Written by: Jason Peters, General Manager @ O2 Chatham, USA Track & Field Level 1 Coach, TRX Certified Instructor
There are many theories out there about what to do and how to prepare the day of a 5k race. I'm writing this with the novice/beginner in mind. Those of you who have come up with a plan/strategy that works, feel free to stick with what you've been doing, or snag some of these ideas to apply for yourself.
- Mind your feet! Proper shoe fit is essential, so visit your local running store (www.fleetfeetsports.com) for a shoe-fitting well before race day. If you look at the soles of your current training shoes and see some significant wear on the bottom, it may be time for an upgrade. This doesn't always mean a triple-digit price tag either. There are plenty of good bargains to be found. Just make sure you know what type of shoe you should be wearing for YOUR individual feet. Overall enjoyment of running starts with your feet!
- Run the course before race day to know what to expect. If this is your first 5k, take the time to at least walk the course. If you have time, I would recommend doing an easy run of the course about a week out from the race. It will really help you during the race knowing what you have to accomplish.
- Warm up - Cool down. You don't ever want to start a race cold. Take some time and get to the race site early. Start off with a short, very easy jog. This is a good way to get the blood flowing and loosen up tight muscles. If you have time and there is someone on-site providing complimentary massage, take advantage and get a quick rub-down before the race to help loosen upthose legs. When you're done with the race, you don't want to just stop cold. Take a few minutes to walk around, taking in some deep breaths and stretch out. If you've just done your first race, you may need to apply some ice to your legs at some point after the race, just to make sure you don't get too sore. 'Warm-Up, Cool-down' is a great mantra to carry with you when it comes to any type of physical activity.
- Don't experiment with food and sports drinks on race day. You need to have come up with what works for you and your system prior to race day. The worst feeling in the world is to try a fancy sports drink for the first time before a race and have it hit you wrong...ugh, not a good feeling during a race; trust me on this! The best prep is a light breakfast of something like toast with peanut butter or a banana with OJ, coffee or Gatorade.
- ENJOY the experience! Make sure you take the time to soak up all the race has to offer. Most race organizers have put a lot of time and energy into making your race day the best it can be. From a nice post-race snack to music, freebies and giveaways...this can be one of the more enjoyable parts of the race. It's also a great place to interact with and meet other people on the same path as you...and, social support is a very good thing!
If you're heading out on your first 5k race anytime soon, try to apply some of these principles to your routine for race-day and I think you'll find much more overall enjoyment from the experience.
Have fun and be prepared!