9 Essential 5K Race-Day Tips for Beginners
Volunteer Before You Race
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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. 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.
Prepare Like a Boy Scout
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The night before the race, put on what you plan to wear. Get your 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.
Arrive Earlier Than You Think You Should
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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.
Stick With Other Newbies
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Unless you've been covering miles at the speed of light, look for people who "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.
Break Up the Distance
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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. Breaking the total sum into smaller, more digestible pieces keeps you from getting overwhelmed.
An Easy Way to Pace Yourself
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Take the four parts of the race and color them in with yellow (mile 1), orange (mile 2), red (mile 3) and fire (yes this is a color and it aptly represents the final .1-mile kick). Now, run by color rather than your watch. The body doesn't know pace. It knows effort. When you have the patience to pace yourself from within and from the start, you will have the strength to finish like a super hero.
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Hydration is an important element to your racing success, and it's best to invest in a few seconds to get your fuel in you. As you run into the aid station, stay in the middle of the road. Listen for what they are calling out (water or sports drink). Make eye contact with the volunteer. Walk. Grab a cup, pinch it, and drink. Once it's down the hatch, get back into your running tempo.
Run the Tangents
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The shortest distance between two points is a straight or somewhat curvy line. As you make your way through the 5K, be on the look-out for turns and curves and avoid taking the scenic way around as it can add distance to your race. It's also a great way to stay mindfully engaged as you navigate the course.
Enjoy the Moment
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You only get to run your first 5K once a lifetime. Take it all in, run for the finish rather than the watch, and celebrate your accomplishment. You've earned it!