Every year at Illinois State University, we kick off Homecoming Saturday with the Town and Gown 5K and 1-Mile Fun Run/Walk. If you’re not a runner, it may sound counterintuitive to celebrate something by running. However, the 5K is a great time to reconnect with old friends, meet new ones, and challenge yourself with something you’ve maybe never done before. While we encourage our participants to set goals and work to reach them, we also want you to know that this is a 5K run and walk, meaning you can run some of the distance and walk the rest, or you can walk the entire distance. Whatever works best for you works best for us. Check out the course for yourself too.

Now if you’re asking yourself, “What is a K, and how come there are 5 of them?” then you’ve come to the right place. While a 5K run/walk may seem out of reach for many, there are very simple, practical ways to train for one that will both protect you from injury and increase your overall endurance.

A 5K run is five kilometers, or, 3.1 miles. If that sounds like a lot, that’s okay! The Homecoming 2019 Town and Gown 5K is scheduled for October 26, and that’s plenty of time to go from being someone who doesn’t like running to someone who still doesn’t like it but can brag about running a 5K to their friends. We’re kidding. Sort of. This plan won’t guarantee you will suddenly love going for a run, but if you follow it, you’ll ease yourself into being able to run at a pace or distance you never thought possible.

It may be tempting to lace up your shoes, step outside, and run until the stitch in your side has you thinking about getting an Uber back home, but there is a better way. Any good plan for a beginner is going to be a mix of running and walking. We are specifically going to be looking at the 7-week schedule Olympian Jeff Galloway created, which was designed to prevent injury and ease your body into running for longer stretches of time.

Essentially, it looks like this:

  • Monday: Run/walk 30 minutes
  • Tuesday: Walk 30 minutes
  • Wednesday: Run/walk 30 minutes
  • Thursday: Walk 30 minutes
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Run/walk anywhere from two to 4.5 miles
  • Sunday: Rest or walk

On the run/walk days, you will run for 15 seconds then walk for 45 seconds until you reach your 30 minutes. You’ll do this for weeks one and two. For weeks three and four, you’ll run for 20 seconds and walk for 40. For weeks 5 and 6, you’ll run for 25 seconds and walk for 35. On week seven, you’ll run for 30 seconds and walk for 30.

Most training plans follow a similar format, you run a certain distance, then you walk a certain distance. Eventually, you’re able to run longer than you walk. How much you run at first will just depend on where you’re at and what you feel comfortable doing.

No matter the plan you’re following, you should always stick to a few basic rules:

  1. Drink plenty of water
  2. Warm muscles up before running, ideally with some dynamic stretches (lunges, high knees, etc.)
  3. Get rest. Any exercise routine requires your body be able to rest and recover
  4. Push yourself, but don’t hurt yourself

There are hundreds of other sources on the subject, and we encourage you to find a plan that works for you. Our hope is you come away knowing with a little work, some grit, and, if you sign up before September 26, a free T-shirt, the Homecoming 5K is absolutely something you can do.

The Town and Gown 5K and 1-Mile Fun Run/Walk is on Saturday, October 26 at 8 a.m. Sign up before September 26 for the $15 early bird registration. After September 26, the price increases to $20. The 1-Mile Fun Run/Walk price is $10. Participants will meet outside the Student Fitness Center. Visit the Homecoming Town and Gown 5K website for more details.