5K Races 101 – What To Expect At Your First 5K Run

by Alexandra

5K events, running

first-5k-race-by-rockymountainhigh.jpg 5K events are great for triathletes to do in the off-season, or as smaller runs when building up your training schedule.

So, you’ve finally decided to sign up for your first 5K race. Your friends, family and co-workers happily pledge their support and help you raise money for a worthy cause.

But as the date approaches, you realize that you have absolutely no idea how the actual event is supposed to work.

Where should you park? What do you do with your purse? What should you wear?

Here are the answers to the most common questions that new 5K runners have…

Where should I park?

If parking information isn’t specifically listed in the brochure or on the website, you can rely on the race organizers to direct you once you arrive.

Most 5K races are organized around a location that offers ample parking for all participants.

If you’d feel more comfortable, call the organizers ahead of time to ask.


What should I wear?

Dress in weather-appropriate, comfortable workout clothes.

If it’s going to be a warm summer day, go with a pair of gym shorts and a T-shirt. Your shorts should be semi-loose and allow you easy movement. They should also cover your entire posterior – you don’t want to give the runners behind you a show!

If the weather is a bit chilly, consider leggings, a long sleeve shirt, or a sweatshirt.


What should I do with my purse and my car keys?

Leave your purse in the trunk of your car. You can remove your car key from the chain and tie it to the drawstring of your shorts. You’ll easily be able to check that it’s still there as you’re running.

Don’t wear a fanny pack. It will bounce uncomfortably as you run and be a distraction.


Where do I go when I get there?

Once you arrive, find the registration or check-in table. After you sign in, you’ll probably be given a goodie bag. Goodie bags will have brochures about the particular cause the 5K is benefiting along with coupons, fliers, and sample products from companies that are sponsoring the event. You may even get an official event T-shirt.

It’s best to just put everything in your car. It’s not necessary to wear the event T-shirt (if you receive one) while you run.

Lastly, some 5K races will give you numbers or a special microchip to pin to your shirt. This is how they keep track of your race time.


What do I do after check-in?

After you get checked in, there tends to be a lull before the race starts. While the race organizers are working to get all the other runners checked in, you can be working on your warm up and stretching.

Keep an eye on what some of the other runners do. There will probably be a few “professional” 5K runners that have some warm up and stretching routines that you can mimic if you don’t have your own.


How do they organize the starting line?

Typically, the fastest 5K runners will move to the very front of the group. Slower runners head to the middle, and those who may be walking during the race head to the back.

If you’re a slower runner, it’s rude to start at the front of the pack. You’ll force the faster runners to navigate around you and jostle for position.


How do I know where to run?

Listen for an announcement at the start of the race, or simply follow the people in front of you.

The race organizers should have volunteers or sometimes police officers stationed throughout the course to stop traffic and guide you as you run. If you’re still unsure, simply ask!


What do I do when I cross the finish line?

5k-finish-line-by-Affiliate.jpg Most races will offer runners some fruit, bottled water, or even bagels once they finish the race. Feel free to grab a little nourishment when you’re finished.

You can stick around until all runners have finished and listen to any announcements or see the awards presentation. Awards are generally given to the top male and female finisher in each age group. Of course, you’re not obligated to stay if you do not wish.



The final thing you should do at your first 5K is give yourself a big pat on the back!

Running a 5K is a terrific, healthy way to support a charity while maintaining a training schedule at the same time. Once you finish your first race, you’ll be eager to start training for the next one.

So keep up the good work and you’ll be a 5K pro in no time!