I'm not exactly known for being the best and the brightest when it comes to thinking things through before jumping. Blame it on my ADD, my lack of self-control or anything else that you want. Basically, I am a warning to others.
Which is why I am using my expertise to keep you from making the same mistakes. You're welcome. Cleanse-friendly candy is appreciated.
1. No matter how good they taste, doughnuts are not pre-race food.
Hi, my name is Jamie and I make bad choices. On the morning of my first 5K I scarfed down two of these beauties on my way to the course. I don't think I was even a mile in when that decision caught up with me. I did not get sick, but my stomach felt like I'd eaten the equivalent of a bag of bricks. Seriously, eat something, but it make it better than this. Preferably something you've eaten before runs before so that you know it won't mess with your digestive system.
2. Going out WAY too fast.
3.1 miles seems pretty short. Indeed, for many people it is. If this is your first time, make sure you start out at a pace you think you can maintain (or better) over time. If you end up lined up next to people who are running a lot faster, it is easy to feel like you have to maintain the pace they set. You don't. Run your own race. I gained about a minute per mile in my pace as I went along. And felt awful by the end. The end should have been more but--well, see point 4.
3. You do not need 10 layers of clothing.*
It's probably cold at the start of the race. Let's face it, most of these things start early in the morning. Maybe there is still a lot of fog/cloud cover. It's a little chilly. Which is why layers galore seem appropriate. At my first 5K, I wore capris, a sports bra, a tank top, a short sleeve shirt, a long sleeve shirt AND the race shirt given out at check-in. Bonus points for the fact that three of those layers were 100% cotton. This was for a race in July. JULY!
Needless to say running/walking made me very warm. Also the fact that it warmed up to lovely 85F by the end of the course. Oh, and did I mention that because of where I put my bib I couldn't strip off a single one of these. Yeah, don't be me. Dress appropriately. Use the Runner's World tool to help you.
*Unless of course it is actually super cold. Like an early January morning in Chicago or Alaska. In that case, 10 layers might be appropriate.
4. Don't believe people when they tell you that the finish line is thisclose
Liars. They are all liars. Someone told me that the finish was "just around the corner". I took this as a cue to break out in a sprint, thinking I was seconds away from finishing. By the time I actually hit the finish line, I though my entire body was just going to give up and fall to the ground.
Those people aren't running it (or have a different definition than you do). It might look close to them, but it might be farther than you want. Sprinting to the end or picking up the pace is fine, just make sure you know how close you really are. My second time, I picked up the pace only when I got close enough to be able to read the clock time. I knew I could make it that last block at the faster pace.
5. If you want to be timed, you have to go through the gate.
I actually didn't do this one, but I saw too many people screw it up. Chips work a specific way (you know, with science). If they set up a nice gate with mats between the posts, make sure you are actually running through them. If, like some people, you choose to go around, don't yell at the nice people running the race when you don't have a time at the end. Confused about how something is supposed to work? I find runners to be pretty nice. Ask someone.
Edited to add serious note: If you live in/around Portland and hike/bike/walk/run in Forest Park, be extra cautious until they figure out what crazy person is setting up trip wires attached to explosive devices.