Fall is the perfect time to lace up for a 5k. The weather is crisp and cool and most neighborhoods have at least one, so you don’t have to drive far to get in on the fun. If you are thinking about heading to the start line, here are some tips to get you comfortably to the finish.

Check your gear

  • Although fall mornings are cool you will wamarathonrm up quickly as you approach the first mile. Wear layers so you are comfortable as your body temperature rises.
  • Running shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles. If it is time for a new pair, head to the sports specialty store for shoes that fit your gait. Proper fit can reduce the likelihood of injury and increase comfort – nobody likes blisters
  • Don’t forget sunscreen

Enlist a buddy – any race is more fun when you add a friend. A little friendly competition or interesting conversation along the route will make getting to the finish line feel like a breeze.

Know if the shirt is unisex before you choose your size – Your race shirt is like a wearable trophy you sport with pride. Know if there are unisex or different shirts for women and men so you are more likely to get a shirt that isn’t too big or small.

Excited female breast cancer marathon runners cheering in parkRun for a cause – racing for a reason is a win-win. A health win for you as you  get your heart rate up and a boon for the charity working to raise money and awareness, too.

Check race course and time limits – Newbies may want to sign up for a race on a flat course or without time limits. For example, my local Decatur-DeKalb 4-miler has a 20 minute per mile time limit. Also, read race rules about pets, strollers and headphones. It can be disappointing to train with music only to find it isn’t permitted on the race course.

Eat well – avoid any foods that may cause unpleasant gastrointestinal surprises on race day. Many runners swear by a pasta dinner the night before the race. If you go this route avoid adding too much fat or fiber for best results.

Hydrate well before the race – water is fine.

Grab a snack of protein and carbs soon after you finish the race. Chocolate milk or a slice of cheese with whole grain crackers are good options.

A 5k is a fun way to add variety to your fitness plans. Go for it – no matter where you finish in the pack (leading or bringing up the rear) getting across the finish line makes you a winner.