Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

Durham, NC has had a stay-at-home order since March 26th. Around the same time we started sheltering-in-place, spring sprung. The combination of the weather, gyms being closed, people going stir-crazy inside, and combatting stress and the COVID-19(lbs.) has pushed people outdoors; and many are thinking about becoming runners.

Since there are rarely races shorter than a 5K (3.1 miles), that’s usually the goal distance for new runners. But just because it’s short (relatively), doesn’t mean it’s easy.

I’ve always thought that 5Ks were hard. Heck, I’ve always thought that running is hard. But I didn’t realize that even elite runners felt that way until I spectated at The Indie 5k, which is a race that happens during a huge conference and trade show for running specialty retailers. I expected some pretty fast and serious runners on the course. And I was right. The winner finished in 15 minutes and 11 seconds (that’s a pace of 4:53/mile). What I did not expect was the huffing and puffing, the pained looks on faces, and the conversations I had and overheard about how hard 5Ks are.

I was shook.

Since then, I’ve talked to runners who are much faster and more fit than I am, and everyone agrees: 5Ks are hard. Why? I think it’s all about energy management. It’s too long to sprint, but it’s not so long that you have to carbo-load or strategically hydrate and fuel. It’s short enough that you can blast through the finish line, but if you’re able to maintain that final push too far beyond that, you didn’t give enough the other 3 miles.

Why am I writing about this? I thought about making this a metaphor for getting through a tough time at work, at home, during a pandemic, etc. But really, I just want to let all you new runners out there in on the secret so that you don’t get discouraged: 5Ks are hard and you should be proud of yourself for training for and running one.

Here are some resources to get started:


Get some good running shoes! I recommend you get them from your local independently-owned running store. And since you likely can’t get fit for them in person right now, I also recommend you call them to chat about your needs so that they can suggest a good shoe for you. (I also really like Road Runner Sports’ Fit Finder.)

You’ll also need some good socks. My favorite brands are Balega and Stance.

And maybe inserts/insoles. I wear Currex.

Beyond footwear, you’ll find your preferred running gear through trial and error. It’s very personal.

Training Plans

Couch to 5K is very popular for getting started and a Google search will bring up a ton of options in different formats.

Jeff Galloway’s plans are great for everyone, but especially helpful for beginners, since he does run/walk intervals. (I actually run/walk all the time. Every race, every distance, with the exception of Beer Miles and track relays.)

I haven’t personally tried it, but have heard great things about the podcast, Run, Selfie, Repeat with Kelly Roberts.

Fitness Trackers

I’m a huge fan of Garmin. I went through two pretty basic running watches before finally upgrading to a watch that I wear all the time, including on my runs. The Garmin Connect app is great for storing your data (and it stays in there, even when you upgrade watches).

And then there’s Strava, which is fitness tracker-meets-social network. There are challenges to keep you motivated, and the app makes it easy and fun to find running routes.

Happy running!

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