Signing up to run your first 5k race is an exciting feeling. After days or months of contemplating the idea, you’ve finally committed and are ready for training to begin.
However, as race day approaches, you might find yourself feeling a bit anxious and uncertain without knowing what to expect. Running your first race often involves a few logistics and circumstances that you’ve never experienced before.
Running your first 5k is an exciting experience.
However, running your first 5k will inevitably bring plenty of nerves as well – regardless of whether you’ll be running a small, local race, or participating in a huge weekend event.
While it’s normal to feel nervous on race day, planning ahead and preparing yourself as much as possible may help ease some of those anxieties you are feeling. After weeks or months of training, it’s important to spend some time preparing for the actual 5k race day as well.
These simple tips will help you prepare during training and know exactly what to expect as you line up to run your very first 5k race.
8 Tips for Running Your First 5k
Check out the course before race day.
There are so many unknown factors involved with running your first race, but arriving at the start as prepared as possible may help ease some anxieties.
Most races and events post important details regarding the course on their website and in various emails prior to race day. Regardless of whether you’re running a huge race event or just a local 5k, you should be able to look up a course map ahead of time.
Check out the race course prior to arriving at the start to get an idea of where you’ll be running. You might even be able to find out whether or not there will be aid stations with water, if there are bathrooms along the course, and what the elevation profile looks like.
Taking the time to check out the details beforehand will help you prepare for any specific situations during training. In addition, feeling prepared will help you start out feeling confident and reduce many anxieties involved with your first 5k.
Test out your race gear during training.
One of the worst things you can do when running your first 5k is to wear or use something for the very first time on race day. No matter how exciting and special it may feel to save a new outfit, shoes or headphones for race day, doing so might set you up for unexpected rubbing, blisters, or discomfort.
Make a point to try out all of your race day gear at least once during training. Test out those new shorts or pullovers on a short run beforehand, and definitely take the time to wear in any new shoes you plan to wear.
Try out your headphones, phone holder and any gear you’ll be taking with you to the start. New clothes and gear often cause a bit of discomfort until you wear them in, so avoid creating any unnecessary problems by checking them out ahead of time.
Plan to arrive to the start early.
Even local races have a way of getting really congested as runners arrive to the start, so plan to show up with plenty of time to spare. If you’re picking up your bib on race morning, allow extra time to wait in lines and walk to the location.
There is nothing more stressful than rushing to the start without any time to get in the zone before your first 5k. Plan to arrive with extra time to spare to allow for any traffic backups, parking nightmares or unexpectedly long bathroom lines.
Being able to get in the starting corrals a bit early will help you get in the zone, mentally focus and physically prepare for your first 5k to start. You’ll even be able to spend some time taking pictures, stretching and preparing your playlist for the start of the race.
Line up behind your anticipated race pace.
If your first 5k has pacers or markers in the starting corral to designate different paces, make sure to line up well behind your anticipated pace. Most starting corrals condense just before the beginning of the race, so lining up right next to your actual pace may actually set you up to start in front of it.
In addition, lining up behind your expected pace will set you up to be one of the faster runners in your area and allow you to pass others as needed once things spread out. If you wind up in a group of runners who are moving at a faster pace, it can feel incredibly discouraging to get started and find yourself being passed on all sides.
No matter how prepared you may feel, make sure to line up behind your pace at your first 5k. Once things spread out and you get moving, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to move ahead if needed. Take the stress off yourself by making sure to start your first race nice and easy.
Move to the side for any walk breaks.
One of the best things about races is that they bring out runners of all ability levels. You likely won’t be the fastest runner at your first 5k race, but you won’t be the slowest runner either. There will be plenty of speedsters and also plenty of walkers.
If you plan to walk at all during your first 5k, make sure to move over to the side before you start walking. It can be incredibly frustrating to find your groove during a race, only to suddenly run in to the person in front of you when they come to a halt.
Check your surroundings and move off to the side for any walk breaks. Your fellow runners will appreciate the courtesy, and it will help you walk without the stress of holding anyone up behind you.
Related: 8 Tips for Your Best Race Day
Start slow and hold yourself back.
One of the best parts about running your first 5k is being surrounded by all the excitement and energy on race day. Running a race brings about new levels of excitement that are impossible to emulate during training on your own.
However, the energy on race day may leave you wanting to run faster than ever before. While it may be tempting to start out strong, especially if you’re feeling great, make sure to hold yourself back at the beginning of your first race.
Starting out too fast may feel good in the moment, but it will set you up to lose steam and feel discouraged as you gradually slow down throughout the rest of the course. Start out even slower than you planned, and then once you get out of the congestion re-evaluate to see how you’re feeling. If you’re still feeling good after getting started, pick up the pace a little for strong finish.
Expect things to be pretty crowded.
Whether you’re running a small, local race or a huge weekend racing event, you’ll probably be surprised to find just how congested it may be at the beginning of your first 5k. The starting corrals really pack runners all together, so you will likely find yourself shoulder to shoulder with those around you.
As you train and prepare to run your first 5k, anticipate the crowds on race day. Expect the course to be fairly crowded throughout the race, and plan to adjust your paces accordingly.
Aiming to run fast during your first 5k may set you up for a bit of disappointment if you arrive at the start and find that things are slow to get going. Plan for things to be crowded and if they aren’t, you’ll be able to enjoy the extra space. If they are, relax, take it all in, and enjoy the experience of running your first race.
Look up and smile at race photographers.
Running your first 5k is definitely an experience you’ll want to remember – regardless of how it goes. There will likely be photographers at the finish line, and probably scattered along the course as well.
When you see photographers, make sure to look up and smile no matter how you are feeling. There is nothing worse than training hard for a race, only to discover that all of your race photos have you looking like you’re struggling.
Take these moments to breathe, smile and remind yourself what an incredible goal you are accomplishing.