I was reading an article which contained a few tips for first time marathoners on race day (a few days late may I add) and realized that my friend, Gisela, is running her first 5K race and could probably use a few tips for her race day. I looked up some standard tips and modified them per my experiences. For some people running a 5K race is no big deal, but to my dear friend Gisela it is a HUGE deal. I know my first 5K was a huge deal and I was so nervous. If this is a hobby and lifestyle you are choosing to live, this is the first step in one day running a marathon. One step at a time. "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" -Lao Tzu. For runners, our first step is a 5K (3.1 miles)
So Gisela and to all those who will run their first 5K, here are tips from an amateur to help you on your first race day.
1. Don't Overdress
A good rule of thumb: Dress as if the weather is 15 degrees warmer than it is. That's how much you'll warm up once you start running. If you know what the weather will be like on race day, here is a great tool I use from runnersworld.com that can help you figure out what you should wear. http://www.runnersworld.com/cda/whattowear/0,7152,s6-240-325-330-0-0-0-0-0,00.html
2. Choose Your Pre-Race Food Wisely
Eat a meal at least one hour prior to the start of the race. Choose something high in carbohydrates and lower in fat, fiber, and protein. Stay away from rich, fatty, or high-fiber foods, as they may cause gastrointestinal distress, or more simply put, cause you to want to go to the bathroom. My pre-race mean ritual is Dunkin Donuts Coffee and a bagel with cream cheese. That hasn't failed me yet.
3. Get There Early
Arrive at the race site early to make sure you get a parking spot. Regardless of whether you're driving there or not, you'll also need time to pick up your number and timing chip, take a warm-up jog, and possibly use the bathroom (remember that the lines may be long).
4. Pin Your Bib
Your race bib goes on the front of your shirt, not the back. This will allow all the necessary individuals to recognize you, especially the photographers. You can use safety pins on all four corners of the bib to keep it in place. Most races provide you with safety pins.
5. Secure your timing chip
When picking up your race number, you will also be given a race chip or tag. The chip or tag is what will read your start, split, and finish times. Ensure you secure you chip or tag on your sneakers. Tags usually will have instructions on them, but rest assured, this is super easy to figure out. In most cases, the chips are considered disposable and you can keep them. If not, you must hand them in at the finish or someone will be there to remove it for you.
6. Line Up Properly
Don't line up near the front of the starting line. Faster, more seasoned runners don't like to weave around newbie (and likely slower) runners at the start of the race. It will be easier to fall into your pace if you're around people that are the same speed as you.
7. Use the Water Stops
Take advantage of the water stations on the course. I usually do not stop for water during 5K runs, however, they are provided and if you need hydration, go for it. And don't forget to thank the volunteers for handing out water!
8. Bring Your Support Team
Invite your friends and family members to support you. Ask them to stand near the finish line so they can cheer you on at the end. Having someone waiting for you at the finish line is a huge motivator and makes the accomplishment that much more special.
9. Aim to Finish
Don't put pressure on yourself to achieve a really fast time for your first race. Finishing the race and enjoying the experience are excellent goals for a first-timer. If you are running at a comfortable pace and you find that people are passing you, resist the urge to speed up. Run YOUR race and enjoy it.
10. Don't Wear the Race T-Shirt
Lastly, you'll most likely get a race T-shirt when you sign up for the race. Don't wear it until after you've completed the race. You should come prepared to run according to what you have trained in and the weather...plus it also makes you look like a rookie!
BONUS: Be Proud of Yourself. You did it!!!...and I am proud of you!