Spring is here, and runners everywhere are gearing up for road races, which are open to anyone willing to pay the entry fee.
Here are six reasons you should sign up for a 5K today, even if you've never participated in a race — and even if you're not a runner.
They’ll let you in, really
Non-runners sometimes think that runners have an exclusive club with bizarre hazing rituals involving energy gels, discarded toenails and vials of sweat. Actually, most runners moonlight as proselytizers of the sport. They want everyone to run. Maybe not at the front of the line, but they're happy for you to be behind them. Your entry fee, after all, helps pay for their prizes. And the more people run, the happier we’ll all be, since running can erase depression. True, there are a few grumplestiltskins out there who remain sour that amateurs have crashed their party, but most runners respect anyone willing to show up and put in the miles. (For the record, there are 3.2 miles in a 5K, which is the most popular distance race. More than 8 million people finished one in 2014, according to Running USA.)
At some races, you don’t actually have to run.
Plenty of races welcome walkers. In fact, ask enough long-distance runners, and you will find one who will tell you about the time they were passed by a walker in a race while they were running. Sometimes people walk the whole race; other times, they start out running and later walk to the finish. Sometimes people run a few minutes and then walk a few minutes for the duration of the race, a strategy recommended by renowned running coach Jeff Galloway. Whatever gets you to the finish line.
But participating in a 5K will probably make you want to.
Inertia is contagious, and studies have shown that activity can be, too. The more you hang out with other people who like fresh air and movement, the more you’ll want to move. And if you want to run, not walk, a 5K, there are lots of training programs that can get you ready to run one in short order. Some churches even offer “pew to 5K” programs. But remember, running isn’t that complicated. Even 2-year-olds can do it. All you need a good pair of shoes.
You’ll get a free shirt.
Well, yes, technically, it’s not really free, since you probably paid $20 or so to enter the race. But it feels like a gift, like all the free stuff you can collect at the end of the race. Small races, with only a few hundred people, don’t typically offer swag, but the big ones offer a smorgasbord of goodies, in the packets that you get before the race, and many times at the party at the finish. At some post-race parties, you can even get a free massage.
That New Year’s resolution you’ve probably broken.
Remember January? That resolution to lose weight and finally get fit? It’s the No. 1 goal that most people have at the start of the year, and 80 percent of us have given up before Valentine’s Day, U.S. News & World Report says. Registering for a race, however, gives you a reason to climb back on the fitness wagon, guilt-free. To paraphrase Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho, let the future redeem the past. The moment you register for a race, you have committed to being healthier.
They’re the most fun you can have on two legs.
The late running guru Dr. George Sheehan said it’s an entry blank that turns a jogger into a runner. Maybe you don’t care about being either a jogger or a runner. Even so, participating in a 5K is loads of fun. People wear costumes, sometimes juggle while they're running, and everyone’s in a good mood, even more so when it’s over. And there’s a reason they hand out fliers advertising other races at 5Ks: You’ll likely want to sign up for another when you get home.
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