How to Prepare the Day of Your First 5K Race

How to Prepare the Day of Your First 5K Race

You’ve been training over the past few months to run your first 5K. It’s exciting, but it can also be nerve racking if you’re not a seasoned runner.

Are you prepared for the event? Is there anything else you should be doing or thinking about before and after the race?

Here’s a timetable of to-dos to help you prepare and enjoy the experience.


The week before the race: 
Read your race packet and look at the course. It may even be helpful to drive the course to see how hilly it is and to scope out where the race will start and finish. Don’t run or do any heavy leg training three days before the race. Get your playlist together and plan what you'll wear. Also, see what the weather is going to be like. If it will be cold or there's a chance of rain, plan to wear a waterproof jacket or long-sleeve top. You aren’t going to get any faster at this point, so it’s best to just to have fun, relaxed workouts.

The night before the race: 
Eat what you would normally eat at night and nothing new or unhealthy. Charge your devices and lay out what you're going to wear. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep.

Race Day

Morning of the race: 
Wake up about an hour to hour-and-a-half before the race and eat breakfast. Eat something low in sugar and fiber with no more than seven grams of protein. Bananas are a good option. Don’t eat too much and drink some water. If it’s hot, drink a sports drink. Get to your race location at least 30 minutes ahead of time (more if you think you'll have trouble parking). Warm-up by walking or jogging for about 10 minutes, then do some light stretches. Also, use this time to use the bathroom. 

During the race: 
Hopefully, you’ve been training and know what your goal pace is for each mile split. The 5K race is short, so you really don’t need to stop for water or to use the bathroom. If you warm-up properly beforehand, you can start off pretty fast. Just don’t go too fast at the start or you may burn out. If you are fast, get close to the front of the starting line so you don’t have to push past all the walkers or trip over anyone. Try to make your last mile your fastest and stay relaxed.


After the race: 
Stretch! It’s important because it’s likely you ran faster than you normally do on training runs and maintained your faster speed for three miles. Focus on your quads, glutes and calves. If it’s hot, drink fluids all day to stay hydrated. Try to eat something that is a mix of protein and carbs within 30 minutes of finishing to relieve soreness.

The 5K is a fun, quick race, so you’ll have time to recover and enjoy your day. Did we miss anything? What do you do to prepare? Leave us a question or comment below and good luck on your race!  

Sources: Race Day Tips for Running Your First 5K, leaving site icon Verywell Fit, 2019; Race Tips: How to Prepare for Your First Running Event, leaving site icon Cleveland Clinic, 2020

Originally published 6/6/2017; Revised 2018, 2021, 2023