Congratulations on signing up for your first 5K. You'll have a lot of nervous energy as the date of your first race approaches. Race morning will go by fast, so here are some tips to get you through your first 5K.
How to Prep the Night Before Your 5K
To avoid as much stress on race morning as possible, lay out the clothes, shoes and gear you will wear the night before. Don't forget your bib number or timing chip/D-tag. Organize everything the night before to ensure that you have everything you need so you don't forget an important item due to pre-race anxiety. It also saves you time in the morning.
Most races will have packet pickup the day before the race, and I recommend doing that because it gives you one less thing to worry about on race morning. Some races make you pick up the timing chip on race morning, so if that is the case make sure you allow yourself enough time to get to the race, get your chip, and still have 20 to 30 minutes before the race starts to warm up.
Eat a healthy dinner the night before the race, and eat the foods you're used to eating the night before a run. Do not eat anything new because it could cause stomach distress during the race. Don't neglect hydration either. You need to be hydrated for a race, regardless of the distance, and regardless of the weather. Many runners don't hydrate enough in colder weather.
Do not do anything new or different on race day. Race day is not the day to break in a new pair of shoes or run in shorts or tops that you have not run in before. If you have new shoes or new apparel you want to race in, make sure you have done several runs in them before race day. Trying something new could lead to blisters, chafing and an overall bad first race.
What you wear during a race is important. Do not overdress. A good rule is to dress as if the weather is 15 degrees cooler than it actually is—this is about how much your body will warm up once you start running. Technical gear is your best choice because it will reduce chafing and help wick sweat away from your body. Run in gear that is already broken in and makes you feel comfortable.
Pre-5K Race Routine
Get to the race early. I would suggest 45 minutes to an hour before the race starts. This will allow you to get a good parking spot, along with giving you plenty of time to use the bathroom, warm up, stretch, and mentally prepare for your first race. Lines to the port-o-potties will be long and they may run out of toilet paper, so I suggest bringing some with you in your bag that you pack the night before the race.
As the race start approaches, you need to do a light warm-up that includes some dynamic stretching and a walk or light jog for 5 to 10 minutes. Do not stretch cold muscles. Dynamic stretching is better than static stretching before a race because you will warm your muscles up through the dynamic stretching without risk of injury.