove into all of the  festival food later that day.

It was an awesome experience!  First of all, I was not the fastest runner but I also discovered that I definitely wasn’t the slowest and it didn’t even matter.  Running a race course with a few hundred fellow runners and being cheered on along the way by a few hundred people is so incredible.  It is a huge confidence booster.  Nothing tells you that you are a runner more than following a course and being cheered on by strangers who are amazed with what you are doing.


The 5K is a great race because it is a distance that is achievable for just about any runner.  In fact you will often find that these races are advertised as both a run/walk meaning you can run it, walk it, or a little bit of both.

There are some great aps out there that can help your training for a 5K and I recommend searching around for one that works for your ability and schedule.  Another great aspect of the 5K is that while you will want to commit yourself to training and finishing the race, you will not have to make the huge time commitment your need to train for a marathon.  In fact, running for 3-4 days per week for about 30 minutes is all you will likely need.

Try to find a race that is at least 8 weeks away.  My favorite website is  They have a great listing of all races throughout the United States.  I usually go to my state or a surrounding state and then pick a month that I am looking to find a race.  I then scroll through to find something in the area that might work for me.  This can be fun because you might find a race somewhere nearby that you never imagined running.  It will really mix things up a bit and keep it interesting.

Once you have set a date and registered for the race it is time to make sure you set about on a plan.  I am a huge fan of the run/walk method for beginners.  I really believe that if you can give yourself those 30 minutes a few times per week to hit the pavement or treadmill you will be prepared to complete a 5K.

Someone asked me yesterday how to go about getting started with this plan so I wanted to give a bit more detail.  The idea is to head out for a 30 minute work out.  If you are a beginner you might want to start with a 2 minute jog followed by a 2 minute walk.  You will repeat that 14 times for your workout.  If this is hard for you, stick with this same workout a few times and then begin to challenge yourself to longer running bouts.  For example you might extend your running to 3 minutes with 2 minutes of walking in between.  Over time you can play with the numbers to make your running longer and walking shorter until you are running the entire time.

Doing a running workout like this will also make the time on your feet go faster.  Focusing on the intervals will distract you from thinking about how much longer you have to go or how hard this might be.  If I am stuck on the treadmill I do similar interval workouts just to distract myself and mix it up.  It is also a fantastic way to build up your cardiovascular endurance.

By the time it is race day you will be prepared to finish your race.  Now all you need to do is make sure you get a  good night’s sleep the night before.  Your race will likely be on a weekend and probably be bright and early.  Expect to be waking up earlier than you normally do during the week.


Lay out your running outfit and shoes the night before.  Make sure it is something you have worn before and feel comfortable with.  Race day is not the time to try new shoes or a new outfit.  All you will be left with is blisters and unfortunate chafing.  Pick out your favorite gear and have it ready to go.  If you wear a GPS, headband, fuel belt, iPod, etc. have that all ready to go.  Make sure you check the weather the night before so that you can plan your outfit accordingly.  I once wore a fleece jacket to a race and pinned my bib across the zipper.  I was barely into the race when I realized it was way too warm for the jacket.  I had to unpin the entire bib and unzip my jacket and tie it around me, then re-pin the bib to me as I ran.  My husband was both amused and impressed, but I don’t recommend this technique.

Give yourself plenty of time in the morning to get ready.  More specifically, eat and drink with plenty of time for your stomach to digest it.  The last thing you want is to get half way through your race and have gastrointestinal issues.  I have seen this happen, and it is not pretty!  Also keep in mind that you should eat what you normally eat in the morning.  If you have cereal each day, eat cereal.  The 5K is a short enough distance that you do not need to load up on carbohydrates.  That type of eating is used in much longer distances where your body needs to store extra fuel for long periods on the road.

Finally, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get to the race.  Head out early so that you are not panicked and rushing to get to the start.  Plan for traffic and definitely expect to have to search for a parking spot.  Arriving early will ensure that you keep your nerves at bay.  If you need to pick up anything the morning of the race you will want to make sure you allot time for that as well.

Take some deep breathes, walk around to get your muscles warmed up and smile!  Get your feet behind the start line and when that gun goes off have fun.  Just don’t let all those runners speeding by cause you to shoot out of the start too fast.  Be aware of your pace and keep it around where you usually run.  You will soon settle in and it will be a breeze.

Have fun and don’t forget to wear your race shirt proudly.  Happy running!

“He Was a Wise Man Who Invented Beer”-Plato


Last night was Pint Night at our running group. Incidentally (or perhaps not so incidentally) it was my husband’s first night to join.

Let me share a little something I have learned about runners. We like to drink! Now, I know that not all runners drink and I have read some really inspirational blogs around here about people who have struggled through some very difficult substance abuse addictions and used running to help guide them on their journey. I have great admiration for them and their work to live a strong, clean life.

But for the vast majority of runners all you need to offer is beer at the end of a run and we will push and shove to be first in line.

Last month while taking my certification course to become a distance running coach the key speaker made a joke about how much runners like a victory drink or two. The entire room broke into a knowing chuckle. I could totally relate!

Someone looks happy post 10k and an IPA!

Someone looks happy post 10k and an IPA!

You can imagine what happens when a running group advertises that they will be offering beer and pizza post snowy run. Runners unite.

I have now gone to several group runs both co-ed and Chick’s Nights and one thing I have found is that I might not run with the same person every time, but I always have a great conversation with someone and a great run. Beer or no beer, it was a great evening. I have spent 5 miles chatting with a mother of toddler twins about her plans to balance her work, parenting, and marriage while training for a triathalon. One of my first evenings the group spent the entire run helping me get acquainted with my new neighborhood and tips on the best places to visit. I also had a run learning about the art of home beer brewing and making dandelion wine.

Now that is encouragement!

Now that is encouragement!

Last night I met an amazing gentleman who found running again last year, out of shape and over weight. A year later he had lost 70 pounds and is training for a marathon next spring. Awesome can’t even begin to sum it up. He was incredibly grateful for our local running store who was putting on the group runs and also for how they have helped him along his new path in life. He came to the store overweight and unsure even of what kind of shoes to wear or where to start. They were patient, showed him what gear he needed and have been a support system for him as he followed the path to a new healthy lifestyle. He now loves running again (he ran in college) and was beaming as he told this story. I was truly inspired.

His story is one that we can all learn from. Some of us have run for years and find it easy. Others have never run a mile and don’t have the slightest idea where to begin.  The thought of even putting that first foot forward is frightening.  We all come from a desire to learn and to make ourselves better and healthier.  I love cheering for my friends and fellow runners!

Even the races know how to get the runners going.

Even the races know how to get the runners going.

If you are looking to pick up running or just need to find some inspiration or motivation to get out the door on these dark chilly nights, look to your local running groups. Check out your local running store for info on group runs as they are a very valuable resource.

The RRCA website has a list of local running groups based on both cities and states. I highly recommend visiting their website for more information.

A shout out and thank you to Fleet Feet Chicago for hosting yet another great event and evening of running….and of course good job on the beer (Goose Island IPA is my favorite!). Cheers!

I totally understand.

I totally understand.

If you need just one more reason to justify that extra beer…or two, some research shows that a post workout beer may in fact rehydrate you better than water.  Beer contains both electrolytes and carbohydrates (hello recovery fuel).  Now research says 1 beer, but who knows?  Why don’t you be the judge on that one and let me know.

Want to Train for a Race? Walk/Run Your Way to the Start.


I firmly believe all of us are capable of becoming runners. Granted, not all of us are capable of becoming Kara Goucher or Usain Bolt. But we all have an innate ability to run in some way or another.

Jeff Galloway formed the run/walk method which brought running to the masses. He was the first to create predesigned plans for runners and started the group and charity running craze. What he had in mind really works. In order to start running, you don’t have to strap on your shoes and go run three straight miles. If that were the case, I would still be sitting on the couch today talking about how crazy running is.

The run/walk method has helped many non-runners find a love of the sport. It follows the “huff and puff” method where you take more breaks or slow down when you find yourself short of breath. This is almost like a form of interval training, or perhaps those fartleks we all love! Run at a pace that suits you, and then walk when you feel the need to take a rest break.

This method will help to keep you injury free, requires less mileage and conserves your resources which will aid in a speedier recovery. It won’t take up a lot of your time and you are in control, making it a bit easier to add to your daily schedule.

You can simply start out with a time or distance goal. “Today I am going to run/walk for 15 minutes.” Or, “Today I am going to run/walk for 1 mile.” This method will require you to up your limits over time and you need to be accountable for yourself. Once you can run 3 minutes without stopping, you will need to find that next little push to get to the 4 minute mark. The goal is to find a way over time to push yourself a little bit more.

Remember, running is never easy and the better you get the more ways you will find to make it harder for yourself. But there is a way to make it work for any level, age, and body type.

Are you considering starting to run or trying your hand at a 5k, 10k, or more?  I am a certified distance running coach, a personal trainer, athletic coach and a runner myself.  If you are looking for some help, advice, or training tips/plans send me your comments or questions, I would love to help!