The 7 things you need to know before your first 5K

By: Pat Riley

1. Sign Up Early

By signing up in advance, you are guaranteeing that you will receive a Race Shirt and your first race shirt is something that you will keep for a long time, so make sure you get one. Also, by signing up early, a commitment is being made to get and accomplish that first 5K road race. You are putting money down on a goal and signing up in advance is a great way to keeping that goal intact.

Signing up early also helps the race directors decide how many resources they need to allocate to a race. Some of the considerations a race director needs to make is how many post-race waters and food they need to provide. 99% of races are charity events, so any resources spent that are not needed (ie, medals, food, water stops) are wasted and take away from the charity that the race is supposed to help.

2.) Show Up Early

You should plan on arriving at the race venue an hour before the start of your first 5K. You will be a little nervous and giving yourself time to make sure you get everything done before the start of the race will help calm your nerves.

Once you get to the race site and park your car, you will want to do the following:

  • Head to the pre-registration table (Since you followed our advice in item #1!) and tell them your name. You will receive the following items from the race committee:
    • Bib Number
    • Safety Pins
    • Race Shirt
    • Goody Bag (Most of the time)
  • Confirm the information on the label on your bib number and let them know if there is an error in your name, age, or gender. These items can easily be fixed before the race and they race staff is happy to help you fix these registration problems.
  • Make sure you use all 4 safety pins to pin the bib number to the front of the shirt that you are going to wear during the race. The bib number needs to be worn about mid-way up on your shirt (Think about covering your stomach). If your bib number has a timing chip, making sure the bib number is worn on the front is extra important to ensure your timing chip is read at the start/finish line
  • Warm-up – Take a light jog of about 5-10 minutes. You want to have a light sweat going at the start of the race. If you are cold and shivering at the start, you have not warmed up properly.


3.) Be at the starting line 5-10 minutes before the start of the race.

When a runner says they are going for a 30 minute run, 29:30 doesn’t cut it! So when a race says they are starting at 9:00 AM, that means 9:00 AM SHARP. You don’t want to miss the start of the race because you thought the start would happen sometime around 9:00 AM. You can listen to the announcements as we will be letting everyone know how much time there is before the start of the race. We also have a display clock going that can give you a visual reference as to how much time you have before the start of the race.


4.) Have Fun and Relax

Everyone has been there as a first timer and there will be hundreds of people around so you can blend in with the crowd. Chances are you are not going to win the race in your first 5K so you can rest assured that by following the person in front of you, you will run the correct course and make it back to the finish line in 3.1 miles.

We also recommend NOT wearing ear-buds during the race. While races in our area do an excellent job at protecting runners by preventing cars from coming on the course, there is always the chance of something happening so you need to use your ears to be aware of what is going on around you. Don’t worry if you depend on music to motivate you. In your first 5K, you will be surrounded by dozens, if not hundreds of people, who will help push you all the way to the finish line.


5.) Warm Down and stick around

After you cross the finish line in your first 5K, go for a light jog about 5-10 minutes after you finish. This may hurt a bit but you will loosen up your muscles and get them ready for your next long run.

The awards ceremony will typically start about 1 hour and 15 minutes after the start of the race. This should give you time to warm-down and enjoy some of the post-race refreshments. This is also a great time to meet other runners who are enjoying the same post-race high that you are feeling. The post-race environment fantastic and everyone is so happy that it is super easy to make new friends that can join you on your next run.


6.) Eat something

Finding the perfect pre-race breakfast before your race is something that you will have to learn through trial and error. We know runners who do great by eating a simple piece of toast with jelly before their race, while others can’t race unless they eat a full breakfast with eggs and bacon (We don’t recommend this, seriously, don’t do this! We would have to sanitize the finish line after you get sick!).

My personal go-to breakfast item before a race with 1 slice of BBQ chicken pizza. I know, weird huh? That is what worked for me though!

The bottom line is you have to race often and figure out what is the best thing for YOU to eat before you race. The only way to do that is to experiment and gain experience. For your first race, we would recommend going on the lighter side of breakfast before trying heavier meals.


7. ) Check your results and Sign up for your next race

Go to and check out your results (And Sometimes Pictures!). Then, find your next race and sign up for it. Maybe give yourself a couple of weeks between races so you can continue to train and at your next race, you can lower that 5K time and experience the thrill of running and improving!

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