Make 2019 the Year You Run a 5K. Here’s How to Get Started

Elite marathon runner and yoga instructor Amanda Nurse shares her running journey, and some tips to help any beginner get started.


Running for me hasn’t always been a passion. The act of lacing up my sneakers and taking a half hour to let my mind wander used to feel like work. Having been a multi-sport athlete my entire life, running was always a means of getting in-shape to excel in another activity. I never ran for fun. In fact, I found it really challenging, both physically and mentally, to run more than a couple miles at a time. The first time I went for a run just to RUN, I had recently moved to a new city and didn’t know my way around, or how to use the public transportation. I decided navigating by foot was a great way to learn the lay of the land.

I had no plan as to how far I would go, what speed I would run, or where I would go, I just put one foot in front of the other and focused on the new scenery. I felt this rush of adrenaline (also known as runner’s high) and wanted more. I got home, and realized I felt energized and accomplished. And it was so easy—no gym membership or expensive equipment required… Which was perfect for a recent college grad like myself! My head felt clearer, I felt satisfied and I wanted more.

A few months later I witnessed the start of Boston Marathon training. There were so many runners, all bundled up and running in groups. It looked like fun. I thought, what better way to meet new people than to join a charity team and take on this huge goal of running 26.2 miles together?! It was a HUGE leap from where I was fitness-wise at the time, but I realized I needed to take a chance, to do something that was far outside my comfort zone, and embrace the challenge.

Finding the Groove

That was a pivotal moment in my life. Joining a team of runners and training for a marathon opened my eyes to what running can do for not just the body, but for the mind. My full-time job was in-patient social work; although I loved helping others, the work was mentally draining and I lacked the necessary self-care needed to succeed professionally. Running filled that role. Three times a week I would run afterwork to de-stress, and on the weekends I would meet up with hundreds of other runners to complete our long run. Fast forward 10 years, and running (and inspiring others to run) has not only kept me in shape, but it led me to my now-husband, and has become my career, my passion, and is central to my life.

Fun fact: My now-husband, Ian Nurse, is a chiropractor and owner of Wellness in Motion Boston. You never know where a running practice will take you! 

Becoming a Professional

It was after running a marathon with a personal best of 2:40, and qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials that I left my job and decided to pursue a career in athletics. I was getting lots of coaching requests from my Instagram followers and other runners in the Boston area who had been following my rise to elite marathoning. I ran a 3:26 in my first marathon—dedication and hard work allowed me to improve significantly. People see this improvement and think, “If she can do it, maybe I can, too.”

I am now a health and wellness professional, doing personal run coaching, teaching yoga for athletes classes, and inspiring others through my social media platform. I lead runs for Wanderlust, and am an adidas running ambassador. I’ve coached over 35 runners to new PRs from the 5K to marathon distance, and my business is continuing to grow. I incorporate Yoga for Athletes into training because its the stretching and mindfulness that many runners neglect!

5 Tips for New Runners

Start with small, manageable goals.
The most successful outcomes will be when you set attainable short-term goals, which will in turn get you to your larger, long-term goal. For example, if you haven’t run more than 1/2 mile continuously before, maybe shoot for 3/4 of a mile first, rather than the whole 5K! You’ll be excited when you’ve achieved that goal and can set another one, rather than feeling discouraged that you couldn’t run a whole 5K yet. Then, you can slowly build up your running distance on days you’re feeling strong or aren’t crunched for time.

Get fit for the right shoes!
I can’t stress the importance of this one enough. My husband is a sports chiropractor, and he says the wearing the wrong shoes for your running gait (or old shoes!) is the #1 reason for all running-related injuries. First, before you venture out for your 5K training, stop into your nearest running store and ask for a “Gait Analysis.” They should be able to fit you for the shoe that matches both your foot arch and your running form. Second, get a new pair of running shoes every 200-300 miles (or every 6 months, whichever comes first). The general wear and tear of sneakers and the way your foot hits the pavement can cause the sole of the shoe to wear down and change your running gait, causing ankle, knee, and other gait-related injuries.

Find a running buddy or group.
When we commit to meeting for a run, we are held more accountable to following through with the plan. Make a weekly plan to run with a friend, or better yet, join a run club, where you’ll meet lots of new friends, and always have company! This is especially important during the dark cold winter months when it’s easy to hit the snooze button several times, or just skip the run all together. Just remind yourself, no one ever says, “I wish I didn’t run today” after they finish. You will definitely feel better and the run will go by much faster (I promise) with friends.

Play around with music or no-music.
Toy around with HOW you run. Do you like listening to music or podcasts better? Maybe you’re like me and you find running without anything more peaceful and enjoyable. Even if you think you NEED music, maybe try a run without it. You’ll find you’re more in-tune with nature and the world around you AND you’ll give your mind some much-needed de-stressing that music can’t match.

Get into a routine.
It takes 21 days to make or break a habit (or in this case, maybe a new-found hobby!). Commit to 3 weeks of a running routine, which will become a run streak! As your running streak builds, your drive to keep it going will be stronger. Here’s how:

  1. Carve out time in your schedule to complete a run at least 3 days a week. Whether that be 1 mile or 5, it’s all about building a foundation for running success.
  2. Lay out your clothes and running shoes ahead of time, especially if you’re planning on running early in the morning.
  3. Know what you will eat/drink before your run and give yourself time to digest (at least 30 mins).
  4. Log your runs, so you can track your success! (I like to use Strava because of the “Kudos” feature and because it’s a fun way to see what kind of physical activity your friends are up to, too.)

Running is an activity that all able-bodied people can do. (I recommend reading the book, Born to Run.) But, all of this to say that running can seem like an intimidating venture. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I’m not a runner,” to which I respond: “What makes you think that?”

This is usually because of a pre-conceived notion that running is fast and competitive, but that’s far from the truth. You’re a runner if you jog 10 steps at a time or 10 miles—it’s really just about finding the joy in this form of physical fitness. Go out there and give running a try! I can’t promise you’ll always find it enjoyable—I have plenty of days where it’s a struggle—but I can’t think of a single time when I regretted it.

amanda nurse—author headshotAmanda is a Boston-based elite marathon runner and yoga instructor. She ran her first marathon (Boston, 2010) in 3:26 and now, 14 marathons later, boasts a personal best of 2:40, which earned her a spot in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials. Amanda recently made a career change into the fitness world, owning and managing Boston’s first Yoga for Athletes studio (Wellness in Motion Boston) and becoming the Lead Instructor at Heartbreak Hill Running Company’s treadmill studio. Check out Amanda’s training for her next marathon and running inspiration at her Instagram page.