I knew I hated running the moment I heard it involved moving your legs for an extended period of time. I vowed to never run, ever. Against my will, my dad signed me up for a 5K and a weird thing happened — I LOVED IT. I decided running was not such a bad activity and have been a runner ever since. Of course not everyone is built to run marathons, but we are all capable of running a 5K. It’s one of the shortest distances in the realm of road races, coming in at 3.2 miles and is extremely beneficial to your life on a number of levels. Don’t think you can handle it? Think again.

Social Benefits

5Ks are social events in and of themselves. They’re a great activity to do with a group of girlfriends, your significant other, or even family members. 5Ks appeal to all ages and all running types. In these races, the “I have never run a step in my life” and the “I run ultra marathons monthly” types rub elbows and enjoy themselves. Unless you are uber competitive, then each and every race is your personal Olympics. Did I mention there is such a thing as a themed 5K? It’s true. The majority of 5Ks out there have fun themes that allow participants to dress up in costumesdrink hot chocolate, get color thrown on them and so much more! You’re not just running a boring race; you’re having a little party along the way.

Charitable

A lot of these types of races donate portions of the proceeds to organizations such as Girls on the Run or Boys and Girls Clubs in your city. Others raise money for the fight against breast cancer and other diseases. It’s an easy way to give back to those in need and make the world a little better, all the while getting your sweat on and being one step closer to that much coveted beach body.

Personal Growth and Achievement

By no means do you need to go out there and win every 5K you run. That takes the fun out of it. No matter how much you run, or don’t run, crossing the finish line is an extremely rewarding feeling. I had a sorority sister who had never run a race in her life until we all ran The Color Run together. Afterwards, while coated in every color of the rainbow, she was beside herself that she had completed such a feat. She has gone on to run a handful more of 5Ks. Participating in these events can give any person a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence that cannot be replaced. And that’s worth its weight in cupcakes–I mean gold!

Health

You are probably thinking, well duh! We’re all aware that any kind of exercise is good exercise, even if it only lasts a few minutes (and even if that few minutes are you walking around Lululemon). Experts say you should do 20 to 30 minutes of cardio three times a week in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A 5K takes no more than 45 minutes to complete and the training itself falls under the daily fitness recommendation. Running also sculpts your body in a way other workouts cannot. It makes your legs leaner, your backside firmer, and strengthens your core. Hello, six-pack!

Convenience

Don’t worry, by signing up for a 5K you’re not giving up your life to the running gods for months and months. Training schedules such as The Couch to 5K running plan require you to train 20 to 30 minutes, three days a week (the expert recommended dose!). Running is an excellent way to relieve stress, so think of training as a tri-weekly stress releasing session. Another great aspect of running: you can do it whenever — morning, afternoon, between venti Starbucks drinks — literally whenever you can. Like Nike says, Just Do It.

Are you motivated to get out there and run now? I certainly hope so! If not, here’s one more little push: more often than not, when you participate in a 5K you get awesome swag in the form of t-shirts, shot glasses, food, and more. So get your friends together, lace up your running shoes, and get after those 3.2 miles!

Are you runner? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!