Race Day Tips for Running Your First Race

How to have a successful first running race

So you've done your training for your first race, whether it's a 5K, 10K or other race distance. As your race day approaches, you may have some questions and concerns about what to expect on race day. If you're fairly new to running, here are some tips for running your first race.

Pick up your race packet early.

Runners waiting in line
Jetta Productions

Pick up your race bib, timing chip (if the race is using them) and goody bag the day before the race, if possible. This way, you won't have to worry about rushing to get it on the morning of the race. Also, you're more likely to get your desired race T-shirt size if you pick it up early.

Don't overdress.

Runner outside in fall weather
Photo by Chase Jarvis/Getty Images

A good rule of thumb: Dress as if the weather is 15 degrees warmer than it is. That's how much you'll warm up once you start running. If it's cold, you can always wear warmer clothes while you're waiting for the race to start. Many races offer a gear check where you can store your bag with extra clothes for before and after the race.

More: How to Dress for Hot Weather Running
How to Dress for Cold Weather Running
Tips for Running in the Rain

Choose your pre-race food wisely.

Peanut Butter on Toast

Eat a meal at least one hour prior to the start of the race. Choose something high in carbohydrates and lower in fat, fiber, and protein. Stay away from rich, fatty, or high-fiber foods, as they may cause gastrointestinal distress.

More: Should I Eat Before a Run?
Racing Mistake: Not Eating Properly Before a Race
Best and Worst Pre-Run Foods
What If I Don't Have Time to Eat Before Running?

Pin your bib.

Race bib
Photo by Gary John Norman

Your race bib goes on the front of your shirt, not the back. You can use safety pins on all four corners of the bib to keep it in place. It's important to wear your bib to let race officials know you're part of the race. In addition, if there are official race photographers on the course, they'll use your bib number to identify your race photos. So make sure your number is clearly visible when you see photographers on the course and especially at the finish line. If there's a B-Tag timing device on the back of your race bib, make sure it's not bent or covered with clothing or a running belt.

Get there early.

Runners stretching before race
Photo by Gary John Norman

Arrive at the race site early to make sure you get a parking spot. Regardless of whether you're driving there or not, you'll also need time to pick up your number (if you haven't already), check your bag, take a warm-up jog, and use the bathroom (the lines may be long).
More: Tips for Using the Porta-Potties at Races
Starting Line Tips

Line up properly.

Runners in race
Yellow Dog Productions

Don't line up near the front of the starting line. Faster, more seasoned runners don't like to weave around newbie (and likely slower) runners at the start of the race. Some races have corrals based on estimated pace or post pace signs. If not, ask runners nearby their anticipated pace. If it's faster than yours, move further back. It will be easier to fall into your pace if you're around people that are the same speed as you.

More: Road Race Etiquette Tips
Racing Mistake: Lining Up in the Wrong Position
How to Deal With Crowds at Races

Use the water stops.

Runners at New York City Marathon water stop
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Take advantage of the water stations on the course. If you've never done it before, here are some tips on how to take water from a hydration stop. And don't forget to thank the volunteers for handing out water!

Bring your support team.

Race spectators cheering
Dream Pictures/Ostrow
Invite your friends and family members to support you. Ask them to stand near the finish line so they can cheer you on at the end. It will be much easier to push yourself at the end if you know you'll see your loved ones there.

Aim to finish.

Chicago Marathon Finisher
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Don't put pressure on yourself to achieve a really fast time for your first race. Finishing the race and enjoying the experience are excellent goals for a first-timer. Enjoy the thrill of crossing your first finish line!

Also see: Finish Line Tips

Don't wear the race T-shirt.

Runners in race
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Lastly, you'll most likely get a race T-shirt when you sign up for the race. Don't wear it until after you've completed the race. Not only are there superstitions associated with wearing it in the race, but it also makes you look like a rookie!

Also see: