Monday, August 22

First 5k advice

A very dear friend of mine is about to run her first 5k. I awoke to find the following message in my inbox (convenient timing, given yesterday's commentary about facing new challenges):
On Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 5:49 AM, wrote:
Subject: Bibs are not just for babies

So, my bib came in the mail today. Wanna give me some race day tips? :-)

My first thought: That might be the best email subject line. Ever.
My second thought: Oh, where to begin???

After careful consideration, I came up with my list of five things that every runner should know before his/her first race. (Some are practical. Some are amusing.)

Did I miss any? Leave your suggestions in the comments, and I'll pass them along to the soon-to-be racer.

On Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 8:33 AM, wrote:
Subject: Re: Bibs are not just for babies

Tip #1 - Do nothing on race day that you haven't done already. No new shoes. No new food. No new clothing. If you've been running without music: keep running without music. If you've been running with an mp3 player: make sure it's charged.

Tip #2 - Rest and be good to your body in the days leading up to the race. Get to bed a little earlier starting mid-week race week. (I can never sleep well the night before a race... so extra sleep earlier in the week helps.) I also skip alcohol for 3-7 days before a race (yes... you read that right. But that's probably more extreme than you need for this race.) Drink a little more water and don't eat any stomach-upsetting foods the day before the race. (Under no circumstances should you eat curry before the race! Going hungry is preferable to pre-race curry. See #4.)

Tip #3 - Figure out the basics that you need to bring with you (including what you're going to wear) for the race. Lay those things out the night before. (Minimum: Clothes. Socks. Shoes. Bib pre-pinned to your shirt. Timing chip secured to your shoe, if the race is using a timing chip. ID. $20 or credit card. Key(s). Sunblock(?).) Figure out whether or not you're going to bring a cell phone,* and if so, where you're going to put it.

Tip #4 - Pack a small wad of toilet paper or one of those little packaged wet-wipes (like they give you at seafood and BBQ restaurants). This is key. Port-o-lets sometimes run out of TP. Most race organizers have figured this out and stock accordingly. But I can't tell you how many times I've been glad I've packed my own. Nothing ruins a race like lack of TP.

Tip #5 - This is going to sound trite, but it's true: HAVE FUN. Write "My First 5k" in huge letters on your shirt** so more people will cheer for you. Take photos (or have ____ take photos). SMILE when you see the official race photographers - even if you are faking it. But don't fake it. Have fun. This is huge. You should be proud!

Side notes:
*If you do run with your phone, consider putting it in a snack-sized plastic bag to protect it from sweat.

**Awesome things I have seen racers do: Writing or painting slogans on T-shirts. Pinning similar slogans to the back of a shirt -- in case you don't want to "ruin" running clothes. Writing your name on your arms in Sharpie marker so people know to cheer for "____." The marker washes off in <24 data-blogger-escaped-5k.="5k." data-blogger-escaped-a="a" data-blogger-escaped-blockquote="blockquote" data-blogger-escaped-earned="earned" data-blogger-escaped-feel="feel" data-blogger-escaped-first="first" data-blogger-escaped-free="free" data-blogger-escaped-get="get" data-blogger-escaped-ham="ham" data-blogger-escaped-hours.="hours." data-blogger-escaped-it="it" data-blogger-escaped-little.="little." data-blogger-escaped-one="one" data-blogger-escaped-only="only" data-blogger-escaped-to="to" data-blogger-escaped-up="up" data-blogger-escaped-ve="ve" data-blogger-escaped-you="you">

Note: Names, email addresses, etc... are clearly edited for my friend's privacy. But the conversation text is otherwise unchanged.

Photo (of sign) courtesy of MethodDan. Photo (of the loo) courtesy of Nationaal Archief


  1. Tip #0 - READ the race instructions.
    Tip #6 - Arrive EARLY.

  2. Heed the advice of the Wise One (PeterBlomgren)

    Tip #1a - Do nothing in the (2-3) day(s) before the race day that you haven't done already.

    Tip #6a - GET THERE EARLY! First and foremost, it's going to save you quite a bit of energy if you don't have to worry about being stuck in traffic, being late, not having enough time to figure where the start is and/or where your friends are or just overall WHAT THE HECK is going on! Start areas can be hectic and they will undoubtedly BE hectic if your mind is going crazy trying to figure out all the details. So, save yourself from that craziness. Also, this will give you an opportunity to visit the port-o-potty early, as well. As the start time approaches, there may be more anxiety and there WILL be more people. So, when you finally decide "I want to pee", so will 10000 other people and you will be stuck in a loooong line.
    And then, there's this: it may seem unimportant to a first time race participant but a pre-race experience is a big part of the overall adventure! Get there and soak it up!

    Tip #7 - races start early and it may be cold (even in San Diego). If your race has a gear check-in, you can take advantage of that (most 5k's don't, I think). So plan ahead: either bring some throwaway outer layer clothing which the volunteers will pick up and donate to a charity OR simply bring a trash bag, cut out a hole for your head and wear that over your upper body. It will keep you warm and you won't have to think hard about getting rid of it.

  3. In the first half, don't be an idiot. In the second half, don't be a wimp.

  4. Excellent suggestions! Keep 'em coming!

    I received a funny one in the Facebook comments for this post:
    "Drink Cytomax and don't run like a girl :)"



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