Countdown until Country's Midnight Express: How to prepare for your first 5K race

The Country's Midnight Express was the first 5K race I did in Columbus. It was also my first time running a 5K race since high school.

The race sparked my interest in the local running community and marked the beginning of what I hope is a lifelong hobby.

This year's Midnight Express is Saturday, Aug. 24. It will be my eighth consecutive time running the race, which annually attracts thousands of people. Get registration details here.

For many people, it's their only 5K of the year. You don't have to be a serious runner, and you don't have to run the whole time -- or at all.

But it's also a fun, casual chance to give the world of competitive racing a trial run. If you're running a 5K for the first time Saturday, here's some advice to remember as the race approaches.

From Runner's World:

On training the week of the race: "Do two or three easy runs of 20 to 30 minutes. Take one or two days off before race day."

On warming up: "Warm up 30 to 40 minutes before the race begins by walking for five minutes, jogging for five minutes, then picking up the pace a bit for the next five minutes. Finally, walk to the starting line."

From Shape:

On pacing: "Start conservatively and build your effort throughout the run. When you start out too fast, your body works too hard too soon and fizzles after the first mile, making your overall time slower, not faster. In the last quarter mile, kick it in to the finish line to finish strong."

On the start line: "Starting in the middle to back of the pack is safe for most beginners. You will start with those around your pace and you will have many more ahead of you to chase down."

And a few tips from me:

Get there early...or at least on time.

Don't panic when you see the line for the Porta Potties. It generally moves quickly.

This is not the night to have an adventurous dinner. Eat something safe.

Finally...challenge yourself, but keep things in perspective. I think it's great to go into the race with a goal for your finish time. But if you miss that goal, don't beat yourself up. This is just one 5K, not the Olympics.