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First 5k run: What to do before your first 5k race


So you’ve booked onto your first 5k race. Congratulations! Taking on your first 5k is exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time. If you’re wondering what to do before your first 5k race, this post has got you covered!

All your hard work and training over the last few months has prepared you for race day!

Whether you’ve entered your first Parkrun or you’re doing a Race for Life with a few friends, it’s important to plan to make the race as enjoyable as possible and reduce some of those pre-race jitters.

Here are my top tips on what to do before your first 5k race.

what to do before your first 5k race

What to do before your first 5k race

Get plenty of sleep

It’s important to get a good night’s sleep on the night before your race.

Your pre-race nerves may play on your mind so make a plan to go to bed early and try and avoid anything that could prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Cut the coffee, don’t look at your phone just before bedtime (the blue light will make it harder to sleep), and think positively about the day ahead.

Rest your legs

Don’t be tempted to run a 5k race in the week leading up to race day.

Your training plan should include a period of tapering which will include shorter runs before the big day.

Tapering is when you gradually decrease your mileage in the weeks leading up to the race. Two days out from the race, consider taking a day off to rest your legs.

On the day before the race, run for about 20 minutes to give your legs a bit of a pick me up.

You can include a few shorter, faster runs in this to get your legs going.

Eat well

On the morning of the race, be sure to eat breakfast about two hours before your race.

If you eat any closer to the race you could risk that horrible sick feeling whilst you’re running.

Anything you eat needs to be light, easily digestible and high energy.

I like to eat porridge with some berries or nuts or a bit of toast with some peanut butter on it.

For more tips, check out my post on what to eat before a run

what to do before your first 5k race

Stay hydrated

Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Water is integral to keeping your body hydrated during your training and in the lead up to the race.

Water is essential to keeping the electrolytes in your body flowing so you can run at peak performance.

You can supplement this with a sports drink if you need that extra kick.

Get there early

I suggest you arrive about 45-60 minutes before the race depending on the size of it.

A lot of races have some sort of registration routine where you have to pick up your race pack or sign in. Get there early to avoid waiting in huge queues.

You can also use this time to have a last minute toilet break and sort anything else out with family and friends.

If you have a bag and valuables, the pre-race slot is a good time to sort this out.

If you’re running a Parkrun, be sure to ge there early so you don’t miss the pre-race briefing for new runners.

I wrote a blog post recently on what to expect at your first Parkrun. Check this out for more information.

what to do before your first 5k race

Warm up

A warm up is essential for any race, whether it be a 5k, 10k, half marathon or marathon.

You need to get your heart racing and blood pumping before the race to prevent injury and loosen your muscles.

For a 5k, I recommend a 5-15 minute warm up. Read my recent blog post on how to warm up properly before a 5k race for more hints and tips.

Take your place at the starting line

The starting line can be a chaotic place, but don’t let this put you off. Find a place in the crowd where you feel comfortable.

Faster runners will be at the front, so depending it’s probably a safe bet to place yourself in the middle or nearer the back.

You can always take over people if you want to up your pace during the run. This is a great confidence booster!

what to do before your first 5k race

And breathe!

Give yourself a big pat on the back – you’ve made it this far! Well done and congratulations!

Running your first 5k is a huge achievement and it will hopefully be the start of your running journey.

Try not to compare yourself to other runners on race day.

You will most likely encounter runners who have been doing it for years so it’s very unrealistic to compare your journey to theirs.

Just take a few deep breaths and go!

Caroline Geoghegan