Updated: Jul 9, 2019
Preparing for your first 5K is a fun and exciting time, but as race day gets closer you may start feeling a little jittery, fearing the unknown, and finally wondering: “was this a good idea?” But fear not, I have outlined 13 things you should know about your first 5K race day; so you can kick back, and face your first race day like a true veteran!
1) Get sleep 2 nights before
Pre-race jitters happen even to the best of us, and sometimes this can mean rolling around in your bed the night before- desperately wanting to sleep, but too hyped up. Plan to get good sleep 2 nights before race day, so if you’re having a little dose of insomnia night before the race you’ll be better rested than if you hadn’t.
2) Pick up your race packet the day before
Most races you’ll be able to pick up your race packet a day or so before the race. The race packet usually includes information on parking, events, maybe a T-shirt, and your race bib. Your race bib is how they clock your time, and it’s basically like your ‘ticket’ into the race (some races will be more strict than others). Your bib is something you will want to make sure you wear to the race.
3) Look into parking the night before
Parking at some races can be a little complicated, such as places like Disneyland, where there’s 5 million potential entrances and lots to park in. Know where event parking is and plan your driving route so you don’t waste time trying to skedaddle around before the race in the early morning.
4) Prep your outfit the night before
Do you ever have those days where you wake up and nothing in your closet is looking brilliant enough to match the snazzy way you feel inside? Well you don’t want to have a wardrobe crisis morning of a race. Pick out an outfit the night before that you think feels great, looks great, and is suitable to the weather the next day, so you don’t waste time worrying about that come morning.
5) Eat a good breakfast
Eat something high energy and easy to digest at least 2 hours prior to the race- like a bagel and peanut butter, fresh fruit, oatmeal, or a bar. You know best what will settle well in your stomach. Don’t worry about mixing up your normal routine much, especially if you don’t know how a new item will sit in your stomach.
6) Get there early
There’s a lot to get through morning of the race. Parking, going to the bathroom, picking up your race packet (if you haven’t already), stashing your extra stuff in your car, warming up, getting lined up for the race. Think all these things, plus crowds and lines of people. Plan to arrive at the race at least an hour in advance to have ample time before toeing the line.
7) Pack it light
If you’re bringing layers of clothes to warm up in, and a water bottle, and any other toys, make sure you have a plan for where you are going to stash your stuff. Does the race have lockers you can use or rent? Do you have a spectator coming with that can hold your stuff for you? Will your car be nearby to stash your stuff in? If you don’t have an easy solution, I recommend packing as light as possible. As for your car keys, I usually combat this problem by bringing just my car key with me, and tying it to my shoelace and tucking it into the loops, or one of those fancy key pockets that come in a lot of running shorts and pants.
8) Get in line
Some races will put you in different corrals based off of your seed time. If you don’t have a seed time (a seed time is a time you’ve completed on a previous race that you can use to enter yourself into following races- usually within the last year), they will put you in one of the later corrals. When they aren’t using a corral system, you’ll probably be able to stand wherever you choose. But, if it’s your first race, I recommend standing towards the middle-back. Most people in the very back are probably planning to walk so you won’t want to be stuck behind them, but in the middle there will also hopefully be people ahead that you can run with or try to pass.
9) Pace yourself
Don’t forget to pace yourself! If you go out too hard and fast, you might tank the rest of the race. Start steady and pick up your pace as you go so you feel great at the finish.
10) Break up the race
Personally, thinking about a whole 5K before me, is enough to make me want to give up before I’ve even started. Breaking up the race into chunks that your brain can manage, can help you keep moving….it’s like dangling a carrot in front of a horse. Get yourself through mile 1, then worry about mile 2, and so on.
11) Think positive
It won’t help if you’re constantly comparing yourself to those who pass you, telling yourself you can’t do it, second guessing your training, or all the above. Everyone is running their own race, and this is yours! Help yourself out by remaining positive. I promise it’ll be that much more enjoyable if you do.
Your first 5k race?! That’s a great accomplishment, you should be proud of yourself. Plus if it’s your first ever 5K, that means an automatic personal record….and a PR is always something to celebrate!
13) Sign up for another 5K race
Ride all those good 5K endorphins and good vibes into signing up your next 5K race. You already did that hard work of getting in shape, might as well keep it up, you’ll be happy you did!
Good luck with your first 5K, and let us know how it goes! If you have any other tips and tricks to race day, post your favorites in the comments. Interested in any tools you can use to prep for your first 5K? Check out some of our blogs: How to do Running Drills (Like a Pro), and Are you Wearing the Right Running Shoes for You?.