How Should I Prepare for a 5k Run?

Katie Gatto

Your first 5K (3.125 miles) run is no small feat and training for one can be both a labor and time intensive task. For the average person running a race like a 5K will not be something you just get up and decided to do on the morning of the race, unless of course you’re an experienced runner. For the rest of us, a little bit of planning ahead is required.

Hydration is an important part of staying healthy while training.
Hydration is an important part of staying healthy while training.

Get Medical Approval: The first thing you should do, when preparing for a 5K run, is get the go ahead from your doctor to participate in the run. If you have any special needs, you should also talk to the doctor about the best way to accommodate those during the run while you’re in the office. While you are there, talk with your doctor about the proper diet to follow while you are in training. A 5K run will require a great deal of preparation, and beginning without the approval of a doctor can be bad for your health.

People training for a 5k may use a running program.
People training for a 5k may use a running program.

Figure out where you are starting: Now you will need to get a basic idea of your level of fitness in order to figure out your plan for action when training for a 5K run. In order to do this, go to your gym or local track with your watch. If you can run the entire length of the race on the first day then this number will become your base time. If you cannot complete the entire length of the 5K run on your first trial, then you are going to have to estimate your time for the whole 5k run based on what you can do before you have started training.

Set your goal: Now it’s time to set your goal. If you were able to get a complete base number for the entire 5K, run then on the day of the race, your goal should be to complete the race with this time or better. If you could not finish, get a complete base time then your goal will simply be to finish the race. The idea here is not to push yourself too hard your first few times running.

Set your training times: Once you have a goal in mind, you’re going to have to get out your calendar and designate times for training on your track or at your gym. How often you get to train will be a personal decision based on your schedule, your access to the training facility, your level of fitness and how close the race is. It is critical that you take these factors into account when preparing for a 5K run.

The shape you are in and the amount of time you have to train are the two main factors that will determine how much you need to train in any given week for your 5K run. However, if you have any physical impairments, or if you’re just out of shape, you should stick with the training schedule that you set with your doctor, or certified personal trainer. It is important when preparing for a race that you stick to your running schedule.

Rest up: The day before the race, take it easy on yourself and don’t train. You need to give your body a chance to recover from the previous training and store up energy for tomorrow. If at all possible get to bed early and avoid caffeine.

On the day of the race be sure to stay hydrated, remember your goals and have a great time.

During a 5K race, remember your goals and don't try to go faster than what you've trained for.
During a 5K race, remember your goals and don't try to go faster than what you've trained for.

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Discussion Comments


Oasis11-I can not agree more. Spend money on running sneakers is a must. Running is not like walking. You will impact your joints significantly, so you need to provide your legs and feet the added support of proper shoes.

Also, it is important to maintain proper posture when running. Maintaining proper posture will not allow you to develop back pain as a result.

Sometimes if you are arched over for enough of the time, you might develop an upper back pain that is difficult to subside. The proper shoes will also help because they will make it easy for you to maintain the proper running form.


Sunshine31-I think that you have to remember to take two days off a week and have the right sneakers before you get started.

Runner’s sneakers tend to have a thicker heel for added support. When you run, your legs are supporting your entire body weight so it is important to protect your feet.

If you go to a sporting goods store like Sports Authority, the shoes will be labeled for running.

Try a couple of pairs on to see which fit the best. Having the wrong shoes will cause the bottom of your feet to hurt while you run and you will not be able to finish the race because of the pain.

The proper shoes provide the right amount of shock absorption that allow you to comfortably continue your running strides with no problem. Then you will be ready for the Firecracker 5k run.


Moldova-I love Runner’s World. It also gives you training tips as well as nutritional information on how to eat while training for a race.

There is information for beginning runners as well as more experienced runners. The forums are great because you can ask experienced runners questions about shoes and their training plans.

I go there to get training plans. They have a 5k, 10k run plans as well as the half marathon and marathon training plans.

What surprised me about the 5k training plans is that a novice runner that has no experience running could actually be able to run a 5k after you follow a basic 5k training plan. That is really an accomplishment to be able to go from the couch to 5k run.


The best way to get started in 5k run events is to sign up for the office 5k run that should be at least 2 months in advance.

You can also sign up for a 5k charity run, but it has to be at least 2 months out if you are active, and about four months out if you are not.

It is also a good idea to find a friend to run with because there will be days that you will not want to run and this way your friend can keep you motivated.

There are also forums that you can check to get motivated about the race. Runner’s World is about the best site out there for runners and it includes 5k run training tips along with information on the Disney 5k run, the Disneyland 5k run, and the Jingle Bell 5k run.

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