5 Things I Learned Running My First 5K

Authored by: Dr. Thomas Schuler

Running a 5k for the first time can seem really intimidating if you aren’t sure what to expect. Before I participated in the National Spine Health Foundation’s first We’ve Got Your Back Race, I envisioned starting next to extreme athletes and coming in last. What I didn’t realize, though, is how far from the truth that is. Running a 5k is an empowering experience and you can’t help but reflect on the journey getting to the starting line. There were a lot of things I learned the first time I completed a 5k, but here are the most notable lessons.


It’s natural to be nervous before running 3 miles, especially after spinal surgery. I had a lot of fear that I would come in last, or that I would hurt myself. I quickly realized, however, that running this particular 5k isn’t about placement – there will always be someone that finishes before me and someone that finishes last. That’s not the point of the race, however. Running by itself can be pretty boring, but running for a cause means you are joining hundreds of others that have come together with the same goal – helping people.  It’s hard to feel nervous when you realize your entire reason for participating is to help others. You run for them and you run for yourself.


It’s hard to pace yourself when you have adrenaline running through your veins, but 3.1 miles is a long way! Rather than giving it all you’ve got within the first hundred yards, try using a watch to keep track of how fast you’re going. It’s also important to understand you’ll need energy for that third mile because you’ll likely be going much slower by that time.  The faster runners are great motivators to push yourself, but you know your body better than anyone so find a comfortable pace and stick with it.


I cannot stress this one enough. Walk if you need to! Walk the whole time if you want to. Don’t let the ‘race’ aspect deter you from signing up because we have people that run, walk, or do a combination of both. Even the fastest runners need to pull over and take walking breaks along the way. Do what feels right for you, but don’t sit on the bench!


Don’t stop moving once you cross the finish line. Keep walking for several minutes to cool down, and make sure you drink plenty of water to rehydrate. Stay on your feet as much as possible because this will help you avoid cramps and post-workout soreness. Make sure you spend a few minutes stretching also – your body will need some TLC!


The experience at a We’ve Got Your Back Race is unlike any other. You hear the collecting pounding of the shoes around you, gathered together for a common goal. You’ll hear the cheers of your supporters – friends, family, volunteers – encouraging you to keep going and push yourself. Listen to some fun music, encourage the people around you, and give it everything you’ve got. You’ll never forget your first 5k!

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