HELP! Advice Needed from Runners…


You may or may not have read that I’m running my first 5k later this month. I probably sound like I’m making too much of a big deal about it.

But it’s a big deal to me.

It’s something I never thought I’d be able to do. I never even wanted to try. But something changed when I read inspirational stories of people who were once unhealthy who had changed their lives and completed 5ks themselves. “If they can do it, why can’t I?” I thought. I need to give a shout out to the blogging community and friends on Facebook and Twitter for inspiring me with their posts and holding me accountable to mine. Thank you for showing me that I can do this!

Still… I need some advice.

It’s my first 5k and I’ve been online doing research on what to expect. However, I’m not finding much. What I’m finding is experienced and seasoned runners saying, “It really doesn’t matter what you do, it’s such a short distance.”

That’s not really helping me.

I know I shouldn’t be anxious about the little details, but I am. So if any of you have some simple answers out there, I’d appreciate it if you can share them! Hopefully, some of you will remember what it felt like to be a new runner.

So here’s my list of questions:

1) What should I do the night before the 5k? I know this sounds silly and this is where some of the experienced runners have come in to say it doesn’t really matter because it’s a short race. Friday nights for me normally consist of dinner out and a couple of poker games or conducting a Wine Tasting. I’m usually in bed somewhere between 11:30 pm and 12:30 am. However, I have taken the Friday night before my 5k “off” and have nothing planned. I am thinking I should keep it low-key, eat well and get a good night’s rest. Any suggestions on how to spend my evening are welcome!

2) What should I eat? Laugh if you will. I normally run after work, so I’m not very used to running in the morning. Even on the weekends, I wait until later in the day. The night before the 5k, do you recommend anything specific for dinner? Should I not eat after a certain time? What should I have for breakfast pre-race?

3) What time should I get there? Race starts at 8:30 am. Registration opens at 7:30 am.  I’m thinking the earlier the better to orient myself and not feel rushed.

4) What should I wear? I know this sounds silly, too. Intuition tells me to wear what’s comfortable. But you see, I’ve only been running outside for about four or five weeks and the weather has been very nice! I’ve been wearing fitted pants or capris that I’ve found in the activewear section of Kohl’s. I love them. They are a no brainer for race day.  Then I have one particular three-quarter sleeved shirt I like to wear or a comfortable t-shirt when it’s hot. However, this past weekend I ran in the rain when it was 46 degrees. I was worried about getting drenched and cold, so I put on a hat and found this in my husband’s closet:

waterproof windbreaker-pullover

I thought it would be perfect to keep me dry. And while it did do that, I got hot fast and felt like it weighed me down. Plus, it was a little bit big. It just wasn’t ideal.

  • Do you have any suggestions on what to wear if it’s raining on race day? I could buy my own waterproof lightweight jacket just for running, but don’t want to spend the money if there is a better option.
  • What about layering? On my Dog Day 5k walk, I remember wearing a t-shirt and a light jacket over it. I got hot immediately and needed to tie it around my waist. It was kind of annoying and I was mostly just walking that day.
  • In addition, they gave us a t-shirt. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, so I ended up carrying it the whole time. I had a dog leash in one hand, a t-shirt in the other. Where do you put these things? Do you bring them back to your car? Should I have a friend come to support me and ask them to hold them?

5) How should I warm up? I usually do a good 5 minute walk before running, but I’m not sure what I can/should do on race-day. I also know that I’m not stretching enough/properly afterward. I’ve tried to look these up online, but I’m not very good at following sketches of stretches.. I don’t know if I’m doing things correctly. Any advice or links you have for me?

6) What do I do after I finish? I guess I just don’t know what to expect here. I have no idea if anyone will be coming with me that day. Do I just leave afterward? Hang around for something?

Believe me, I know these questions are silly and I don’t want to discourage anyone newbies from running just because of the little details. So with that I’d like to share a few of the other things I’ve learned since I’ve started running:

1) Just do it. Yes, it may sound cliché, but Nike is right. If you try to learn everything you should do before beginning anything, it’ll hold you back. Instead, evolve in your journey. {Of course, always consult with your doctor first.}

2) Invest in the right shoes. I had a Groupon to Runner’s Gate and got a great pair shoes. Once I slipped my feet into them, I knew why my $30 pairs I used to get on sale at Kohl’s were just not cutting it. {I still do love Kohl’s, I just buy my running shoes elsewhere now}.

3) Along the same line: COTTON IS ROTTEN. That is, when it comes to socks. The folks at Runner’s Gate taught me this and I can’t thank them enough for my Feetures socks. Again, these aren’t a requirement to begin running, but they do make it much more comfortable.

4) Running is 80% mental. This is my own opinion. I didn’t read it anywhere. I do find running physically challenging since I’ve never been athletic. However, I’ve found that the majority of the process takes place in the mind. If I talk myself out of a run or tell myself I can’t do something during a run, it ruins everything. I need to psych myself up for the run and practice positive self-talk the entire time.

5) Running on a treadmill indoors is completely different from running outdoors. My running began in the winter and I did most of my Couch to 5k training on a treadmill. I thought I’d be embarrassed to run outdoors. But I also thought it would be easier because I wouldn’t be constantly looking at the time or adjusting the speed. The verdict: Running outside has been fine. No one has looked at my funny. Or if they have, I didn’t notice because I was so focused on the task at hand. The elevation changes have proven challenging to me since I didn’t practice any inclines on my treadmill. Still, it’s much more difficult to just quit during a run outside because you have to get back to Point A somehow!

6) Some days are easier than others. Sometimes I get mad at myself if I had a slow run day or didn’t improve. Then I remember that at least I did it.

For those of you who are runners out there, I want to thank you for all of your inspiration.

Your help in answering my simple questions above is greatly appreciated. For those of you new to running, what would you add to either list above?



14 responses »

  1. One more thing… What is your take on running while sick? I got a scratchy throat on Friday, swollen throat on Saturday, but still did a short run. That wasn’t a big deal, but yesterday it turned into a full-blown head cold. I’m completely out of it right now. I am hoping I’ll be okay to do a run tomorrow!

  2. Ok, I can write you a book. I will see if I can organize this in a helpful way. DISCLAIMER – I am not an expert but I ran my first 5K about 3 years ago. When people tell you it is a “short” distance, that is not nice or fair. It is longer than a lot of people have ever raced or even completed! It is true that 5K training is different from marathon training but DUH! And – you have to start somewhere!

    Training while sick. I would skip it if you are really sick. Your body needs to heal. If you are sort of sick, get out there. (And hit the vitamins.)

    What to do the night before? Try to go to sleep. Lay off the wine and drink lots of water.

    What to eat? Ideally, you will try a morning run just to see how much your body needs. I suggest a banana and a bagel. Get some good carbs. BUT, you are going to want to try to poop before you get to the race site. (Pooping in a porta potty = bad.) While I am talking about potty, I personally get nervous and have to pee constantly. There will likely be toilets along the race route. When I ran my last 1/2 marathon, I saw a guy run off to pee in a cornfield. It was hilarious.

    What time to get there? Can you pick up your race stuff early? That would be ideal- then you wouldn’t have to carry your crap around. If you cannot, find someone to hang on to it or drop it in your car. I like to get to the races early but if it is cold and rainy, that will suck. But, you never know what parking and registration will be like. I would be cautious and get there early. You will probably have to carry your keys or something with you. I have a race pouch – think fanny pack but not super lame. It holds keys – maybe phone. Some pants have zipper pockets. Think about your keys when you pick out your race clothes.

    What to wear? For the love of God, please do not wear that windbreaker in the picture. That looks WAY too hot. If you are worried about getting cold, wear a base layer and a light jacket that you can tie around your race or ditch to your admiring fans along the route. Have someone at the finish line with a jacket. You will be hot right after but as soon as your body cools, the sweat will result in you getting SUPER cold. Wear your race clothes – especially bra – before race day. Chafing is bad. You commented about cotton socks being bad – I couldn’t agree more. Good running socks are heaven. Cotton shirts are also not the best choice. Get a technical shirt that wicks. (That goes for bras as well.) I have this one cotton sports bra that feels like my boobs are wearing a wool sweater – horrifying!

    Warm up before race – Jeff is a big fan of this. I don’t usually because I am usually in line for the bathroom. Plus, he “races” and I just run for fun. It is a must to stretch. Put some good “pump up” music on your ipod. Look around – it is an awesome experience. All body shapes, types, sizes. Everyone is super nice. I saw one guy run a race in jeans and steel toe shoes.

    After race – Find the food and water area. Go check out the finish line and cheer for the people coming across. Most races have awards after the race. I have only stayed for that a couple of times. Jeff placed in one race and my friend placed in another. Your race may or may not have awards. But, I would suggest cheering the finishers on.

    Some other tidbits:
    I like to run with my ipod. I made a playlist for a 5K that helped me time myself. I knew where I wanted to be at each song change. After the first two songs, I should have crossed mile 1.
    If you have a time goal, DON’T GO OUT TOO FAST. If you just want to finish, just enjoy it. But note that your adrenalin will be flowing.

    Wow – I told you I could write a book. I ran today and it was a BAD run. SO PLEASE don’t read this and think that I am trying to be all “expert” runner. I am super excited for you to be doing this. Good luck and have fun.


  3. Most of your questions were answered above and I couldnt agree more with the suggestions.

    I agree with the potty thing..I dont care if you just peed moments before leaving the house..go again before you cross the start line. I have a nervous bladder and also when I start to get fatigued the first to notice is my bladder, instant have to go potty feeling. Not fun.

    Also agree that jacket in the pic is way too bulky. I dont even like running in t-shirts that are a little big. I dont like skin tight either but I get annoyed with the way a shirt feels when I go for long runs if its big in the arms. It starts rubbing and I get uncomfortable. Definitely wear something you’ve worn before wearing it to the race. Layering is the key but only if you have someone to hand your layers off to..wrapping things around my waist bugs me too. I also have a little belt thing that is big enough to hold my keys and ipod. It’s really light weight, you dont even know you have it on.

    As for after the race, I usually dont stay. I get my time and take off for home. I know I wont be placing anything special so need to hang around. 🙂 But that’s up to you, it’s fun to watch the other runners coming across the finish line.

    As for breakfast and what to eat the night before? Definitely try to drink lots of water the day before and get a good nights sleep. Easier said than done but I wouldnt be hanging til 11 or 12 at night..I wouldnt do well with a morning run anyway! (I dont do well with morning runs period as I am not a morning person) Anyway, for breakfast I like having a piece of toast with peanut butter and maybe a banana and a small glass of milk, juice or coffee. I try not to drink too much that morning (got the crazy bladder thing, remember?!) I tend to do better runs with little in my belly.

    Just like anytime that I run, during the race I try to take it one mile at a time, one song at a time..The run has to finish eventually! Before you know it you’ll be done and can say you ran a 5K! When you feel pain tell yourself it’s weakness leaving your body, YOU are strong and CAN do this!

    I am very proud of you. You will rock this:)

  4. Like Ann, I could write a book… And actually, I can second every last thing she said!

    I guess I need to say, and you’ve probably heard it a zillion times, that everyone of us is different. Figuring out what works for me took a ton of trial and error, and what works for me might not work for you.

    They also say that should NEVER try anything new on race day. No new food, no new clothes, nothing. No new stuff = no scary surprises. The time to try new things is NOW.

    I run in the mornings so I have that going for me. Matt is an afternoon/evening runner like you, but he says once he gets going he’s OK. You’ll be excited and more awake than you might imagine! Ideally, try to get in a morning run or two before the race to practice. Maybe on a day you don’t have to work? October 2011’s Runner’s World had the article “Rise & Run” in it that was not about racing specifically, but about the habits of morning runners. That might be helpful to you. I couldn’t find it published online anywhere, but if you want it, I can email it. I kind of like the article since I was one of those who contributed and was quoted in it. 🙂

    Two nights before: Get a good sleep. Yes, you should do that the night before, but chances are you’ll be excited and unable to sleep. I never can.

    The night before: Just eat sensibly and make sure to get lots of water. A lot of people can handle a glass of wine or a beer the night before. Matt can. I can’t. My stomach is a mess the next morning. Peanut M&M’s are very important the night before a race. 😉

    I can’t eat before I run, so I make sure dinner the night before REALLY counts. The morning of, I just make sure to drink a lot of water. If I am going longer than a 5k, I do try to get a 1/2 a banana in me. It’s not much, but it’s something. I can tolerate liquids OK, so I try to have some juice or something, too. (On the “never try anything new” topic, I’ll never forget running a hilly 4 mile race a few years ago, during very hot August. They had bagels & fruit out beforehand. I ate ONE QUARTER of a small bagel…And saw it again on the race course later on.)

    On the clothing front, this Runner’s World “What to Wear” calculator might help you out:,,s6-240-325-330-0-0-0-0-0,00.html
    I am rarely too cold while running, but sometimes I FREEZE waiting at the start line. A lot of people – me included – sometimes bring a “throw away” blanket or jacket along. Instead of giving my unwanted sweatshirts, hoodies, etc to Goodwill, I hold onto them. I wear it and toss it on the side of the road right before I start. A lot of bigger races (When we did Cherry Blossom in DC this past weekend, for example. Also when I did the Miami marathon last year) pick these up and give them to charity or the homeless. If they don’t, I check afterwards to make sure it’s not just littering.

    Get there as early as you can on race day. If they have packet pickup the day before, do your best to get it then! Early means time to park and to use the porta potties. I usually go 3 times beforehand! (That’s another tip: go potty! lol) Definitely go put your shirt and anything else you don’t need in the car. I never have anyone watching me race to help me and I just can’t imagine carrying all that! Like Ann, I have a belt, too. I keep my phone, car key, tissues, GU (longer races), lip balm, and a couple $$ in it.

    I stretch a little bit beforehand, but mostly starting out slow is a good way to warm up for me. I definitely DO do a LOT of stretching afterwards. Like a good 20-30 minutes. I wasn’t always good about it but since this last injury I am religious about it.

    Afterwards – whatever you want! 🙂 We usually don’t stick around long.

    One last thing, Miss Carrie. I have a bone to pick with you. Don’t EVER minimalize what you are doing here. “Just a 5k?” That is HUGE. I also honestly have huge respect for those who do well in the 5k. That’s an all-out sprint. I can run roughly forever (or until my bones break:)) but I am a slowpoke. 5k’s are a big deal. Especially your first one. 🙂

  5. Thanks for the shout out on twitter :)!
    Like the others, I could write a million things – so I’ll try and keep the advice short – but first of all remember to HAVE FUN and enjoy the race while you are running it. Take in your surroundings, the other runners, the excitement of it being your first 5K! During my first 5K (on Thanksgiving) I think I smiled the entire race…except for one big hill haha..because I was that excited to actually be doing it! it goes:
    1. The night before take it easy! Get a good night of sleep. Visualize the start line of the race and running it and finishing with pride! Put your head in the race mindset. Read motivational sayings. Pick some mantras that you can repeat if/when things get tough during the run.

    2. I’m a morning runner and always need to eat first. Most go with toast + nut butter + banana. For the last 5K I had a Lara bar, half a banana and coconut water. Don’t eat anything new, however. I try and eat about an hour and a half before the race so I’m not too full and not hungry. Think simple, clean foods.

    3. Depends on how big and crowded the race is..shoot to be there at least an hour ahead of time.

    4. Wear what you normally run in so you know it works and is comfortable. If you can, put the race t-shirt back in your car or give it to someone spectating to hold. Stashing it in a corner also works if you are alone, chances are no one will take it.

    5. I’m terrible at warming up, but a bit of active stretching or hopping around should be fine. You will see other people walking/running around so you can do that as well!

    6. Whatever you want! Enjoy the rest of the day 🙂

    GOOD LUCK! You are not making too big a deal of it – the first one and every one after that is a huge accomplishment. I was in your shoes once – I never ever thought I would run a 5K. It still feels like a huge win every time I go running. If you have any more questions or I can be of more help don’t hesitate to ask 🙂 and again…HAVE FUN!!!

  6. Hi! Happy to share some tips!

    1) What should I do the night before the 5k? Get a good nights sleep, eat a light meal – meaning easily digestible such as pasta, rice, etc. You want to feel energetic in the morning!

    2) What should I eat? Night before – easily digestible meal such as pasta, rice, bread, etc. Carbs = energy! Stay away from a big steak or burger that takes forever to digest. In the morning, I ALWAYS have a piece of toast with peanut butter and banana. A cup of OJ or handful of grapes are good for fuel too!

    3) What time should I get there? Register before-hand if you can so it’s one less thing to worry about. If you are able to do that, I would arrive 15-20 min. before the race so you’re not standing outside in the cold for too long.

    4) What should I wear? Whatever you’ve been wearing for other 3+ mi runs! Do not wear anything new! Wear something “worn in” that you KNOW won’t give you chaffing! I always wear capri length running pants (wicking fabric), short sleeve tech shirt and long sleeve tech shirt over it that is light weight and I can tie around my waist.

    5) How should I warm up? Brisk walk or light jog before the race followed w/ light stretches. Some people use the race as their warm-up …. jogging slowly for the first 1/2 mile then picking up the pace when you feel warmed up and muscles are loose. If you want to “go all out” from the Starting line, you may want to warm up beforehand.

    6) After the finish, hang out and celebrate! If you are running by yourself, ask Rob to meet you at the Finish line so you have something to look forward to! Or, if you’re like me, hang out and celebrate and stay close to the port-o-pottie in case you have stomach issues after the race!!!!! Just kidding – you will not have stomach issues!!!!!!!!!!

    You can approach this race w/ confidence because you’ve already exceeded the distance!!! You KNOW you can do it! Now the question is how fast??!!! Have fun and enjoy every minute! The crowd will keep you going and excited! xoxoxo

  7. Sorry for the delayed response; here goes:
    Rest the night before, low key with a normal supper. (save the wine for the victory dinner after!!!) Drink plenty of fluids the week of the race. I also have a routine of putting out everything I need for the following morning: running clothes, charged ipod, my race bib, chapstick, ect. I eat breakfast the morning of my races; usually good if you have at least an hour to let your stomach digest. If I don’t eat anything in the am, I get way too hungry and tired when I try to run.
    I suggest a few “trial” runs in the am outside if you can. It’ll give you a better feel for your needs–what to wear, what your tummy tolerates, ect… in the am. Sometimes it’s so different from pm runs. I like am runs better, but due to kids and life in general, most of my end up being later runs outside.
    I recommend getting there early, pottying right away, stretching out and getting comfortable, and then pottying again right before the race. I get nervous and I find that my bladder fills fast when nerves and chilled weather combines…
    What to wear? Again, a few trial runs in the am will help you pick up the things you are most comfortable with. I layer under armour with shorts and a dry-wick shirt usually. Maybe cheap through away gloves that you won’t miss if you need to shed them. Also, will you need a pocket or place to put your car keys or cell phone? If Rob is there, it’s best if he takes them, but it’s such a pain to find a secure place on you when you’re there alone running.
    Most races give out goodie bags-I bring them back to my car, which also dubs as part of my walking warm up before.
    I’m sooo excited to hear how it goes for you-Good Luck!

  8. Pingback: My First 5k – From Start to Finish « Season It Already!

  9. Pingback: My 2nd 5k: A Recap « Season It Already!

  10. Pingback: The First One is Tomorrow! « Season It Already!

  11. Pingback: Weight Loss Rewards and NSVs « Season It Already!

  12. Pingback: Challenge Obesity 5k – “Race” recap | Season It Already!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.