You signed up for a 5K! Now properly plan it! - Advice to my runner self from 4 years ago

Today I'm linking up with Marcia, Erika and Patty on their Tuesdays On The Run Link up, the subject, Advice to My New Runner Self.

I did my first 5K in Mexico, in 1997. It was a school organized race, part of the Student Day Festivities that lasted all day long. I mean, what better way to get antsy teens to chill, than having them run 3.1 miles at 7 am?? We had to make our own bibs, and we didn't train. Memories of that day are still blurry, but my friends and I did finish it. Fast forward 3 years later, I ran another 5K in Kennett Square PA. Didn't train. Bought new shoes. Came in second to last place at 42 minutes. I learned nothing from those early races.  

Then in 2012, after having been doing Zumba for 1 year, My younger sister and I decided to TRAIN and Run the Kennett Run 5K. We had been talking about it for years, and decided this was the year we will put our words to action. We made plans, we trained, we kept each other accountable. But we started making mistakes 2 days before the race, and continued to make mistakes up until the start line. If I could go back and talk to my 2012 self, I would give the following advice :

1. Don't starve yourself 2 days before the race. We didn't do any research on eating, but thinking we were running a 5K, we thought we needed to change something in meals. I know 3.1 miles is not a long distance, but what we did didn't help any.

It is no secret that I love my bagels, donuts and muffins. My sister and I had a horrible habit of having coffee and a donut for breakfast, BUT somebody told us to avoid simple carbs and eat more complex carbs... we had no idea what that meant, so we laid off most carbs. Needless to say, we were cranky and mad by the end of the first day. And we skipped any breakfast before the 5K, because we were afraid of carbs.

2. READ The RACE Guide!  When we ran the Kennett Run in 2000, we had parked at the park where the race ended, and we had arrived there at 6:00 am. Well, 12 years later the race was 10 times bigger and parking at the Park was not available. Information which was in our Race Guide.

When we arrived at the beginning of the race, we were running late. (more on that in a minute). We tried to park by the entrance, and were turned away. We ended up parking on a weird parking lot next to a church, where most cars were parked in all sorts of strange ways.

We had no idea where the race started. We were thinking that it would start in the same place it had started 12 years before. But luckily, we kept walking until we found the start line, about .50 miles from the original. Also information that was in our race guide!

We didn't know where to pick up or Bib or times to pick up our bib.

3. Figure out where to pick up your BIB- Just a few days before the 5K, a friend asked me when I would pick up my Bib, and I had the most stupid answer.... "what's a bib? I don't need a bib, I'm running, not feeding babies." Then after he was done laughing at me, he explained the bib was the paper number I would be wearing in my chest for time keeping.

Again, since we didn't read our race guide, we had no idea time cut offs for picking it up. We showed up at the place that the other runners told us the bib pick up was. But we were too late. Bib pick up was until 9:00. It was 9:10, and the race would be starting at 9:35am.

We headed to the start line, and figured we would run the race without the bibs. We had not done all the training and starved our selves for 3 days to not run this 5K. When we arrived at the start line, there was a person with a box sitting on the floor, handing out late bibs! We pinned our numbers and took off as the second wave was leaving.

4. Arrive 1 hour before the Race- that Means leave home 2-3 hours before the race starts. I have a big family and if one of us does something, likely we will bring 4 others with us. My younger sister had agreed to watch my son, and my brothers agreed to come along to help out. The 5K started at 9:35, we knew that! and it's a 30 minute drive from my parents. So we figured we would drive in by 8:00, find parking and get to the start line by 9:00am.

Well, we didn't plan for the rest of the family to be hungry and want to stop for breakfast! We didn't plan for road closures, given that this is the biggest race in Kennett Square Pa, and we didn't count of manically looking for parking!

We stopped at McDonalds to order food for those who were eating, but because we are all crazy, we had to make a second stop for somebody else to get food at Dunkin Donuts, certain member of our family was avoiding McDonalds at the time.... because we had all the time in the world this morning!

Miraculously, we arrived at the start line by 9:20, but still trying to find bibs.

We ran and finished the 5K. My sister's time was 29.30, mine was 30.05. We were happy, and we ate all the carbs we could find!

This year will be my 5th year running the Kennett Run, and I'm glad to report I have not made any of those mistakes again!

Tuesdays on the Run Link up


  1. I never used to read the race guide either but there are some very important information in there. Besides, they wouldn't put it in there if you didn't need to know it.Now I always look at it-L

  2. You make a great point about the race guide. So crucial especially or larger races where logistics are involved. Thanks for linking up!

  3. The RACE GUIDE IS HUGE! Ha ha ha--- and no one ever reads it! Crazy!

  4. Such great tips!!! I've made similar mistakes about not fueling properly, not leaving myself enough time to get to the race site, and reading the race guide. I've also learned to study the course map and the start line map so I know where the fuel stations are, the hills, bathrooms etc. There is nothing worse than running around (literally) trying to find these things when time is tight!

  5. Ah, your post brings back memories of my first 10k. I thought I knew where it started. But as I was walking towards what I thought was the start line, there was no one around & I realized it started in the other direction, so I literally ended up running a mile to the start and just making it in time.

  6. Lacey,

    I know right! it has become a ritual for me now... Read the entire race guide the day before the race!

  7. Thank you Marcia! Great subject this week! I love my race guides!

  8. Patty, I don't know why people don't read it! especially for big races!

  9. Emily,

    I study the race course for surprise elevations... I never knew what that meant, until I did my half marathon!

    thank you for stopping by!

  10. Judy,

    we can count running to the start line as the warm up before the race! It's really scary to show up to where you think the race will start, and find nothing there!

  11. What great advice and a great funny story.

    All so true. I have totally made the mistake of not reading the race guide...big..big...big mistake.


  12. OMG, I'm so glad I had friends who walked me through every single detail about race day (both literally and figuratively). My friend even made sure I had enough safety pins to put my bib on.

    I'm also grateful for blogs, because I read a bunch of them so I had a little bit of info about what to expect.

    Happy running!

  13. If you live near Chicago like I do, sometimes you have to leave even earlier for a race! Traffic and tons of participants make it tough. I got to the Chicago Marathon last year with little time to spare!

  14. Thank you Tamieka! I'm glad this provided you with a laugh! that is what I was going for. My sister and I still laugh at our naivet├ęs! Thank you for stopping by!

  15. Thank you Gisgie! I'm glad you had friends to walk you through the first race process! I only had one friend who had done races, and if he hadn't said Bib... we would have run without them!

  16. Good tip Wendy! When we did the Rock'n Roll in DC, we left the place where we were staying 2.5 hours before, because it required walking and taking the metro. And I've found that even when doing local races, things happen that add travel time.

  17. I love the story about needing to procure breakfast for the family before the race! It sounds like my family :)

  18. Oh Yes Chaitali, We have to take care of those tagging along for the race! Because they will be the ones waiting at the finish line with a bottle of cold water!


Post a Comment