On July 4, 1980, I ran my first 5K or 3.1-mile race at a mall in Alexandria. I had been running for a couple of years and was very nervous, but my older sister encouraged me to give it a try. I learned a great deal from my first experience. If you are considering running a 5K, make it a memorable one by knowing how to prepare.

PRE-RACE PREPARATION

Racing is different from training. If you can run 3.1 miles in training, your goal in a race should be to run faster than your training runs. Prepare to run faster by incorporating some speed play in your workouts, like running faster between light poles or setting your watch and running faster for 30 seconds to a minute.

To ensure a greater degree of success, commit to a daily running schedule. The Internet has a plethora of training schedules for the 5K distance.

Plan your pre-race meals. Since most races are in the morning, I usually have a cup of coffee and a piece of toast with jelly a couple of hours before the race starts. The day before the race, I eat regular meals. Save the carbohydrate loading for marathon runners.

Know the racecourse. In my first race I was surprised to find I was competing for second place overall female. Not knowing the course, I made a sharp turn just before the finish causing me to run off the course and end up in third place. The week before the race, cut your mileage back a little. The day before the race, don’t run at all or jog a mile or two at an easy pace.

RACE DAY

Take an easy jog of five to 10 minutes to warm up before the race. Time the warm-up so that you are finished about five to 10 minutes before the race starts.

Consider carefully what clothing you will wear. Most novice runners overdress, even in cold weather. Remember you will warm up quickly.

Be sure to pin your race number on the front of your shirt, and don’t wear the T-shirt you were given when you registered.

Don’t get on the front row at the start. Get with other runners that will be running about the same speed as you.

Don’t go out too fast and then struggle to finish. Instead, be consistent and pace yourself.

AFTER THE RACE

Cool down afterwards. Take about a five to 10 minute cool-down jog.

Be excited about your finish. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t win a trophy or a medal. Remember your finishing time and strive to run faster in your next race.

In the next few months, Shreveport and the surrounding area will have numerous 5K races in which you can participate. Choose the one that is best for you, put in the training and run a race you will always remember like I did on July 4, 1980. The trophy I won still sits on a shelf at home.

Fitness Tip: For support and encouragement from fellow runners and for information on training, consider joining a running club. Several are available that offer group training runs and social gatherings.