On October 7th, 2012, I woke up extremely early bursting with nervous excitement for my first ever 5k. Race day was a blur but I remember debating my race day outfit (should I wear long sleeves or short!?!) and whether or not to chat during the race or listen to music to help me zone in. I remember making the turn at mile 1.5 and doubling back towards the finish thinking, “Man, I’m only halfway done”.
Then at the end of the race, I remember my friend Melissa held back so we could finish the race together. The whole atmosphere of race day is pretty intoxicating and that first race was all it took to hook me on running and racing. Looking back, I was pretty lost at my first 5k but running is one of those things that you learn by doing.
Over time I’ve been able to improve my race day confidence, build strategy, and fuel my desire to race as much as possible! These are the 5 things I learned during my first 5K —
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Before my first race, I asked my friend Rachel what felt like a thousand questions a day. As someone who is very routine-oriented, I wanted to know specifically what to do and where to go (mostly so I wouldn’t feel out of place). Rachel showed me just how helpful the running community is to one another. Regardless of your race status, regardless of whether you’re a newbie or seasoned veteran, questions about procedures or other race topics are welcomed by everyone. We just want everyone to be run their best.
- Not everyone runs. It’s true! Not all 5k participants run the race, many walk. I thought that if I had to walk during my first 5K that I would stick out and feel embarrassed. I learned that no one cares if you walk parts of the course, the whole course, or walk/jog the whole thing. It’s all about finishing and accomplishing your goals.
- Stand in the middle. If you have never raced before, you may not know how your pace will compare with the runners around you. When you are lining up at the start, try to avoid lining up at the front of the pack. This way you allow the experienced runners who are faster take off while you find your stride.
- Do the first one with a friend. Race day may feel daunting and overwhelming to anyone who has never experienced it before. By signing up with a friend (or a group of friends), you have strength in numbers. You won’t have to be the only person who feels like they don’t know what is going on.
- Always use the bathroom. I’ve run 29 races since my running adventure began in 2012 and I am not afraid to admit that I still get nervous the morning of a race. A nervous or excited stomach can wreak havoc on your race day. To be safe, use the bathroom once (if not twice) before the race starts. Don’t forget to plan ahead for long bathroom lines on race day morning.
Your first 5K is exciting and nerve wracking! That runner’s high is real and it’s easy to see why people want to be so involved in the race community; it’s welcoming and supportive of everyone. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?