5k or Marathon Race Starting Line Tips | Dos & Don’ts

It’s race day! Finally!

You’ve been training for months. Waking up early, running through crazy workouts, and eating right. You’ve worked hard and did everything you are supposed to.

So, don’t ruin it all at the race starting line!

Believe it or not, there’s a right way and a wrong way to start your race.

And if you start off on the wrong foot, you’ll jeopardize all of your hard work from these past few months.

It could ruin you race! So, set yourself up for a great beginning with these starting line dos and don’ts.

Do not show up last minute

Showing up at the very last possible minute on race day is one of the worst things you could ever do. Major rookie mistake.

If you sneak in at the very last minute, there is no forgiveness. You have no time to prepare for the race. Who knows what could happen?

You could have trouble finding a place to park – often, they shut down streets and certain parking lots for the race. So, what’s usually available isn’t.

This could force you to park blocks away from the starting line. Then you have to walk! (Or run!) That adds minutes to your arrival time that you didn’t plan on.

You could also have troubles with your race bib. Race day volunteers strive to have everything ready to go for you, but they are human and do make mistakes.

What if you grab your bib and beat cheeks to the starting line, only to realize they forgot to include the safety pins?

Worse, what if you can’t find the starting line? You’d think they are easy to spot, but sometimes the actual race starts away from the central gathering point. Some races even bus runners out to the starting line.

You can avoid all of these downfalls, and other unforeseen events, by simply showing up to the starting line early.

How early?

Check out the race day itinerary. They will often outline the schedule of events and you can kind of gauge from that when you should show up. But 45 minutes to an hour early is pretty normal.

Don’t skip your warmup

Another good reason to show up early: it gives you time to warm up.

You should never skip your warmup. Yes, we’ve all done it. But it’s a bad practice to get in to.

So, on race day, make sure you properly warm up before you line up at that starting line.

If you skip your warmup, your muscles will not perform as well as they should. And you’ve put too much work into training your body for this race, to throw it all away at the starting line!

An easy jog before heading to that race starting line will open up your blood vessels. This pumps oxygen to your muscles and raises the temperature, prepping them for a great run.

Properly warmed up muscles are more flexible and efficient, which reduces your risk of injury.

When you actually warm up before getting to the race starting line

So, get there early enough to jog for ten or fifteen minutes, followed by some simple stretching.

And then, once you hit that starting line, stay warm by jumping up and down, doing some lunges, or some simple stretches. There won’t be a lot of room at the race starting line for anything too extravagant.

Do use the bathroom

Definitely use the bathroom before lining up!

Yes, most races have porta potties along the route. But do you really want to lose precious minutes off of your finish time to use the bathroom?

Race day porta potties often have long lines – at the starting line and along the course.

So, go before you leave the house. And then leave plenty early, so that you have time to go once you get there as well.

Race day jitters will make you have to go more often than usual, so allow time for that as well. You may find yourself heading to the bathroom two or three times before that gun goes off.

And if the lines are long, get in line, even if you don’t have to go! By the time you get to the front of the line, you probably will.

Don’t line up at the wrong spot

Seems pretty obvious, I know. I mean, there’s only one starting line, right?

Surprisingly, lining up at the right spot has become more important in recent years.

As racing has become more popular, organizations have started using a stagnated start, grouping people who run similar paces together.

If you line up at the wrong spot, you could be running with a group of people who are faster than you, and then you will be in their way.

Or you could end up in a slower group, and then it’s you who is ducking and dodging – to break out of the pack and find your pace.

Instead, do your research the night before. Find out where you need to start.

Line up with runners who share your estimated finish time

Some races have corrals that correspond to your estimated finish time. If this is the case, your bib will have the corral you are assigned to, and that is where you should line up.

If there is nothing online or in the race day packet, then when you get to that starting line, look for signs.

Faster runners generally line up in the front, slower runners in the middle of the pack, and walkers in the back.

Most races have pacers, who are holding up big signs with a minute per mile or an estimated finish time on them. Find the sign that corresponds to your race day pace, and line up with that group.

If there are no signs or corrals, then ask around. What time do the runners around you expect to finish at?

And then move up or back accordingly, until you find a pack who will finish at around the same time as you.

Line up on the edge of the road

Once you figure out where to line up, pay attention to where you are on the road as well. Most runners line up in the middle of the road. If you do that too, you can get trapped there.

It’ll be crowded, and you’ll find yourself sandwiched between other runners and stuck behind someone slower than you. It’s hard to break free from that. You’ll be stumbling , ducking and trying to sneak by everyone.

Totally interrupting your rhythm and pace.

Instead, line up on the edge of the road. These areas are often less congested, and you can hit the road running when that gun goes off.


Whatever you do, do not botch your race because of a simple mistake at the race staring line!

You’ve worked too hard to let it all fall apart now.

So, be sure to show up on race day morning plenty early. You need time to take care of a few things. And you need to have some extra time built in – a little wiggle room for things to go wrong.

Because they often do.

Plus, if you’re racing to the starting line, you won’t have time to warm up. If you want to be primed and ready to perform, don’t skip your warmup! Your muscles need it.

Also, make time to go to the bathroom. You definitely don’t want to waste precious seconds ducking into a porta potty on the racecourse.

And finally, follow starting line etiquette, and line up in the right spot. Faster runners in the front, slower in the middle. If you plan on walking portions of the race, line up in back.

Proper prepping and planning the night before should have you lining up with no problems.

Then, when that gun goes off, you can relax and enjoy the run.

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