Whether you’re prepping for a 5K or gearing up for a 13.1-miler this weekend (good luck, by the way!), take heed of these tips to get you from your bed to the start line, to the middle miles, and across the finish line successfully.
1. Take the guesswork out of race morning. Lay out everything the night before.
2. Don’t try anything new on race day, from breakfast to clothing. Stick to your routine.
3. Eat a highly digestible breakfast a couple hours before the start. Something like toast and jam, a banana or a bagel with a little peanut butter.
4. Arrive about an hour early. This allows time for parking, number pickup and potty time without stress.
5. Warm up about 30 minutes before the race. For a 5K, you can spend 10 to 15 minutes walking and/or easy jogging. For a half, walk and jog for 5 to 10 minutes. (The shorter the race, the longer the warm-up can be.)
6. Sip water as you wait for the start. During a 5K, unless it’s super hot, you can skip water on the course. Drink up afterward. For a half, take in water as needed, carry a gel or other sports fuel to take every 45 minutes.
7. Line up appropriately at the start. Unless you plan on finishing in a top spot, start midway to further back. This will also help you keep that adrenaline in check.
8. Start slower than you think you should—the first mile should feel comfortable.
9. Break up the race mentally into thirds: 1. Keep it easy; 2. Hold pace; 3. Push and end with a strong finish. A sports watch is helpful to help keep your pace in check.
10. It’s okay to walk though the aid stations. No need to choke while you hydrate!
11. During walk segments, make sure you pull away from other runners and no one is behind you. Keep walks brisk.
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12. On the course, run a straight tangent; Avoid weaving in and out of people and taking wide turns.
Most importantly, you only have one first race—so enjoy it and soak it all in!