Well it seems just yesterday I challenged y’all to participate in a Thanksgiving Day 5k event and now here we are, with our 5k’s just around the corner! Great job to those of you who followed along with the weekly training plans, and thanks for sticking with it. I just registered my crew, so it’s official, we’ll be doing the Cottonwood Heights 5k in Salt Lake City, Utah. I’m most excited to see how 4 year old granddaughter Amelia does this year. She’s been having fun training for it, going out jogging with her mom, and she has lofty goals for herself.
If you’ve never participated in a Thanksgiving 5k, I’ve put together a list of tips that might help, so you’ll know what to expect. Hope it helps!
GROUP UP! DRESS UP!
Thanksgiving 5k’s are not serious events by any means. You’ll see all sorts of silly costumes or matching team shirts worn by groups of friends or family. It’s always a festive and relaxed atmosphere. While costumes aren’t required, they sure make the event much more fun for you and your tribe. Get in the holiday spirit and costume up your crew!
TRY TO DO PACKET PICKUP BEFORE RACE DAY.
This will allow you to get your bib number pinned on in the comfort of your home, and if there’s a chip timer, you’ll be able to take the time to read the directions and get it attached to your shoelaces more easily. Even though it’s a fun run, you’ll still probably be a little nervous the morning of the event. The more you can do to prepare ahead of time, the easier it’ll be.
PRE-RACE EATING AND DRINKING:
Since it’s a shorter race, eat lightly before you head out the door. Make sure you’re drinking lots of water an hour or so before the race, but limit your sipping 30 minutes before the event. You don’t want the discomfort of a full bladder to be what you most remember about your first 5k!
GET THERE EARLY:
Parking can be a pain at these types of events, so it’s best to arrive early. Pay attention to any information you get from the race organizers about where to park and when they suggest you should arrive, to avoid the hassle of hitting blocked-off roads and full parking lots.
It’s November. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones down in one of the hot southernmost states, it’s probably going to be cold before the event, and you’ll want an extra layer for your warm-up time. But, give that layer to the family member who’s not participating, or quick run it back to your car before the race start. You don’t want to leave that extra layer on during the race. You’ll overheat and that can make for a pretty miserable run. Plan to dress as if it’s 20 degrees warmer than it actually is.
LINING UP AT THE START:
The starting line, even at fun runs, sort of has a system, though you probably won’t see signs on how to line-up. You know how exiting an airplane has an unspoken system? We all wait for the people on the plane seated in front of us to exit and then take our turn, even though there aren’t any signs or rules that we have to do it that way. Fun runs have their own unspoken rules, too. The fastest people are at the very front, right up to the official starting line. The walkers line up way in the back. And the rest of us have to guess where we feel we fit in between those 2 groups, slower runners to the back, faster runners closer up front. With chip timers (those things you attach to your shoe), you don’t have to worry about when you cross the start line after the gun goes off. The clock doesn’t start when the gun goes off. It starts once you and your chip timer cross the start. It’s always so funny at the annual race we do; it’s a huge one, and in more recent years we’re in the back of the pack with the grandkids with thousands of people in front of us. We hear the gun go off a block up the road and we assume the sprinters are taking off. We all get excited and start whooping and celebrating! The race has started, let’s go! We get poised to take off, but no one moves in front of us. We wait for what seems like forever (but really just a couple minutes), and then it starts taking so long you wonder if the sprinters will be back before you even get to cross the start!
Now that you’ve finally crossed the starting line, it’s on. You’ll be excited, and energized, and everyone around you is going so fast! Don’t get sucked into that starting line mentality. Slow down, and start out at about 10% slower than your normal race pace. Let yourself warm-up a little and settle into it. Gradually you can increase that pace. And if you do, you’ll start noticing you’re passing lots of people who passed you because they took off too fast at the start.
ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE:
You’ll be surprised how the route itself can feel like one big party. You’ll end up meeting people along the route. There’s this collective bond with the strangers around you, like we’re all in this thing together, so be prepared to hear lots of encouragement along the way. And whenever I see kids, I try to pump them up and make them feel pretty special they can handle such a huge feat. “You are awesome little guy. You’re rocking it!” There’ll even be spectators along the roadsides with signs looking for high-fives, and there’ll be volunteers rooting for you.
By the time you hit the finish line, you’ll feel exhausted, but exhilarated. So just remember to be in the “now” and soak it all up. You did something that you’ve never done before and maybe you thought wasn’t possible. Enjoy that finish line feeling. And remember, it’s Thanksgiving. Be thankful!
Best of luck at your events, gang, and I hope have a blast! Happy Thanksgiving!