Preparing for a 5K in 2 Weeks

Runners Legs in Race
Werner Dieterich

If you signed up for a 5K race (3.1 miles) a few months ago and you’ve now realized it’s just a couple of weeks ago, you may be worried that you won’t be ready to go the distance.

Although 2 weeks is not a lot of time to prepare for a 5K, it’s possible to still get yourself more mentally and physically ready for the race. If you’ve been exercising a few times a week, take a look at the last 2 weeks of the 5K Beginner 4-Week Schedule and see if it looks doable to you.

Here are some general tips to follow in the next 2 weeks:

Try a Run/Walk Approach

Many people can go out and run 3 miles with ease, but if you don't think you can run the full 5K, try out a run/walk strategy. One method is to run a mile then walk for 30 seconds when you hit a mile marker.

Many runners are surprised that their pace is actually faster when they take a 30-second walking break every mile, rather than trying to run all the way through. A short walk gives your running muscles a break and can provide a huge mental boost.

If you don't want to do timed intervals for walk breaks, you can still work them into your races by walking through the water stop or during the uphill portions of the course.

Practice on the Course

If you’re doing a local race, get out there and run parts of the course leading up to race day. You’ll feel a lot more mentally prepared if you know what to expect. This is especially important if you typically run on the treadmill—you'll want to do at least a couple of runs outside leading up to the race.

If there’s a big hill on the course, run several hill repeats (but not the day before the race!) as a strengthening and confidence-boosting workout.

Don’t Cram in Running

Don’t try to make up for lost training time by running hard or long every day. You still have time for a couple of long or hard workouts before the race, but make sure they are followed by a rest or easy day so your body has time to recover. You'll only wear yourself out or risk getting injured if you try to run long and hard almost every day leading up to the race.

Plan Your Race Outfit

An important rule for racing a 5K (or any race distance, for that matter) is, “Nothing new on race day.” Don't plan on wearing your brand-new running shoes or the race shirt you'll get when you pick up your race bib. If you experiment with some "lucky" new clothes or shoes, they might end up feeling uncomfortable and lead to chafing or blistering.

Clothing made from wicking material will be more comfortable and reduce chafing. Your race day attire should be running shoes, socks, and clothes that you've already run in, so you know what to expect and you don't get any surprises. Make sure you lay your clothes out the night before your race, so you’re not scrambling and trying to find your race gear in the morning.

Save your new race shirt to wear after the race and during future training.

Rest the Day Before a Race

No amount of running you do the day before the race will improve your performance. And if you do too much, you'll pay for it on race day when you're feeling tired. So just take it easy so your legs are rested and fresh for the race.

You also don't want to do strength-training or any intense workout in the two days before the race, as you'll still probably feel sore on race day. If you're feeling antsy, go for a short walk and do some gentle stretching, but try to resist the temptation to run hard to prove to yourself that you're ready.

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  1. Long LL, Srinivasan M. Walking, running, and resting under time, distance, and average speed constraints: optimality of walk-run-rest mixtures. J R Soc Interface. 2013;10(81):20120980. doi:10.1098/rsif.2012.0980