Running Your First 5K

Know what to expect and enjoy the race

Young Black woman in pink shirt running race with a race bib on No. 118
This summer, lacing up your shoelaces has become more routine, your stride has become smoother, and your breath less labored as you jog around the familiar streets of your neighborhood. You feel more confident as a runner. Perhaps it’s time to celebrate that fitness by running your first 5K race in Kansas City.
Kansas City has a vibrant community of runners, and there is no prettier season than fall to take to the tree lined streets. Crisp mornings surrounded by other determined runners is a feeling I long for as soon as daylight starts to decrease each year.

Choosing a 5K

A quick Google search will give you a long list of 5Ks ready to be conquered near you. Not sure which one to choose? Some runners prefer solitude on the course of smaller races. While others, like myself, prefer the energy of a large crowd at the starting corral, the music blaring on the overhead speakers, and the onlookers getting ready to cheer for their loved ones. Take the time to visit the race’s website to see if its size and terrain fit your liking.
In addition to race size, you can select a race to run by determining a cause you’d like to support. Nearly all road races function as fundraiserS for notable causes. Your race wouldn’t solely be a marker of athletic accomplishment, but as a generous gesture as well.

Easing race anxiety

The few weeks and days leading up to a race can cause nervousness. Even for the most seasoned runner! Knowing what to expect the weekend of your first 5K can help ease some of that anxiety and turn it into excitement.

Packet pickup

After registering online for your race, make note of the date, time, and location you must pick up your race packet. Many times, this location is not the same place as the start of your race. At packet pickup, you will probably receive a bib that you must pin to yourself on race day. (Don’t forget to grab four complimentary safety pins!)
Typically, your bib has a chip to keep your time, which begins the moment you cross the start line and step over the finish line. In addition to your bib and race shirt, there may be an expo where you can browse new running gear, nutrition, and other booths sponsoring the event. Give yourself a little extra time to soak in the atmosphere.

Day and evening before your 5K

Stick to routine. Don’t branch out to try the new spicy dish at a new restaurant, or go out on the town in your highest heels. Relax, stay hydrated, and eat the familiar to avoid stomach issues during race morning.
That evening, lay out your race day outfit. Choose an outfit you feel confident and comfortable wearing. The cool mornings can be deceiving, so I look at the predicted weather to determine how warm I need to dress.
My personal rule of thumb is to dress as if it were really 15-20 degrees warmer than the projected temperature. For example, if it will be 50 degrees when you toe the line, I would dress as if it were 70 degrees to accommodate for the increase in my core temperature when I get going. You can wear a layer of old (in case you don’t see it again) clothing you strip off just before the race begins, so you don’t shiver while you wait.
Once that’s determined, lay out your top, shorts/pants, socks, shoes, headphones, watch and anything else you may need. Look over the flat race version of yourself and determine if you have all you may need. Then, before it slips your mind, plug your headphones and watch into the charger, so they will be ready to go when you wake.
Flat Sybil: A pre race tool

Next, revisit the starting time of your race and the location. Put it into your maps to get a good idea of the amount of time you will need to get there. Add on more time if you foresee parking being difficult. I tend to have nightmares of being late to my race, so I allot for a nice cushion of spare time.

I also check and recheck my alarm to make sure I set it correctly. I wake up an hour before I have to leave the house. This gives me enough time to eat, drink my caffeinated beverage, double check my outfit, and fully use the restroom. Adjust your wake up time according to your morning routine.

Race jitters sometimes make sleep difficult. Don’t fret if you are tossing and turning. Some of my best races were run on little to no sleep. Just do your best to get some shut-eye.

Race morning

You’re fueled, have all of your race day belongings that you set out the night before (make sure to have grabbed your things from the charger), and are ready to head to the race. Once parked, walk toward the start line. This always helps me feel calm knowing my nightmare was just that, and I was on time to conquer the road before me.
Next, I locate the nearby portable toilets. I am notorious for what I call Nervous Bladder Syndrome. I always have to go before a race. There is usually a long line, so take your place, and as if you’re a child, tell yourself to try to go potty.
If you’re a veteran runner, or if it just feels right, you may want to jog around to get warmed up. Or as I did before my first few races, take your place somewhere behind the starting line with others of comparable paces. Sometimes there are signs 8:00, 9:00, 10:00-minute/mile pace to designate the area. I start my music, make sure my laces are tied just right, and double-knotted. I people watch and make small talk, until the National Anthem is sung.
While the familiar song plays overhead, I close my eyes and tell myself words of gratitude. I remind myself I’m grateful for my health, for my ability, the community of diverse, yet like-minded persons around me, and I embrace myself in the pride of my efforts. There is no pressure on my time, sure I usually have a goal, but in reality the greatest gift is I GET to run.
When the gun goes off, I settle into my pace and I enjoy the athletic breaths being taken around me, the sound of my steps beneath me, and I congratulate myself each time I see a mile marker. Remember your positive mantras as you go.
Running in KC

When you cross the finish line, revel at the medal being placed around you, and enjoy the friendship of strangers that just finished next to you, and head to the finishers food tent! Bananas, water bottles and the like await.

Go Girl Run Finish

Congratulate yourself! You did it! And go look up your next race. I know you will!

I’m Sybil Orman, and currently live in Leawood, Kansas, but have lived all throughout the metro area. I grew up in Olathe, and went on to attend Kansas State University and the University of Kansas where I finished my undergraduate and masters degree in education. Before having children, I spent my days as a high school Spanish teacher in Kansas City, Kansas. Now, I can be found loving on and figuring out life with my 6-year-old daughter, Imogen, 4-year-old daughter, Sigrid, and 8-month-old son, Rory, as well as my 3 dogs, feisty cat, and 3 fish. I’ve been married to my husband, Greg, for nearly nine years. We have experienced two statewide political campaigns and a pandemic together, and I am STILL so grateful we bumped into each other at the gym that summer day 12 years ago. My other true love and constant part of my adult life has been running. My “me time” is hitting the pavement all about town, with run clubs and at local races. You can find me in my craft room, outside trying to keep my garden alive, or researching ways to attract a variety of birds to my feeders.


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