Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Race for a Cause

By Brianne Harrison

I ran my very first 5K this weekend. I didn’t really know what to expect when I signed up—I did it because I wanted a challenge, and because I wanted to support the race’s charity (animal shelters). With a mid-May date, I figured the weather would be nice, and this would be a good opportunity to get out, work out, and do some good, all in one fell swoop.

I should probably say that I’m not particularly athletic. When I was in grade school, I wasn’t even capable of running a full mile without stopping to walk from time to time. But since then I’ve started going to the gym and hitting the elliptical, so I figured I’d gotten to the point where I could handle a 5K. I trained for a few weeks on the treadmill, but to be honest, my only goal was not embarrassing myself. Thankfully, I didn’t—I did much better than I expected, and perhaps more importantly, I had a really great time doing it.

I can see now why people get addicted to these races—they’re fun! Although Sunday’s weather wasn’t as cooperative as we’d hoped, a certain party atmosphere reigned. The group was very mixed—all ages, all fitness levels—and there was no pressure. We weren’t there for glory (well, most of us weren’t) or to show off, we were there to raise money for a good cause and get a bit of a workout in. People brought their dogs and their baby joggers; most ran, but some walked, and that was fine. You don’t have to be an athlete to participate in these.

Once the good weather hits, it seems like there’s a 5K a week (usually several, actually), so if you’re so inclined to try one out, chances are there’s one near you coming up soon. You can even pick and choose your charities—there are 5K’s in support of animals, autism and all kinds of cancer research, and local organizations. Not sure how to prep? Here’s what I did:

1. Get some training in at least a few weeks in advance. I started off running on the treadmill, gradually working up from 2 miles to 3.5 (which is slightly longer than a 5K distance), about three weeks before my race. If you’re not used to running, start at 1 mile and work your way up.
2. Get off the treadmill and run outside a few times. Running on terrain is much different from running on the treadmill, and you’ll want to get used to the feeling. If you have any old injuries or body parts that give you trouble, you’ll want to make sure your body’s up for this as well.
3. Get a good music playlist together. This may not be for everyone, but many runners had their iPods going. I personally find music very motivating and created a playlist of upbeat songs with motivating lyrics especially for the race. A great song you may not have thought of? Benny Goodman’s Sing, Sing, Sing. This one starts off my playlist perfectly and always brings a smile to my face.

Have any training tips or favorite tunes? Feel free to comment. My next race will probably be the 5K in Stockton on June 7. Hope to see some of you there!

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