Arriving at the start line of your first 5K or race can feel a little intimidating - I've been there. Here are some of my top tips that I share with my running groups, to help them prepare and set their minds at ease. From packet pick-up to the finish line, here are my top fifteen tips to prepare for your first race.
1. Research the race day timeline and course online. Also see if the website offers information regarding traffic and parking.
2. Drive the course prior to the race, if possible. Even better, run/walk the course!
3. Make sure that you research “packet pick-up” on the event website. Sometimes packet pick-up is the day before the race and even at a separate location.
4. When you pick up your “packet”, this will typically include the event shirt, your race bib and some free goodies. Make sure that you have four safety pins to secure the race bib to the front of your short (in all four corners, to prevent flapping).
5. The race bib will also include a chip that is affixed to the back or front of the bib. This records your personal finish time – it tracks when you cross both the start mat and the finish line. Times will be recorded online after the event. During longer distances, you may also cross several check-points throughout the race.
6. Carb-load the evening before the event – have a good mix of carbohydrates and protein. Pasta, a turkey sandwich or pizza are great options. Avoid spicy or rich foods that will upset your stomach.
7. Get to bed plenty early the evening before the race and set your alarm at least thirty minutes earlier than you think you will need to rise. It’s better to have more time available in the morning, especially with race day jitters.
8. The morning of the race, have a nice sustainable breakfast two hours before race time. You may have difficulty chewing, so oatmeal or yogurt work great in those situations. Otherwise, enjoy English muffin with peanut butter, toast or some cereal with milk.
9. If you are a coffee or tea drinker, still allow yourself one cup in the morning. But, don’t drink too much – risking emergency restroom breaks or an upset stomach.
10. Don’t try anything new the day of the race – food, clothing, gear. Race like you trained.
11. Save the event shirt to wear proudly after the event. Wear something you are familiar with to the race.
12. Don’t forget to get a nice warm-up walk or dynamic workout in before the race.
13. Plan to use the restrooms once or twice before the race. Most races have portable bathrooms, but some also have indoor restrooms. Most events have at least one portable restroom along the course.
14. If you are meeting up with friends or family after the race, set a landmark for a meeting spot after the race. Sometimes the finish area is crowded.
15. Don’t forget to stretch after the race while you rehydrate.