A 5k race, like most distances, requires a proper understanding of how to distribute your energy and pacing through every mile of the race. Be sure to train heartily before your first 5k to understand what works for your body and athletic experience. Don't forget form, either; be sure to allow yourself a long, smooth stride and swing your arms for balance and an additional push.
Practice Breathing and Form
A beginning runner's most important task is to develop their individualized sense of pacing and form. Be sure to do this in your training. Unlike lengthier road races, you won't have to spend much of your training building up high endurance, so instead focus on form and pacing. The distance of 3.1 miles is attainable for runners of all backgrounds if they just take the time to understand their pace. Go for several very lightly paced runs of a few miles to develop your breathing technique. Focus on swinging your arms and keeping your balance. As you get comfortable, work up to the full 5k distance, and increase your speed for the middle and final stretches of the training runs.
Start with a Brisk, but not Overwhelming Pace
A 5k can be on the shorter end of the road race spectrum, so you might be inclined to start out sprinting. This is a mistake. The race is still a lengthy distance compared to traditional sprinting measures in track, so expending all your energy up front will quickly make the race a drag. Like any workout, consider the first leg of the race to be a healthy warm up. If it's your first race, you're most likely not looking to win it all, so do your body a favor by getting it acclimated to the race course and environment before gearing up for a real push.
Take at least five minutes to warm your body up with a lighter pace. Pick up the speed a bit for a mile or so and focus on maintaining good form and breathing. Add incrementally to your speed and pace in the next mile, but be sure that you'll have enough energy saved for the tail end of the race. Recover for a few minutes, before the final quarter-mile of the race. This is when you'll want to expend all the energy you've saved up and slice some seconds off your run by charging through the finish line.
Run with a Friend
Unlike lengthier road races, a 5k is a distance that can appeal to all sorts of runners and athletes, so be sure to recruit some friends to do it with you. Those used to running longer road races will still benefit from the racing environment of a 5k, while running novices can easily learn to train for the distance. Running with a friend can add a great feeling of camaraderie to the run; your partner can help keep you from running too fast upfront and can keep you motivated if you're feeling sluggish in the middle or end of the race. Be sure to cross the finish line on your own terms, though, and not slow down for a buddy.