So, you’ve bought the running shoes, you’ve downloaded the Couch to 5K app and you’ve done some training. Now what? I’m here to convince you that signing up for a local 5K race is the best next step. Running a local race is great for you and great for your community. Here are four reasons you should run a local 5K race:
Reason 1: The 5K is a great beginner distance
I like to say that small 5K races are the gateway drug of running. Many new runners use Couch to 5K programs, with running a 5K race as the ultimate goal at the end of the program. Naturally, it’s often the first race that most runners complete.
I ran my first 5K on July 4th, 2014 and it was nothing like I expected. The race wound through a local neighborhood, and everyone was out cheering along the course. Homeowners sat outside in lawn chairs with their own tables of “refreshments” (AKA BEER!). Some were spraying runners with hoses while runners cheered the local kids to hit them with their water guns. (It had been a hot morning and the water was welcome.) The sense of community was so overwhelming, and I was in a very lonely point in my life at the time. I absolutely fell in love.
Though I had struggled to run the last mile of that 5K, and ended up limping in at almost 36 minutes, I finished that race with a huge smile on my face. The atmosphere was addicting! I had few friends at that time in my life, and the welcoming, smiling community kept me coming back.
Reason 2: The 5K race can be the most challenging
While the 5K is considered by some to be a beginner distance, it’s also an amazing challenge for seasoned runners.
After running dozens of 5K races, I’ve found that it is ridiculously hard to have a new personal best at this race distance. Having a window of only 3.1 miles to run faster, running a mile even 5 seconds faster, equals only a 15 second personal best. That leaves so little room for error. A hilly race? A windy race? A night without good sleep or a morning with high humidity, those factors matter so much more when you have that small of a window to run.
For example, my personal best on a 5K is over two years old. Being in South Texas near the Texas Hill Country, our 5K races often have large hills and high humidity. My personal best? I ran a completely flat 5K in Topeka, Kansas on an airport tarmac at 35 degrees. Optimal conditions! And while I’ve continued to train for years, and have PR’ed all my other distances, this has remained my best 5K time.
Overall, because of the shorter distance of the 5K race and how many factors can affect your day-to-day running, 5Ks can be one of the hardest distances to achieve a new personal best if you have been running for a while.
Reason 3: The local running community
Lots of folks meeting new running friends from training groups. Honestly, I prefer to train on my own most of the time. I tend to run too fast when I’m in a group setting. That’s not the type of training I need most of the time.
I also have a lot of social anxiety. It takes a lot for me to go out and meet new people. And local races really helped me come out of my shell. Being really active on Instagram, I recognized a lot of runners at races and that really helped me strike up conversations with new people. And you already have something in common! RUNNING!
Seriously, I’ve made so many friends just from attending local races. And when races were canceled? We ran our virtual races together! At a socially acceptable distance, of course.
Reason 4: Run local, shop local, support local communities
As much as becoming a part of a community is one of my favorite parts of being a runner, I like to give back too. There are many race companies that travel from city to city and put together some epically large races that are quite enjoyable. They are definitely worth a run. However, the races that mean the most to me are “Homegrown”. Local races put on by local folks that help local causes along the way.
For example, one of my favorite race series that I do locally is a no-frills no-fuss race. It is timed but has no awards, t-shirts, or medals. It’s $50 for four 5k races throughout the summer and every penny goes towards a free exercise program for underprivileged kids. Each little one has a mentor and runs these races as their goal to their training days. I LOVE these races. It’s nothing fancy but means so much to the local community.
Reasons to Run a 5k: Conclusion
In conclusion, I hope I’ve convinced you to go out and run a local 5K race. It’s such a great distance for both beginners and long time runners, a great introduction into the local running community, and a fantastic way to give back to the local community.
Can’t wait to see you out there!
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