Reader Question: How do I prepare for my first 5k?

prepare for my first 5k

Jessica H. sent us an email – and we liked her question so much, we thought a lot of you would benefit from a post about it:

“Well, [Rugged Maniac] is my first 5k. I’m far from in shape (well, round is a shape, but not the shape I’m looking for). My goal is to make it past that finish line. I need all kinds of suggestions; From what to wear, to how to make it epic, to what not to drink or eat the morning of and day before.”

We’re sure this is a question that is running through lots of heads after signing up for your first 5k. There’s so much to think about and the question always becomes: “How do I prepare for my first 5k??”

prepare for my first 5k - reach that finish line
It’s not as far as you think!

First things first: You WILL make it past that finish line. Unless you’ve signed up for an elite event which has a strict time limit, you will be absolutely, positively, 100% fine as long as you take your time and are careful not to injure yourself. We know the first time is intimidating, but if you’ve signed up for a fun run or mud run (like Rugged Maniac), please know that us epic runners are very nice people who are excited that so many new runners are joining the trend. You will hopefully feel welcomed and supported before, during and after the race.


Now, onto business…


Before the Race:

  • TRAIN! Run, run, and run some more. Walk if you have to, but keep trying to increase your distance little by little. If you’re new to running, we suggest allowing yourself at least two months of training. It may not sound like a lot, but trust us, it will be plenty of time. Try the Couch to 5k plan; it’s great for newbie runners.
  • If you’re doing a regular 5k (without mud or other novelties), make sure you make a good playlist. If you’re signed up for a mud run, forget it. If you’re running an Electric Run, Color Run, etc., there is generally a lot of energy and entertainment around the race so you may not want music!
  • Read ALL of the race emails. We’ve gotten into a bad habit of thinking we’re such seasoned runners that we don’t need to read the directions, but find ourselves constantly missing important race instructions and updates. Read all the emails thoroughly and follow directions! Not only will you get that important parking update, it will make your overall race experience less stressful.
  • Don’t eat a lot of fiber the night before or morning of. Generally this is a tip more reserved for longer distances, but it would behoove you to follow it just so you’re not caught on course with any *ahem* bathroom surprises. You don’t need to carb-load for a 5k; that is generally reserved for at least a half marathon. (All the more reason to train for one!)
  • Eat a good breakfast of carbs & protein. I’ve made the mistake of eating oatmeal before my runs and I’ve found myself running to the bathroom mid-race! Generally a bagel topped with peanut or almond butter and a piece of fruit will hold you over.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. This should go without saying 🙂
  • Dress accordingly: Pick a good outfit that will support the type of race you’re doing.
    • Mud runs = Generally, we like to go with tight fitting gear that won’t weigh us down or snag on the obstacles. Xracewear makes great gear with a bib protector, specifically for mud runs!
    • 5k = Something breathable & light, weather permitting. Wear something you’re comfortable in that won’t chafe. Please don’t wear the race shirt on race day. Snag a Do Epic Runs shirt so everyone knows how epic you are!
    • Fun run = Costuuuumes! Go with the theme of the race, and try and be unique. We get really excited when we see clever outfits and costumes.


During the Race:how to prepare for my first 5k

  • Hydrate at the water station, but don’t drink too much or you’ll be sloshing around and won’t feel so hot. Bring a handheld water bottle if you like – my Nathan Handheld is my safety blanket!
  • Look around! Look at other runners’ funny costumes, the race course, and high five people. It will make the time fly by.
  • Don’t go for time at your first 5k. Enjoy the experience without stressing yourself out. There are plenty of 5ks out there that you can improve your time on.
  • Ham it up for the camera. We’re literal pros at this. I can spot a photographer from a mile away and plan my photos accordingly. The better the photo, the better the chance you’ll see it on the race website, and these are great memories to have.
  • SMILE at the finish line. There are usually at least 2 photographers there, capturing your epic moment. You want to look excited, like you just crushed it!


After the Race:

  • Refuel. Grab the water and banana and Clif bar, or whatever else they give you at the finish line.
  • Walk around a little bit to cool down, and do some light stretching if you like.
  • If the race provides (and you’re of age), have a beer. But take it easy.
  • Take pictures with friends, tweet, post on Facebook or Instagram, and brag about your accomplishment! You should be proud.
  • Wear the medal around all day if you want. We usually do 🙂
  • Sign up for your next race!


Is there anything we missed? How do you prep for race day?

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