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5 tips for running a 5K from a first-time J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge finisher

How did I survive the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge, the annual 3.5-mile race along Amherst Street and Delaware Avenue? Well, I tried not to think about it. And this is how it went:

In retrospect, I could have prepared for the race a lot more. If you just signed up for your first summer 5K, here's 5 tips so you don't make the same mistakes I did:

1.Make a pre-race playlist with songs downloaded to your smartphone or iPod. If you're like me, you've deleted all your music from your phone long ago in favor of freeing up space for photos, videos and apps. In return, I've replaced my music collection with a slew of streaming apps (Pandora, Spotify and Amazon Music). While that's always served me well for everyday commutes, I didn't anticipate that Wi-Fi wouldn't work when 12,433 people were gathered at the starting line. My advice to myself for next time: make a pre-race playlist with downloaded tracks. Not only will it help you mentally prepare for the race, but it'll ensure that you'll always have music on the race track.

2. Use a running app. Since my phone was about 50 percent charged and I was struggling to get Wi-Fi when the race began, I didn't use one of the running apps I have downloaded on my phone (I like MapMyRun, but I'd be open to trying other apps.) In retrospect, using a running app (or even wearing a Fitbit) would have forced me to hold myself more accountable (and might have resulted in a faster race time).

3. Train more regularly before race day. I knew that I could walk 3.5 miles, but run the whole thing? I'm still not sure. My "training" prior to the Corporate Challenge ended up being a leisurely walk to Anderson's a couple days before race day. To prepare myself better in the future, I could have carved out more time to practice, working myself up so I could consistently run a mile (or three) without stopping.

4, Invest in a carrier for your music device. My shorts didn't have pockets and I didn't have an armband to carry my phone on me so I ended up running with my phone in my hand. That was fine, however, I got distracted and stopped every other minute to record another snap or tweet another video. If I was serious about running, securing my phone in a hidden pocket would have minimized the distractions. Or better yet, I could run with an app-less, Wi-Fi-less music player, like my iPod classic instead.

5. Stay hydrated. This means you should refrain from coffee while you drink lots of water throughout the day. This was the No. 1 tip I heard prior to and during the run. Even at the rest stops, race volunteers were shouting, "Hydrate, so you don't die!" as they passed out dixie cups of water. And since I didn't die, I guess I did something right.

Do you have more running advice? Email me at qliu@buffnews.com.

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