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5 Ways Not to Sabotage Your First 5K

By Blue Cross NC | September 5, 2014 | Health Conditions

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Last October I ran my first 5K. I wish I could tell you that after months of training and planning that the whole thing went off without a hitch, that I had my best personal time, and I blasted through that finish line in a blaze of glory. But it was anything but that.

I’ve never been a runner. The mile run in gym class was the bane of my existence, and until I started working here at BCBSNC and saw how many of my coworkers ran and had fun doing it I had never contemplated running on purpose.

But I decided to bite the bullet anyway. And a weird thing happened: I started enjoying it. Really enjoying it. So when the Desk to 5K Race came up at work, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to test my mettle.

Oh, it was possible. But that didn’t stop me from making some pretty embarrassing mistakes that pretty much sabotaged my first 5K in terms of success. I’ve run other races since with significantly less trouble, so I can tell you first hand, a combination of missteps like this is bound to take any novice down flat.

Here are the five mistakes I made.


I Didn’t Take Time of Day Into Consideration

I had to wake up at 6am to make the race, and then run by 9am. I didn’t think anything of it, but I’d never actually taken a morning run before. I was used to running in the evenings, after a long day of blood sugar ups and downs, lots of warm ups, and mental clarity. I’d never considered what a bad night of sleep (nerves) and an early rise would do to my body. Also it impacted my next issue…


I Didn’t Take My Headphones

When I first started running I couldn’t bear to listen to music. I was so focused on getting my breathing right that any other tempo threw me off. But within a couple of weeks, and as I learned to run longer, music became absolutely necessary. Not only did it make me feel like a super-heroine, but it was a great soundtrack to getting better and stronger. (For the curious it consists mostly of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry — far form my usual fare, but it totally does the trick. If you need some music inspiration, there’s plenty to be had online.)

But on race day, in my hurry to get out the door early, I forgot my headphones. Halfway to the race I realized my error. No music meant that I was distracted by a thousand other things including my own footfalls, people heavy breathing near me, and the general din of the throng. Not good.


I Didn’t Think Smart About Food

Knowing that I have a sometimes fickle stomach, I did a little research on what to eat before hand. Something small, something easy to digest. So I took a granola bar and ate it about an hour before the race.

Apparently, that wasn’t the right choice. Not even a mile in, problems began to arise. The worst part was that it didn’t just upset my stomach, it gave me heartburn. I honestly thought the crowning moment of my first 5K was going to be launching my breakfast on the sidelines while everyone watched. Memorable, yes. Preferable? Not so much. I managed to make it through, but just barely.

I suggest making sure that it’s light, easily digestible, and nutritious. High protein or light carbs is probably a better bet than an oat bar brick I chose. Also, drinking water the day before–even a little extra–will help you keep hydrated, and by extension, keep digestion in top form.


I Didn’t Practice the Route

If you’re a seasoned runner, this probably isn’t a big deal. But every track is different. I was used to running hills, up and down for three miles. I actually had a surprisingly hard time on the rolling hills, mostly because the muscles engaged are a bit different. It was a very, very long 3 miles. While it isn’t always possible to run the exact route, it’s important to vary your training so you’re more prepared. If you know what kind of track the race will be on, find others nearby that are of similar elevation.


I Didn’t Wear My Best Shoes

Shoes. Really, if there’s one big takeaway I’ll get from this experience it’s this: never mess with the shoe magic. I’ve had trouble finding good workout shoes for a long time, and it wasn’t until I discovered the right shoes for me that I could actually manage a long run.

But instead I decided to use a pair of shoes I’d never run in before that I’d recently purchased after a comprehensive fitting. Why? Vanity. Or fashion. Or something. Really, it was just a terribly dumb choice. Just a half a mile in and my feet began to ache and tingle and then as the distance progressed they all out went numb. I was never much of a walk/runner, but I had to walk because I couldn’t feel my feet. And falling flat on my face didn’t seem like a good idea.

The important part is that I finished the race. My time was abysmal, but I learned a whole lot about what to take into consideration when racing for the first time. A few months later, my whole family ran a 5K, and I’m happy to say that even with a stroller and a 7 year old, I beat the time of my first 5K without too much trouble.

Learn from my mistakes. Listen to your body. As the adage goes, “run like you train”. Don’t mess with the magic. There’s nothing saying your first race has to be painless, but with a little thought you can at least insure it’s not completely sabotaged.

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