The total screw-up’s guide to running your first 5K


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Have you always wanted to run a 5K but never seem to have the time to train? Need some advice? Well, you’ve come to the right place! I recently ran the Orange Blossom 5K, my first race ever, in Haines City, Fla., and, as your fearless fitness reporter, I’m here to share the secrets of my success. You’re welcome.

Sign up for a race that is totally inconvenient! Say, one that falls smack in the middle of two weddings and a family reunion with your in-laws and requires you to fly to the location. All that anxiety-induced adrenaline will help you run super-duper fast on race day!

For some crazy reason, I thought that if I signed up for a 5K in the midst of all this chaos, the trip my husband and I were taking to visit my in-laws would be less stressful. Plus, when I signed up, I had nearly two whole months to train! Plenty of time, right?

Training? Bah! Totally succumb to your exhaustion and stress whenever possible. Let that hamster wheel of depression and anxiety spin in your brain while you maturely ignore the approaching race. You’ll be fine!

The screw-up's post-race selfie/Photo by Jessica MendezAs race day approached, the demands of life, coupled with really terrible weather, laid the foundation on which I piled my mounting dread, not just for running a race but also for attending two massive social events and a plethora of more intimate gatherings. Anxiety is the actual worst.

What did help? I found some time to strength train and do yoga. I also relied on my knowledge from prior training, including interval runs with programs like Tone it Up and Zombies 5K, to keep me going. Every little bit helps.

Feeling a little anxious in the last few days before the race? Hydrate — and by hydrate, I mean drink plenty of alcohol and coffee. Go on, that bottle of rosé isn’t going to drink itself!

Yeah, not wise. I think I left my self-care toolkit in the overhead compartment of the plane. For the love of God, drink water. That’s a requirement for proper functioning every day, as is proper nutrition. Check out some of these runners’ choices for pre-run fuel, and try to find what works for you well before race day. On the day of the race, a Kind bar, water and a sports drink were exactly the pick-me-ups I needed.

Always train alone. Never rely on any support. This will totally not make it awkward when you find out that you’re not only running with a friend but also as her running partner, too.

I am a lone wolf when I run, but seeing two people who train together run in almost perfect synchronicity, leaving you behind, did feel kind of awkward. I’m not saying you have to run with someone all the time or that you need to sign up for a running group, but if you do sign up for a race with a buddy, try to get an idea of their rhythm and pacing. At least go for a trial run with them. And look, if you do get left behind, remember your own victories. I used to run without my glasses on because I was afraid of seeing people staring at me, an insecurity brought on by merciless schoolyard teasing and unsolicited comments from others about my body. On race day, my glasses were on, and my head was up, proud of my progress. And when I rounded the final corner and saw my friend standing there, waiting to run the last bit with me, it made me appreciate her that much more.

Wear a fleece hoodie. On a sunny Florida day. You’ll sweat out all the crap you’ve been ingesting, right?

Uh, no. Layer the right way, guys, based on the weather you’ll encounter during your run. If you’re traveling, pack wisely. Make sure your outfit is both comfortable and functional. Other than the fleece hoodie, which I stripped off a little more than halfway through the race, the rest of my outfit was perfect. Everything I wore had been thoroughly road tested on many runs and workouts, so I knew I'm really in it for the barbecue/Photo by Jessica Mendezthey wouldn’t fail me come race day. My C9 by Champion sports bra kept the ta-tas in check, and my Old Navy High Rise Compression Leggings wicked away sweat, kept my thighs a chub-rub-free zone, all without a hint of underwear bunching or rolling, a major feat for a big-bellied babe like myself. I also wore my favorite tank from Chin Up Apparel which I knew would not bunch or twist. And, not even kidding, so many people, myself included, were wearing Asics sneakers you would have thought they had sponsored the race.

Okay, so I screwed up. I didn’t train properly, nor did I treat my body kindly, which made the run harder for me, but I also didn’t give up. I did nourish myself on race day. I used the knowledge I’ve gained as a runner and a reporter to help me through the race, and all things considered, my final time of 38:43 wasn’t too shabby. Plus, runners were rewarded with a medal and some excellent barbecue grub afterward.

Trust me, I have learned my lesson and am being much more proactive when it comes to training and self-care. I now have my medal proudly displayed in my living room, and my training for the next race, which has yet to be determined, has already begun.


Remember to check with a medical professional before getting started on any new training of your own.