I can still remember the summer I ran my very first 5k. Although I had been physically active for years doing everything from step aerobics to country line dancing classes (think early 90’s), I was very intimidated by the idea of signing up for an official road race. I was out in Colorado for the summer for a six-week training and a group of my friends had decided to train for this 5k as a way to stay in shape over the summer. I was reluctant to sign up because I considered myself a terrible runner, but peer pressure finally won out.
I don’t remember a lot about my training that summer. I know that I would get up 3-4 mornings a week and walk/run a loop around the campus of Colorado State University, eventually walking less and running more. I also don’t remember much about the race except being passed by a lady pushing a stroller but I do remember feeling incredibly proud of myself for finishing it.
Reflecting back on what kept me from signing up for a 5k until I was finally cajoled into it by a group of friends, I can identify 5 myths that had always kept me from signing up.
Everyone will be faster than me. I had certain visions of everyone at the race running like an Olympian and the race being over with everyone long gone by the time I hit the finish line. The announcer would pitifully smile at me with relief that he could finally pack up and leave. This could not have been further from the truth. What I learned that day was in amateur competition you’ll find everything from very elite athletes to walkers. Everyone has a different goal for the day and there’s a sense of camaraderie around the event.
I have to be able to run 3.1 miles to sign up. When I first started running, 3.1 miles seemed like an eternity to run. I never signed up for a race because I wasn’t certain I could run that full distance. The reality is that at most road races, at least a third to a half of the people will walk at some point on the course. Walking isn’t always a bad thing. Fast forward a few years to a half-marathon I was running. I was determined to run every step and I did but I noticed a woman who was using a run/walk program who would run ahead of me and then I would pass when she walked. She actually ended up finishing before I did because her runs were faster with her little walk breaks.
I’m the only one who will be nervous. Most people feel some sort of nerves when they are doing an event for the first time. It’s completely normal. I recommend giving yourself a little extra time before the race to line up for the porta potty in case you get a case of the ‘nervous pee’.
I don’t have the time to train like (insert name of anyone you are comparing yourself to). The summer I trained for my first 5k, my friend was training for her first marathon. I watched her spend hours every weekend out running and then build in long training runs during the week. In my mind, that’s how a ‘real’ runner trained. I later realized that you can get started with just 25-30 minutes a day 3-4 days a week.
I don’t have the right gear. Just like any other hobby, once people get started it seems like there’s a uniform that everyone has to have, even runners. A certain outfit, a fancy water bottle, wireless earbuds (back then it was a walkman) and certain shoes. The reality is all you need to get started is a good pair of shoes (to avoid injury) and some loose fitting clothing that moves with you. Don’t put off training until you have everything you think you need.
It’s been about 15 years since that first 5k. Since then I’ve completed 10ks, half-marathons, triathlons and even an Ironman. Every time I take on a new challenge, some of those same old hesitations that I felt when I signed up for that first 5k will creep into the back of my mind. I’ve learned over the years a lot more about how to train and even more about how to believe in my abilities. I can honestly say, that 5k was the first step to many adventures.
So what’s holding you back? Maybe it’s time you set aside those excuses and signed up for your first road race!