5 tips for your 5k (or shorter) race preparation
1. A good warm-up - Most runners don't get themselves warmed up enough before a race, especially for distances 5k or less. Wear an extra layer of clothing until as close to the race start as possible. Jog lightly for 10-15 minutes, do some high knee and butt kick drills, some dynamic stretching, and 3-5 run throughs (strides) of 70 to 100 meters at goal race pace. You want to time it right so that you have about 3-4 minutes of standing around before the start of the race.
2. Pace judgement - Know your goal splits, and have a plan. Before your race, do the math and determine your goal pace. If it's a 5k, know your km or mile pace, and check your watch at the markers. For a mile, know your goal 400m splits, and check your watch at those markers. Don't let adrenaline take over and get out too fast. Just because it's a short race, it doesn't mean you won't pay a costly price at the end for starting out too fast. Patience and preparation are the keys for good pace judgement.
3. Pre-race shake-out - Most pros will do a light 10-15 minute jog 4-10 hours before a race to get their bodies and mind into their race zone. If you have a morning race, do your shake-out the evening before. This is your chance to do some light stretching, and to get your muscles fine-tuned for the race. When you wake up in the morning, you'll feel a lot more loose and ready to go.
4. Rest up - Try and get your legs elevated as much as possible in the final couple of days before your goal race. Taper your training down in the last few days before your race. Every little bit of saved energy helps, so try and find 10 minutes here and there throughout the last couple of days to lie down to give your legs a break, and prevent blood from pooling in your lower limbs.
5. Activation strides the day before - Do 3-5x 100m at a similar pace as your goal race pace to wake your muscles up from their taper. You don't want to feel lethargic or rubber-legged because you rested too much in the lead up to the race.