Mistakes 5k First Timers Make (And How to Avoid Them)


According to Running USA, more than 7 million people completed a US 5k in 2015. Wow!

Engine 2 Virtual 5kWith fun runs, themed races, inflatables, virtual races and other great ideas making completing a 5k an attainable goal for almost everyone, it’s understandable if you’re excitedly waiting for your opportunity to jump in and complete an event. First timers are welcome at many events, and you’ll find that the running, run/walking and walking communities are extremely supportive.

Following This Advice Can Help You Have a Successful First 5k

I’ve run many 5ks over the years, and we’ve had many great people around the world complete our Plant-Strong Virtual 5k so far this summer (registration is still open if you’d like to participate!). I’ve noticed some common mistakes among first timers that are easy to avoid. Here are some mistakes to avoid so you stay on track:


  • Skipping training. “It’s only about 3 miles, right?” Three miles doesn’t seem like a lot compared to a half marathon or marathon, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need proper training. Training for any race can help prevent injuries and ensure you feel your best on race day. There are many free training resources available – in our Plant-Strong Virtual 5k group, people are finding a lot of success using the Couch 2 5k app from Zen Labs. The Zombies, Run! App is also a favorite among the E2 team. Both are free apps that make training a cinch (typically, you’ll want to give yourself about 8 weeks to train for a 5k if you’re starting from scratch).
  • Not getting the right shoes. I can’t stress this highly enough – whether you are just starting out or are a savvy veteran, the right shoes are essential. When you’re in the regular shoe store, it can be tempting to pick out the nicest-looking pair and call it a day, but poor fitting shoes can lead to injuries or at a minimum, blisters and an uncomfortable training and running experience. Most towns have specialty running stores – find one in your town and seek them out. Often, they’ll not only measure your feet, but watch you walk or run on a treadmill and gain extra insight into what type of sneaker will best support your feet and help you run and feel your best.
  • Skipping recovery. When you’re just starting out, it can be tempting to get out there and run every day, or to really push yourself. While your enthusiasm warrants admiration, recovery time is a critical part of your training. When you’re starting out, you should aim to run (or run/walk) 3 times a week. Easy walks, swimming or biking can be nice activities to stay active in between training runs, but give yourself at least one full day of rest a week to ensure your body has adequate time to rest and repair. And remember, whenever you start a new activity or training program, talk to your doctor!
  • Focusing on your finish time. Sure, 5ks are technically “races,” but don’t worry about your finish time for your first 5k. Focus on treating your body properly, following your training plan and most of all, enjoying the process. Running is a great way to boost your health and live your best plant-strong life, but it’s also supposed to be FUN! Stressing about your finish time will take away from the fun. At least for your first race, don’t stress about pacing. Just take it all in and do your best.
  • Starting too fast. You’ve trained for weeks and now the day is here. You might be tempted to push yourself out of the gate at your max speed. This is a common mistake even some 5k veterans make, but for first timers in particular it can be dangerous. You don’t want to risk burning yourself out in the first mile! Start off nice and easy, and if you’re feeling especially strong in the last half mile or so of your 5k, consider ramping it up. But sticking to your pace throughout can help you feel your best during — and after — your first 5k.


I hope that your first 5k will launch a lifetime of fun times running or run/walking. Whether you stick to 5ks or branch out into 10ks, half marathons, marathons or even triathlons, your first race experience will make a major impact on your experiences down the road. Avoid these mistakes and you’ll be in great shape!