How to Be Ready for Your First 5K

Before the Race Starts

  1. Get to the race site early—I recommend an hour before the race starts. Leave yourself plenty of time to use the rest room once or twice before the race begins. You'll also need time to pick up your race package if you haven't picked it up ahead of time.
  2. Pin your race number to the front of your shorts or your t-shirt. Some races require a second number for the back. Everything else in your package can be put in your car.
  3. If you bring valuables, lock them in your trunk.
  4. Keep your car key. Tie it in your shoelace and tuck it into the laces carefully. Double knot your laces. Even if your laces never come undone when you're walking, Murphy's Law says they'll come undone while you're doing a race.
  5. Warm up by walking one half mile to two miles depending on the length of the race. The shorter the race, the faster the pace, the longer the warm up. For a one-mile race, I warm up about two to three miles. For a 5K race I warm up at least a mile.
  6. Warm up slowly before you stretch. Keep your eye on the time. Be at the starting line at least five minutes before the race starts. The courteous way to line up at the starting line is by your predicted time. People who walk an eight, nine or 10 minute miles line up in the first couple of rows in a walking-only race, then the 11 and 12 minute mile walkers and so on. People who walk 18 to 20 minute miles line up last. If you are walking in a running race, line up with the runners who would do your appropriate walking time. That means that even fast walkers should not line up in the beginning of a running race.

During the Race

  1. No headphones are allowed in many races and never in a judged racewalk. They interfere with the safety of others and make communication with the officials difficult.
  2. Drink water during the race if you feel that you need it. Certainly stop at all water stops in hot weather or in any races longer than 5K. I always drink water during all races—even short ones.
  3. Race safely. Pass carefully when you are at least three strides ahead of the person you are passing (applies to races on a track).
  4. Use the shortest distance possible within the legal course.
  5. Be a good sport. Even if others are not, you'll feel better about yourself and more of an athlete if you always remain a good sport.
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