Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
I’ve been participating in road races on and off for the better part of 10 years— a handful of marathons, countless half marathons and an Ironman. But, this summer was my first 5K—sounds kind of backwards, right?
I’ve avoided 5Ks for a multitude of reasons. I convinced myself it was a waste of time and effort to run a race that lasted less than 30 minutes and felt it never “fit” into my marathon training plan. But I was also just flat out scared to run hard for 3.1 miles.
After my spring marathon, I vowed to overcome my fear of the unknown and sign up and race a 5K. It was exciting and excruciating at the same time. But it was a great experience and I have every intention of running a 5K every couple of months.
Here are 5 reasons why you should sign up for a 5K:
A 5K CAN fit into any training plan.
The beauty of a 5K is that no real taper is needed. You can still do your speed workout early in the week and have a couple of days to recover before the 5K over the weekend. You can schedule the 5K for a cutback week. If you run a couple of warmup and cool down miles, you can still get 8-10 miles in. Additionally, the recovery period of a 5K is short—maybe a day or two of easy running and you can get right back into your training for whatever your goal distance that may be.
Most 5Ks are small, local races. This means several things: quick drive to the start (or as in the case of my 5K—one block away from my home!), little to no crowding on roads, low cost (often less than $20), small number of participants (which = higher chance of placing in age group or overall) and easy access to parking. And there’s a good chance the proceeds from the race are supporting a local cause.
Show up, warmup, race, cool down—all in less than the time you would run 10 miles. You don’t have to block off much more than 60-90 minutes for the 5K from start to finish. Plus there’s no hassle with carbo-loading, tapering, and nutrition before or after the race.
You get to run fast.
Regardless of how fast or slow you (think you) are, it’s fun to run harder and faster than get to do in training. They are a nice change of pace from long, slow runs. And you can use the 5k as a gauge to measure your fitness and see if you are on track with training.
Anyone can run.
Young or old, beginner runner or veteran runner, fast or slow—it doesn’t matter. The 5k is a race for everyone. And most 5Ks I have heard of allow strollers, which is a definite perk for running parents! It’s a great way to race, spend some time with the running community, and just have fun. Although if you are going after a PR, the fun likely doesn’t come until you cross the finish line.