If a friend or colleague has persuaded you to take part in your first 5K fundraising walk or run this year, you might be feeling a little nervous. What will it be like? Will you be able to finish? How should you prepare?

For starters, if you’re reasonably fit and in good health, a 5K walk should be a piece of cake. How far is 5K? You could easily cover that distance in a day’s sightseeing. A motivated shopper can walk that far in a morning at the mall! To see what 5K looks like, clock it with your car’s odometer, or calculate it from your house with an online map application.

A 5K run, rather than a walk, is more of a challenge, but it’s still not out of reach for a novice. If you’re not an experienced runner, you can often run for a bit, then walk for a bit, then run again, as long as you stay out of the way of the “real” runners. Remember: The object of these events is to raise money for a worthy cause and have some fun in the fresh air — not to push yourself past your physical limits.

Before the event

  • If you have any health concerns that might make a long walk problematic, check with your doctor before signing up.
  • If you can’t walk, consider taking part by helping with registration, refreshments, etc.
  • If possible, scope out the route online, so you know what kind of terrain to expect.
  • Practise running/walking around the block, to determine your comfortable intervals.
  • If parking at the site of the walk looks like it could be tough, arrange to be dropped off and picked up.
  • Make sure your shoes are well broken in ahead of time.

On event day

  • Be sure to arrive bright and early, to sign in at the registration table and pick up any numbered bib or t-shirt you might be required to wear.
  • If you can choose your starting spot, aim for off to one side where the crowd will be thinner, rather than the middle of the pack. Leave the front row to the runners.
  • Note the location of the first-aid tent before you start, in case you acquire any minor scrapes or blisters during the event.
  • Take advantage of the watering stations you may see along the route to keep hydrated, especially on a hot day.
  • Look for the complimentary refreshments commonly provided near the finish line by event sponsors, to refuel after the event. Also, keep an eye out for branded, free swag — hats, pedometers, lanyards, etc. — to take home.

Paul Joliat, Assistant Vice-President, Philanthropy and Sponsorships at Sun Life Financial, is a charity run veteran. He’s run 5 and 10Ks, half-marathons and even marathons, but he was a newbie once, too. “The hardest part is getting out the door,” he says. “After that, each time you do it, you feel so good you want to do it again.”

Sun Life is the national title sponsor of the upcoming Sun Life Walk to Cure Diabetes for JDRF, happening in more than 70 communities across Canada. Most of the walks, which support the work of the JDRF (formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), take place on the second Sunday in June, but some happen at other times of the year. Visit the Sun Life Walk to Cure Diabetes for JDRF site to get full details of the walk nearest you and see what else Sun Life is doing to team up against diabetes.

More than 300,000 Canadians live with type 1 diabetes (T1D), and that number is rising by 3-5% each year, with the greatest increase being among children age 5-9. JDRF’s research is committed to improving the lives of everyone with T1D and to finding a cure.

Charity walk tips

  • Wear a hat and sunscreen.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and good socks.
  • Walk with a friend.