How to prepare for a 5K race

It’s race week! The U&R Worldwide 5K is on this Sunday 8 February. Since it’s a fun, low-pressure virtual event it’s a great opportunity to practice your race day preparation. What to pack? What to eat? What to wear? Never fear, it’s all here.

This post contains a sneak peek from our new book. We packed a lot of details into the race week chapter, because particularly with a debut race when the nerves are running riot through your body, YOU NEED DETAILS!

How to prepare for a 5K race

The key to a great race day is a well laid plan. You won’t be as nervous if you feel in control and know the steps you need to take from start to finish line. With experience you’ll know the drill and can personalise your pre and post race rituals. Here’s our blueprint for success.

In the week leading up to the race

  • Study the race course. It could be an out and back route through a city center or a loop through a park, but the most important thing to look for is elevation changes. If you know where the hills are you can plan your race strategy accordingly.
  • Check the race day weather forecast. Knowing if you’re in for rain or shine will help you decide how to dress. Many runners make the mistake of overdressing and end up overheating during the race. Remember that your 5k could take you anywhere from twenty to fifty minutes to complete so keep things simple:
    • Cold weather: Add fleece gloves, a headband that covers your ears or a thermal hat, ankle length running pants, long sleeve shirt and light windbreaker jacket.
    • Hot weather: Sunscreen, running cap, sunglasses, tank top, shorter running pants.

The night before – get your bag ready

Being organised will calm your nerves and ensure you don’t miss anything! Avoid doing this at the last minute when nerves have already taken hold.

Here’s our packing list:

  • Bib number or copy of registration if you need to still pick that up at the race (for the Worldwide 5K – don’t forget to download and print your customised bib!)
  • Safety pins to pin the bib to your shirt.
  • Watch, heart rate monitor or GPS
  • A change of clothes for after the race
  • Sunglasses
  • Wipes, travel soap, a towel
  • Sunscreen
  • Hair items for long tresses: bands, pins.
  • Kleenex or extra toilet paper (those porta potties are often out…)
  • A little cash for a post race treat

Well organised races will have a bag deposit area so you can safely store your gear while you run.

On race day

  • 5k is a relatively short distance so there’s no need for special pre-race nutrition or “carbo-loading”. That won’t come into play until you’re running longer distances. As long as you’re eating a variety of healthy foods in your everyday meals, you’ll be good to go on race day.
  • For morning races eat a breakfast with complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain bread or oatmeal. Allow a couple of hours for digestion. For afternoon races have a light early lunch and include some pasta or rice. At the end of your meal you should feel full but not stuffed.
  • Avoid foods that might irritate your stomach or intestinal tract while racing. During your training you probably identified the foods you don’t get along with, such as coffee or dairy products. Since you already drink plenty of water during the day and your nutrition plan is packed with fresh fruits and vegetables, you don’t need to “fill up” pre-race. Drink according to thirst and stop drinking at least a half hour before your start time, otherwise you’ll waste time in bathroom lines.
  • Don’t worry if you find yourself making several trips to the restroom before your race. It’s your Automatic Nervous System working at its best. The sympathetic nervous system will (among other things) constrict your blood vessels causing you to urinate more often. The parasympathetic nervous system will increase intestinal activity. Just make sure you find the bathrooms and check the length of the lines so you can estimate how long a visit will take. This may take more planning than your actual race!

Up & Running Worldwide 5KBe sure to come back on Friday for a post on how to race your 5K… get ready to rock it!

The Up & Running Worldwide 5K is on Sunday 8 February, in celebration of the publication of UP AND RUNNING, our beginners running book. Click here to find out more about how this virtual race works and the great prizes you can win!

(Photograph by Penny Wincer and used with permission from CICO Books.)