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Thursday, April 17, 2014 | Last updated: 6:19am

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Running towards a fun, healthy life

My Saturday mornings in high school were not spent sleeping in — like those of the average teenager. I spent mine running, screaming and drinking chocolate milk. That is, I ran 5Ks. I ran cross-country throughout my four years of high school, and most of the races were 5Ks. The way my heart would pump before the race started, the adrenaline coursing through my veins, people cheering and screaming along the course, and that last burst of energy that came out of nowhere when I spotted the finish line — all of these are reasons why I love 5Ks.

Just in case you aren’t well-versed in distance lingo, a 5K is approximately 3.1 miles. 5Ks are perfect for racing, jogging and even walking. They are a good way to reach individual fitness goals, stay fit with friends and have fun.

Training for such a race involves at least a few weeks of long runs, tempos and shorter, easier runs — that is, if you plan to race it. Even if you just plan to walk one, you can still prepare by walking for half an hour to an hour every day. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, walking and jogging support bone strength, muscle definition and a healthy heart and lungs — all added benefits of the regular exercise involved in 5K preparation.

If you don’t like the thought of training alone, you can gather some friends and make your own team. Doing this is a good way to have fun, bond more and push each other to perform at your best. The inevitable laughs, random conversations, mood swings and memorable stories that follow are an added plus and all part of the fun of preparing for and running a 5K.

My favorite memories from cross-country came from long runs and race days. The stories and jokes my teammates told each other got our minds off of the longer runs, and losing our voices while screaming for each other on race day was a good, if unusual, way to spend a Saturday morning. Just having people to train and race with made the experience unforgettable.

You don’t have to be a runner to enjoy a 5K, though. This type of race is so versatile that almost anyone can run or walk one. Even if this type of thing isn’t your cup of tea, you can still go out to support the runners and have a good time with other people in the community.

If you’re interested in running a 5K, several take place around Tucson and in the Phoenix area throughout the year. You can simply Google “Tucson 5Ks” and several helpful sites will pop up to help you find the right race for you. The Southern Arizona Road Runners put on several road and trail races throughout the year, and the UA’s own Wildcat Running Club is putting on its “Sprint into Spring Community 5k” on March 8 at the Kennedy Park Fiesta Area.

Why should you run? Because these local 5Ks are a good way to get into or stay in shape, support your community and meet new people. 5Ks provide a good opportunity to have fun and be healthy and to reach individual or group goals. Many involve music, colors or costumes, which can provide the extra motivation to go out and enjoy something you might be hesitant about.

If you have the right attitude and training and you choose the right race for yourself, you can enjoy the experience of participating in a 5K. So, grab your friends or your iPod — and go have some fun!


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