runners to race to the finish line of the marathonIf you’ve never run or walked a 5K race before, you need to. Statistics from runningusa.org indicate that as of 2012, the 5K (3.1 miles) remained the preferred race distance, with a total of 6.2 million participants. For many of you, the concept of ‘racing’ might seem like an unrealistic goal, especially if you find it hard to maintain any level of movement, let alone speed. The good news is that the 5K is very accommodating of all shapes and ages. No matter what your current fitness, you’ll be well-represented. Besides nondiscrimination, what makes the 5K both appealing and ideal for all fitness levels? Here a five reasons.

  1. They’re Easy to Train For and Not a Huge Time Commitment.

Training for a marathon takes several months, at least, and culminates in a day-long event that requires several weeks to recover from – not so the 5K. Based on your current fitness level, you can successfully prepare for the event in 4-8 weeks, and completing it will take you less than an hour, even if you walk most of it. If you’re not sure where to start, apps like “Couch to 5K”, Runkeeper, Strava, Nike+ Running, and others can help you choose a program and guide you through daily workouts. The Couch to 5K program is especially suited to those who have never run before, since it starts with walking and gradually increases the length of running intervals.

  1. They’re Incredibly Motivating.

 Even the most self-motivated people need specific, time-lined goals to shoot for. Many runners find that having a race every month or two to train for keeps them lacing up their shoes and logging their training miles so they don’t disappoint themselves (or feel miserable) on race day. Pre-registering and paying for a 5K can provide even more motivation, since it puts more than just your commitment to fitness on the line.

  1. They’re Exhilarating.

There’s nothing quite like being surrounded by hundreds of other runners, listening to the cheers of encouraging spectators, and getting swept up in the excitement of participating in a 5K event. For this reason, it’s a good idea to make your first 5K a major one that’s well-sponsored and draws a crowed. Race miles are the easiest miles you’ll ever run, and might even help you forget a little of the sweat, pain and agony of your training. The addictive quality of an exhilarating 5K will have you signing up for your second and third the moment you cross the finish line and provide further motivation to continue your fitness journey.

  1. They’ll Improve Your Fitness.

 Racing provides particular benefits to your fitness, even if you’re already active. Regularly participating in speed-focused events will naturally increase your VO2 max (basically your oxygen efficiency), improve your form, strengthen your muscles, and make walking and running seem easier, overall — not to mention the calories you’ll burn. It’s not uncommon to drastically improve your times within the first few 5Ks you complete.

  1. They’re Fun!

Even if you’re not a huge fan of running, in general, participating in 5Ks can increase your enjoyment of exercise. The interest in 5Ks over the last few years has led to an increase in themed events, so you’re likely to find something that appeals to you. For instance, on the national level, there’s the Color Run, mud runs like the Warrior Dash, the Froyo Run, the Glow Run, and the Ugly Sweater Run just to name a few. Even better, most races support a charitable organization, so you’ll be giving back while getting fit and having fun, and involve the entire family.

These are just a few of the reasons you should run a 5K, but you’ll never know exactly what you’re missing until you try it!