Think you’re ready to race? Whether you’ve been running for several months or are just getting started, deciding to run your first race can be exciting, but also a little scary. Here are some simple guidelines to help you put your best running foot forward and cross that first finish line.
Choose the right race
If you’ve only been training a few months, you might want to begin with a shorter race. A common distance is the 5K — just over three miles. The distance is challenging, but short enough for you to comfortably complete after a couple of months of training. If you’re a more experienced runner, you might consider a 10K, half-marathon or even a full marathon for your debut.
Race training essentials include a supportive pair of running shoes, technical-wicking socks and a sport watch. It’s best to get professionally fitted for shoes at your local running store. Try on several pairs and have the staff watch you walk and run to make sure you find a pair that works for your foot and gait. If you have orthotics, test them out in various shoes.
- There is no one running program that works for everyone, but there are a few practices that work well for most people.
- Alternate your run days with rest or cross-training activities such as cycling, swimming, or yoga to allow your body to adapt and recover between runs.
- If your body aches, take an extra day off and adjust your training to allow full recovery.
- Your workouts are fueled by the food you eat every day. Keep a log of what you consume daily and it will give you a better perspective on what goes into your system and how it affects your run.
Don’t forget about the sun
Use sunscreen and wear protective clothing while running. This might include a hat, preferably with a four-inch brim that covers your neck, ears, eyes and scalp, sunglasses with UV protection and clothing treated for sun protection.
This is the time to get all of your running gear ready, and make sure you are properly fueled for the task that lies ahead:
- Eat food that you know will agree with your stomach. Don’t worry about carb-loading unless you will be racing at a high intensity for 90 minutes or more. What and how much you eat are totally up to you, but it is probably better to eat light. Try to drink about seven ounces of water every hour you are awake leading up to your race to avoid dehydration.
- Lay out the clothes and shoes you plan to wear the night before the race and pack a race day bag. Include a change of clothes, towel, water bottle, light snack, registration money (just in case your entry didn’t get there) and extra layers for unpredictable weather.
- Don’t sleep in. Your body will function much better at the starting line if you have been up and moving for two to three hours. As soon as you get up, eat a light breakfast and drink plenty of fluids.
- Make sure you warm up by jogging and stretching for at least 10 minutes. This will get you ready for the race and relieve some of your pre-race anxiety.
Position yourself in the middle or back of the starting line; the front is usually reserved for the most experienced runners. Remember, your goal is to finish the race. Keep the pace easy for the first few minutes. Then, once you are into the race, settle in at a pace that feels comfortable, enjoy the scenery, and have fun!
Van Allen, J, Tips for your first race, Runnersworld.com, http://www.runnersworld.com/the-starting-line/tips-for-your-first-race
Hatfield, J, How to train for your first 5K, active.com, http://www.active.com/running/articles/how-to-train-for-your-first-5k
The information provided is for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice. Always consult your doctor for appropriate health advice and guidance, including prior to starting a new diet or exercise program.