You’ve watched runners in your neighbourhood pound the pavement and marvelled at how they do it. You’ve always wanted to learn how to run and eventually take on a 5k race. Here are some tips to help you on your way:

1. Get the medical OK

Before engaging in any vigorous activity, you’ll want to make sure you have the green light from your family doctor, says Elaine McCrea, owner of The Runners Shop in Toronto.

2. Consider a running group

Not sure you can complete a running program on your own? Why not join a running group? (Check with your local running store for more details.) A group will connect you with other runners of your athletic ability. Meeting likeminded runners every week will not only motivate you to keep up your workouts, but may also introduce you to some new friends, says McCrea. But she emphasizes that group running isn’t for everyone.

Other runners, such as 41-year-old Chris Vollick of Stoney Creek, Ont., prefer a more individualized program. One of his New Year’s resolutions was to improve his fitness level and eventually to train for a 5k race in May. To prepare, he simply uploaded a free training program, C25K (Couch Potato to 5k) to his iPod. “It’s great because [when you listen to your iPod,] it tells you when to stop or start running and it gives you all the cues to do what you need to do,” he says.

3. Invest in some essentials

That doesn’t mean going out and buying every running gizmo available. But to make running more comfortable and prevent injuries, you’ll want to invest in some proper running shoes, says McCrea. Since there are so many different types of running shoes, you’ll want to be professionally fitted for the right shoe for your feet. Vollick finds running doesn’t cost much since most people already own some athletic clothing and an MP3 player. So once you have the shoes, you’re ready to run. (When you’re out on a run wearing earbuds, be very careful in traffic and at railway crossings, as you may not hear approaching danger.)

4. Follow your running program as outlined

To learn how to run up to five kilometres, you will do a combination of running and walking over a two-to-three-month period, says McCrea. So for example, after walking to warm up, you may run for one minute and walk for three minutes repeating for four sets and eventually increasing your running endurance up to five kilometres.

Some of the runs in your program may seem easy and you may be inclined to up your mileage to challenge yourself more. Bad idea, says McCrea. Running programs recognize that your body needs time to adapt. She compares learning to run to weight training. “If you’ve gone to the gym and started to do weight training, you know how easy it is to overdo it. Running is not that different,” she says.

5. Signed up for a 5k race? Enjoy the experience

That means positioning yourself towards the middle or the back of the starting line so faster runners won’t jostle you, says McCrea. The vibe for your first race should be, “I’m just here to complete the event, take it all in, have a good time and enjoy the positive energy.”

Vollick completed his first race, the Toronto Goodlife 5k, in May. He says the satisfaction of running across the finish line was enough to motivate him to do another one.