So you want to do a 5K?!

You have thought about signing up for a 5k,

but the thought of it freaks you out. This was me just a few years ago. I remember my friend asking me to do a 5k with her and I thought she was nuts! Honestly, at that point in my life, a mile seemed like a marathon. A 5k sounded impossible, but I was already walking regularly and thought I would give it a try.



One thing I never realized when I wasn’t in the running scene is how many 5k races there are in my area. I can find a race almost every weekend if I wanted to within an hour radius! This is also great because you can invite friends to do them with you! It’s especially fun to invite a friend or friends to join you in the first one.

When people hear the word race, they automatically think running! That thought overwhelms most people, but the truth is there are always a bunch of walkers also. I want to give you the run down of how my very first 5k went, and let you know what to expect if you decide to give it a try!

Pre-Registering Saves Money

Usually, there is a significant discount in the race fee if you do early registration. Everyone likes to save money, so if you can commit ahead of time it will save you some money. It is also a great way to set a goal, and then work towards achieving it. The day you decide to sign up, I can’t even explain the feeling you will have when you click that button or mail that registration form in. Butterflies, fear, doubt, and excitement are all of the emotions you will have. I recommend signing up early simply so you can’t talk yourself out of it!


There are so many programs to help you get ready for your first 5k. Couch to 5k is the most popular, and it is designed to take someone who isn’t a runner and help them become one with safe training. It is a series of walk and run intervals, and before you know it you are doing something you didn’t think you could do.

You can also find a lot of information online about how to be ready to walk a 5k. The most important thing is to get time on your feet and walk consistently to prepare for it.

Race Day Sign In

The most stressful part for me on race day is finding parking! This is the biggest reasons I show up at my races at least an hour before it starts. Then, you follow the heard of people to the registration tables. Most of the time,actually all of the races I have taken part in, there has been a very organized system. It’s usually alphabetical by your last name. Tell them your name and they will hand you something called a race packet. This includes the most important thing, your bib. It will have a number and timing chip with it, so your time can be accurately recorded.

Then, you can usually walk around to different vendors checking out merchandise. Depending on the temps, stay where you are comfortable until race time. This is a great time to warm up, jog or walk to get your muscles loose, so you aren’t warming up in your first mile.

You will need to pin your bib on your shirt or shorts, and then sometimes the timing chip is separate and you will need to connect it to your shoe. Use the bathroom, and then get ready to line up!

The Starting Line

You will notice that the starting line will be full of runners and walkers that range from elite runners to slow walkers. People of every different shape and size will surround you. It is courteous to line up where you think you will be during the race. For example, I wouldn’t want to start in the front if I was walking the race. Walkers are always in the back, so the runners don’t have to weave in and out. Depending on how fast you are, you kind of guess where you should be. I am usually in the middle because I know I am not near the fastest, but I am not the slowest either. It is just a educated guess, and if you are in the wrong spot, it’s not a big deal. People will get around you, and you will be on your way!

During the Race

Every race if different, and depending how big it is, there will be crowds of people cheering for you in different spots. I have been to races where there are crowds, and I have been to some that didn’t have much cheering along the course. Either way, you remember it’s your race. I usually pick a person to try and stick with once I am in my groove. For example, the lady in the pink hat is right in front of me, so I will focus on staying on her tail, then if I pass her, I pick a new person. It helps me focus and keeps me moving forward. When you are just starting out,you won’t want to be glued to your watch, but as you get more experience, pacing yourself will be key in beating your times.

There are usually water stops a few spots on the course. They are some of the biggest cheerleaders! Use the water if you need it. If it’s not too hot, then I will take a swig while I am moving and not stop. People will be holding cups of water out, and you just grab it as you are going. It is perfectly ok to throw your cup on the ground if you are done after you have passed the cans. If you are close to a can, then it is always nice to put them in there. During my marathon, I walked through my water stops. I would run the race, and then slow down to a walk through the stops and then pick it back up.

Soak up the environment! I love races so much simply because it is a huge group of people all doing something to be healthy and have fun. It is such a feeling of community, I can’t even explain it. You just feel like they are all your friends and complete strangers will be cheering you on and encouraging you along the course.

The Finish Line

There is no better feeling than crossing the finish line! My very first 5K that I walked gave out medals for participating. I felt like I had won the race! I do that race every year always remembering where I started. Some 5k races give out medals, but most of the time the medals or trophies are for the first through third place finishers in each group. Once you finish, you will more than likely want to sign up for another one!

I hope this helps eliminate some anxiety or fear of the unknown when it comes to your first 5k race. If it scares you, I really want to encourage you to try it! The sense of accomplishment you will have is worth it! One of my favorite things as a seasoned runner is watching people accomplish their first 5k whether it be a first walk or a a first run! There will never be another race like the first one!

What race ARE YOU or WILL YOU sign up for?