If there are two things that I’ve always hated as a nerd, It’s running, and unfamiliar situations. This weekend, I took a big step forward in conquering both of those
fears No, that’s not the right word…Neuroses maybe? anyway, I completed my first 5k.
Now, there are a LOT of guides out there with a LOT of advice for people getting ready to do their first 5k, but most of them assume the reader has some modicum of knowledge about the athletic world. This was my first organized sporting event since a failed attempt at playing on my Jr. High’s volleyball team in 1998. I am as clueless as you can get. The other problem I ran into is that the guides I found were clearly written by people who are comfortable and experienced with being in a large group setting. As someone who has struggled with social anxiety my whole life, it would have been nice to have some more clear details on what to expect, so that I wouldn’t have been so nervous.
I have decided to compose a list of the top 5 or whatever things a Nerd should know before doing their first race.
5K Tips for Nerds (By a Nerd!)
Tip #1: hydration
While this may seem like a no-brainer to people who did sports growing up, I had no idea that you need to do all your hydration the night before your race. Apparently the water you drink the day of your run doesn’t do much other than make you need to use the gross porta pottys they have at the event way more times than you will want to. Drink a butt ton of water the night before, and get in your electrolytes too. If you don’t want to go spend money on gross sugary drinks, may I recommend my recipe for Scooterade?
Tip #2: bathrooms
If you are like me and get skeeved out by using a regular public restroom, right now you are probably thinking that there is no way in hell that you are using a porta potty on site at a race. I have some bad news for you: No matter how close to leaving your house you pee, you are going to have to go at the race. Remember all that water you drank last night? Well it has worked its way through your system, and is ready to come out. I have a huge bladder, and hate public restrooms so much I would rather rupture my bladder than use a public toilet most days, but I had to pee twice before the start. Between nerves and a full bladder, you might as well accept your fate. Don’t worry, they should have a hand washing station, or hand sanitizer outside the johns. Just grit your teeth and nut up.
Tip #3: Running buddies
There is one sure fire thing that can make a new experience less intimidating, for me at least. That thing is having friends do it with you. If your friends have done a race before, and are a little faster than you, all the better. I went to this run with my sister-in-law, and a work friend. My sister-in-law is an amazon, and split off and did the 8k (and finished a couple minutes before us dammit). My other friend and I stuck together during the 5k, and while I think I held her back a bit, she really helped push me into working harder than I would have otherwise. Thanks to her, and the adrenaline of the start, I finished the first mile in 12 minutes…a personal best! Friends can also help distract you from how much running sucks.
Tip #4: Clothing
The next thing I say to you is very, very, very important. Are you ready? Ok. So, if your race is anything like mine, there will likely be people dressed up in silly outfits My race was for St Patrick’s day, so I’m sure you can imagine some of the outfits. Now, if you feel the need to combine your love of cosplay with your running experience, more power to you! However (this is the important part I was telling you about), do not, I repeat do not wear shoes you aren’t used to running in. You will get cramps, and blisters, and sore feet, and it isn’t worth it. The morning of my race, I decided to wear my black and neon yellow running shoes, even though I hadn’t worn them in months, because they matched my shirt better. It took me less than a mile to regret that decision. I got a small cramp in my calves, sore arches, and shins, and had a blister when I got home. Not worth it. I still think that if I’d worn my trusty blue shoes, I could’ve shaved a couple minutes off my time.
Tip # 5: smile!
When you cross that finish line, you are going to be tired, sweaty, and breathing like an asthmatic on a smoke break. I don’t care. As you approach the finish line, I want you to listen to the crowd, soak in the good vibes, spot the photographer inevitably crouched on the sidelines, and give him or her your best smile. Trust me. You may think to yourself, “I don’t have time to pose, I’m finishing a race here!” you are wrong. Otherwise, your prized finishing shot will look like this (shudder), and no one wants that.
Holy shit, congratulations! You did it! Now, take a moment and bask in the good feelings! I almost broke down and started crying when I crossed the finish line because I couldn’t believe that I had actually done it. A year ago, I wouldn’t have even thought of setting a goal to run a 5k, and here I was approaching the finish line at a run! I finished in 42:31, and couldn’t be prouder. No matter what time you get, or how long you spend actually running, any time you get on your 5k will be your best time yet, and a far better time than if you’d never tried, and is something to be proud of! When I got home, the first thing I did was put my bib in a frame. It is in a proud place of honor next to our collection of Doctor Who art, and autographed MC Frontalot poster, and I smile every time I look at it. All day after the race, all I could think was “I did it! I did it!“
Bonus bonus tip: Stretch
After your race, all you are going to want to do is collapse on a couch, but you need to resist unless you like crippling charlie horses. Make yourself drink another butt ton of water, and Stretch it out. I hate it when people say to stretch it out. Everyone says stretching is important, but until the day of the race, no one ever showed me what to do. Well, I’m saying it now, so here’s what to do. Also, I recommend going for a walk or bike ride to cool off. You’ll be glad you did! Now, you’ll be sore the next day, but make yourself go for another walk, and it will help!
I hope that these tips will help you out as you prepare for your first 5k!
No matter how sore you are, just remember how good it felt to cross that finish line. I’m already prepping for my second run in May. I’m shooting to shave 5 minutes off my time! I’m also hoping to be able to do The Oatmeal’s Beat the Blerch 10k in Washington September 21st! I turn 30 on the 25th, and can’t think of a better way to say goodbye to my 20s!
Hang in there, and, Remember: