What To Do The Night Before A 5K Race

Q:  I have my first race coming up. Do you have any tips on what to do the night before a 5K race? -MacKenzie

That’s exciting! You are wise to ask this question ahead of time as it pays to be organized and ready to go before the race nerves start to kick in. Here are a few key things to keep in mind.

Go With What You Know

This is my number one rule. Meaning, while you’ve been training for your 5k race, you’ve most likely figured out what has worked for you in terms of clothing, shoes, and the foods to eat before your event.  It’s best to stick with what your body knows and avoid trying anything new the week of your 5k, as it can cause issues on the race course.

5K Nutrition

Pre-race meals vary based on the person. It is recommended to eat a meal that is higher in carbohydrates the night before the race and to stock up your muscle glycogen fuels. This can mean pasta for some or rice, veggies and a protein source like chicken for others. It’s best to go with a meal that digests well in your system, as eating new or different foods this close to the race can cause stomach issues along the course. It helps to make a race week menu of foods that you’ve determined sit well in your stomach and digest easily. Remember, everyone is different so what works for you may not work for your running buddy and vice versa. (Related: What to Eat Before a 5K Race)

5K Clothes Prep

Lay out your clothes the night before, and everything you’ll need for race day. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think clearly that early in the morning so it helps to put everything you plan to wear to the race (including your race bib number if you have it already) on the night before as a dress rehearsal, and then lay it out in a visible place for the morning.

Relax and Visualize For Your 5K

Set yourself up for good sleep the week of your race by going to bed earlier and turning off distractions in your room (phone, lights, etc.).  It can be challenging to get sleep the night before the race, so going into race weekend well rested can make a significant difference in your performance. If you find yourself struggling to sleep the night before, try this pre-race night deep 2-minute breathing exercise:

  • Turn off the lights and make sure the bedroom is dark
  • Lie down in bed and close your eyes
  • Breathe in and out deeply through your nose and into your belly, tuning in to the sound of your breath
  • If your mind wanders, no worries, simply refocus it back to your breath
  • Once your breathing is calm and deep, visualize yourself moving through race day, from waking up and putting on your race day clothes to toeing the line at the start to running every mile and finishing strong
  • See yourself running strong and through any challenges, finishing that 5k race

You’ll be surprised at just how effective this little breathing exercise can be for calming race day nerves and improving your sleep!

5K Race Day!

Give yourself plenty of time to get to the race and plan to arrive at least one hour before the race begins. This way you’ll have plenty of time to find the bathrooms, double check you have everything and get lined up at the race start.

As you navigate your way through race week, it’s good to know that everyone feels some level of nervousness before the race, especially for your first one. Being organized and prepared will help keep you calm and focused on the things you can control. For everything else that is outside of your control, let go and have faith in your preparation–it’s what’s gotten you to this point, and it will help you run a strong race, too.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield




Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

Join the Sofa to 5K Challenge


Have you ever wanted to run a 5K race? Well now is your chance! In just 10 short weeks, Coach Jenny will have you up and running — and well on your way to completing your first 5K.

The easy-to-follow, 10-week Sofa-to-5K training program begins Monday, September 15, 2014 and ends with running a community 5K by Sunday, November 30, 2014.

When you sign up, you will receive weekly email updates from Coach Jenny during your training, including workouts and helpful tips to completing your first 5K. We also invite you to join the Horizon Fitness Sofa-to-5K Challenge Facebook group for even more exclusive help from Coach Jenny, including real-time answers to your questions.

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First things first: sign up by visiting the Sofa to 5K website. You’ll also find a welcome video by Coach Jenny, a sample training plan and the official contest rules. Also don’t forget to sign up for the challenge group – a great way to find support and motivation during the program. Join us here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]