Updated: March 5th, 2022
How to warm up for each distance race you’re competing in.

A general warm-up, that is effective enough to actually prepare your body for a training run should be at least 5 minutes of aerobic followed by dynamic stretching. (More often than not, I use the first mile as the warmup. Stumble on new places to stretch it out). All in all minimum of 10 minutes to warm up. 15-20minutes would be a perfect amount (longer should the temperature outside plummet, and make the warm up a bit more brief in the warmer months).

However, getting ready for a race is going to require a little more from you and your warmup. For the shorter and middle distances races (5k, 10k) including stride work running drills, within your warm-up would be perfect to get the body prepared to run at the pace you’ve worked so hard for throughout training. – Vital should you want to be after a PB!

But be careful, warm up too much and you’ll tire yourself out. Likewise don’t warm up enough, and it will take you a while to hit race pace. It’s such a complex balancing act; but lucky for you, I’m here to guide you through your warm-ups, so you’re ready to put n a winning performance.

Running finishers medal

Shorter distances: 5k & 10k race warm-up

There’s no time to waste with this kind of distance, you need to be 100% ready to roll at that start line. The 5k in particularly is down for business right from the off. So, you should arrive at the start line warm, mentally focused, feeling loose and light.

An intense race, calls for an intense(er) warm-up, right? Correct. And we can use every minute from the car to the start, so, let’s go:

From the car have a brisk 5-minute walk.
Pick up the pace, jogging for 10 minutes at an easy, conversational pace. Next, the dynamic stretches you would want to focus on are:

  • Lunges to knee hug
  • Running calf stretch
  • Torso twists
  • Walking Hamstring stretch
  • Standing, alternate heel kicks
  • Side lunges

I tend to go for 15 repetitions and work them in an easy cycle. My calves are usually short and need extra attention, so I spend a little longer on the running calf stretch than most other dynamic stretches, but that’s just me.

Following the dynamic stretches, return to an easy jog. This is where we can focus on running drills – to open your stride and prepare your body for race pace. 30-second bursts of ‘race pace’ stride-outs, recovering for 1 or 2minutes before another ‘race pace’ 30-second stint will do the trick. Aim for 5 race pace bursts, and you’ll be ready to roll.

Try to finish your warmup as close to the start of the race as possible. If you’re pulled onto the line earlier, keep your body moving – shaking of the legs, few bounces on your toes, rolling of shoulders, heel kicks, knee lifts, or simply jogging on the spot will do it.

Mid run stretches

Middle distances: 10 miles &Half marathon race warm-up

The balance of energy conservation and preparation is tough here. 10-13 mile race is a fair way to go, so lending the first mile of your race to get you in the rhythm isn’t a bad option. However. If like me you prefer to be prepared, then taking a 10 -15 minutes warm-up is plenty. Focus mainly on the dynamic stretching to prepare the body (once the race starts, the likeliness is you won’t want to stop and get out of the rhythm).

So 5-10 minute light jog, or about one-mile easy effort. Followed by light dynamic stretches, namely:

  • Lunges to knee hug
  • Running calf stretch
  • Torso twists
  • Walking Hamstring stretch
  • Standing, alternate heel kicks
  • Side lunges


There is a need here to preserve energy, so don’t go crazy and burn out before the start line. 5-8 reps each is enough, one time through, so time this best you can for the start line – especially if you plan to go from 0 to race pace straight from the ff and chase that PB.

How to warm up for a running race

Long distances: Marathon and Ultra-marathon race warm-up

Conserving your energy couldn’t be more important here – warm-ups will mostly consist of injury prevention, energy preservation and will all stem from your training. Having gone through plans for the length of at least 12 weeks, (and even up to 27 weeks of training) for this event. So you will know what our odd needs to perform well.

My warm-ups here involve a brisk walk, some very light dynamic stretches, relaxed and yoga-like (focusing on breathing and how my body feels in movement). The stretches get progressively deeper with time. I also use a thicker coat to warm up in, during the colder months (these races tend to start early hours!) and have a hot drink to help warm up. Before my ultra, I was eating flapjacks, and sipping coffee (you’d want that caffeine edge). Some people opt for a warm shower to loosen up that early.


There is plenty of time within a marathon plus distance to get into your pace and settle. So, you needn’t rush or expend too much energy that it’s Zaps you of your race performance.

Stretching for a marathon

Whichever race distance you’re aiming for, the warm-up should take you to the start line and prepare you mentally and physically for the feat ahead. And the biggest takeaway message from today is this: Be careful in those last few minutes before the race. Ensure your muscles don’t get cold – keep moving around.

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