“It’s my first 5k race… what should I expect?”

A friend of mine is running her first 5k tomorrow with Jena and I, and she had all sorts of questions.  I know the “its-my-first-race-and-I-don’t-know-what-to-expect-feelings” all too well.  The jitters I felt before my most recent “first” – a sprint triathlon – is still fresh in my mind (and my second one too!)

I put together a list for our friend Liz, so that she would know what to expect.  I thought I would share it with everyone else anxious over their first road race!

“It’s my first 5k race… what should I expect?”

…. well besides long porta-potty lines, this list will hopefully let you know what you are in for and calm your nerves! 

So here is how the morning might play out.

1.  Drive to the race.  You will inevitably see cars with stickers on them like “Been There.  Ran That.”  Or “Run like a girl”   Or “13.1”  or “26.2”  or “Find your happy pace.”   You can probably assume they are going to the same place as you. (But still follow your directions…I don’t want to be blamed if you get lost.)

2.  Park the car.  Take your key off your key ring, attach it to your body some how (in sports bra, tie it on the string of your shorts, tie it on your shoe, put it in a shoe pocket or a waist belt, etc.)  If you want some “gear”, one of these SPI belts might be useful if you plan on doing more races or training with a cell phone and keys.  I just got a “shoe pocket” that is pretty cool for holding my car key during long runs.  You can buy one here.

3.  Follow the crowd to the packet pickup line.  You will probably need to line up based on your last name.  After you tell them your name, will give you your bib number and your race shirt ( I normally wait to wear my race shirt until I’ve washed it).  Be sure to check out the shirt for the sizing and try to exchange if it doesn’t fit.   Sometimes they make you stick to the shirt size you put on your registration… which is actually a good thing.  Also, remember to pick up 4 safety pins.  You might only need two, but I like to pin each of the four corners to my shirt.  Sometimes I wear this race number belt to attach my number.  Totally not necessary for a new racer though.

4. Time to attach your bib.  Head to the bathroom if you want to see if it is straight (call me anal, but I don’t want a crooked number pinned on my chest).  Be sure to pin the number just to your shirt, you don’t want your shorts caught up in the mix.  Take a pee break if necessary.

5.  Optional Check out a map of the race course.  Try to remember the general shape of the course, if you have to loop around more than once, and any other odd patterns they have you running.  We are going for a general idea.  You won’t need to pass a test on this information. 

6.  Go back to your car and stash your goodies.  At some races not only to you get a shirt, but you get a swag bag too!

7.  If you are like me, and the jitters are setting in,  go back to the bathroom for one last pee break.

8.  Line up with the crowd and get ready to run.  If you plan on going fast, head towards the front.  If you plan on walking, stay back.  If it is a chip timed event, your place in line won’t matter for your official time.  If it isn’t chipped time, your time starts when the gun goes off no matter how long it takes to get to the front of the line.

9.  On your mark.  Get set.  Go!

10.  Have fun, run hard, and be sure to take it all end.

11. Cross the finish line proudly.  Be sure to smile, you might be on candid camera!

12.  After you’ve caught your breath and grabbed some water, head towards to food and start comparing war stories with the other runners.  It is always nice to stay for the awards ceremony and cheer on those folks who won their age group.

Is there anything else to tell a first time 5ker before the day of the race?

Live well,




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4 responses to ““It’s my first 5k race… what should I expect?”

  1. Pingback: Zoo Run Run 5k | Life is Beachy Keene

  2. Talia

    Thanks for posting this, I was just googling this same question, I haven’t registered yet, and am just starting the “Couch Potato to 5K” program, and debating whether to sign up for a 5K… My question is, if I am not able to run the whole race, will there be others walking? I plan to be able to jog the whole thing, but if I get behind will I be alone? haha. Thanks!

  3. Congrats on your running accomplishments!!!

  4. Courtney

    This was extremely helpful! My sister is an avid runner, and we are both training for MY first 1/2 marathon, but I have my first 5k coming up. She keeps telling me “You train more than this on a normal daily run”… I am still terrified. She won’t be there and I am just nervous! I am glad to know that I am not the only one who gets race day jitters!

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