9 Race-Day Tips for Your First 5K

I can still remember toeing the line of my first 5K race. My mind was racing with energy-sucking thoughts from "What was I thinking— I can't do this?" to "Where do I stand?" to "How do I stand?" and even "What the heck was that guy thinking when he decided on those shorts?" Needless to say, my inner gremlin was feeding off my pre-race nerves and I was doing all I could to get through the moment. First-time life events are truly special. They are filled with enough energy to light your home and can cause a grown woman to behave like a 3-year-old child. Here is a 5K race day plan to help you feel like a pro.

More: How to Train for Your First 5K

Volunteer and gather intel.

If you're like me, you probably prefer not to be a featured star in a "check this out - funny runner" viral YouTube video. It's much harder to be a first-timer these days with smart phones to catch your every newbie nuance. I'm happy they didn't exist when I started, as I'm sure my two mismatched socks, leg warmers and bib number pinned upside down and on my back would have made for a good laugh at my expense. There's a simple solution here: volunteer for a race before you run one. That way, you can earn some great karma, gather intel, and see how a race works.

More: 9 Race-Day Tips for First-Timers

Perform a fire drill.

The night before the race, put on what you plan to wear. Get you bib number, timing device, costume (optional) and anything else you plan to wear or bring to the race. This will streamline your race morning logistics and keep you cool as a cucumber.

Get there early.

There's nothing worse than having the gun go off when you're in the car, or in the porta-potty. There are already enough nerves to go around for a "first-time" event, so be kind to yourself and show up at least one hour before the race starts. This allows plenty of time to roll through the potty several times, find the start/finish area, and ease into the moment.

More: What to Do Before Your 5K

Take your mark.

Unless you've been covering miles at the speed of light, look for people that "look like you" and line up next to them at the race start. Standing too close to the front can cause a crash and burn moment within the first few miles. That is, you get caught up running everyone else's pace but yours and have the half-mile race of your life! The other 2.6 miles won't be so wonderful?

Focus grasshopper.

Breathe deeply from your belly, remember why you are running this race, and visually break the 5K distance into four mini-races; the first mile, the second and third, and the final .10 miles! When the gun goes off at the start, focus on reaching that first mile upright and with a smile on your face. When you reach mile 1, set your sights on number two. When you fly by the 2-mile marker, think your way to three. Before you know it, you'll be sad the race is almost over and shocked at how quickly it flew by. Breaking the total sum into smaller, more digestible pieces keeps you from getting overwhelmed.

More: Breathing Tips for Runners

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