5 Ways To Get the Most Out of Your First (or Next) 5K

5 Ways To Get the Most Out of Your First (or Next) 5K

Mar 11 2015

Train wisely, choose a well-organized event and consider these five things you can do to get the most out of your race experience.

By: Blaine Lam

You can run on our public roadways for free. So if you’re going to pay for the “pleasure” of joining hundreds, or thousands, of other runners in an organized 5K, make sure you’ve done something you can take to the memory bank.

1) Know Where To Go. The one thing that turns a good race day sour is to be lost, confused, frustrated, or even late. It doesn’t have to be that way. Treat it as if you would were planning your own picnic. Not even good race organizers have time to answer your questions right before the gun goes off. Go to the event’s website and figure out what time you should be there, where to park, where to put your gear, how to get to the starting line and – not a trivial issue – when and where to find “restroom” facilities. (Might not hurt to think about this right before you leave for the race, too).

2) Dress for Success. The Number One Woulda Coulda Shoulda in road racing sounds something like this: “I was too hot out there,” or “I didn’t know it was going to be that cold!” Remember that when you train, you don’t stand around outside before your run. So, monitor the weather carefully for the days and hours leading up to the race. Will it rain? What will the race-time temperature be? Bring clothes for before, during and after the race. Plan to stay warm before the race, cool enough during the race, and even toasty after the race, when your body cools down quickly. Better to bring old clothes, and few valuables, rather than worry about security. (Truth be told, forgetfulness is a bigger problem than theft.) And don’t be afraid to get out of wet clothes after your run. Big races have “gear check” for your warm-up/post-race clothes.

Priority Health - Personal Wellness - 5K Run - Friends3) Plan Your Fun!  “Where WERE you?” “We should have set a place to meet up before the race.” Those are common sentiments. Unless you’re that hotshot who came to set the course record, it’s likely you signed up to enjoy the social atmosphere at the race. Get your signals straight with family and friends before the race with exact times and locations. Who’s bringing the hot chocolate? Can you pool a ride? Don’t assume race organizers have everything planned out for you. Make your own party.

4) Run Wisely. Sure, it’s a party, but only because you came to run.  So, get focused on how to do your best. The most common mistake is to get caught up in race day excitement, go out too fast, then crash and burn. What a bummer after all that build up. During training, know your pace, and plan to hold back a little bit that first mile or so. First, the crowds may be an issue, so go with the flow. Second, if you speed up at the end, you have the pleasure of passing those people who DID go out too fast.

5) Pat Yourself on the Back. A very small percentage of American adults can even run a mile. Instead of thinking about what you might not have accomplished this day (“ran too slowly,” “didn’t feel great,”) reflect on what you’ve accomplished. Perhaps instead of thinking that the 5K was a goal, consider it a reward. A reward for your real goal – better health. Consider continuing this journey.  Maybe another 5K?  Yeah, and maybe a few seconds, or a few minutes, faster?

Blaine Lam has been the race director of the Borgess Run for the Health of It and the Kalamazoo Marathon for 35 years. He ran competitively at the University of Colorado, and has run numerous road races, 5K and up.