Training for a race is hard, and running one can be just as tough. I discovered this, and a lot more, when I ran my first ever race. Having skipped the 5km event, I went straight into a 10km race around Regents Park in London. My training had gone fairly well, minus a week off because of shin splints, and I felt as prepared for the event as I ever realistically would be.
Yet there was still lots that I wasn’t ready for. Entering yourself into a race can be daunting, so here are my top tips for your first running event. If you’re feeling daunted, it’s worth remembering that you’re pretty amazing for even signing up to get involved in this madness. Let’s go.
- Be prepared for any type of weather. We were all hoping that it wouldn’t rain, but we didn’t spare much thought for what would happen if the alternative happened. My race day dawned, and it was the hottest day of 2016 so far, with temperatures of 25 degrees while we were running. I didn’t consider the fact that extreme temperatures would hamper my time. Keep that in mind, and be prepared to wave away hopes of a personal best time if the weather is extreme.
- Get there in plenty of time. Between finding the right start point, getting your race number and timing chip pinned on, the time before the race starts will fly by. It’s worth giving yourself a bit of extra time to ensure you’ll have time to do everything, without forgetting to make time to stretch.
- Ignore everyone speeding past you at the start. A lot of people shot off like rockets at the start of our race, while we tried to keep it steady. Low and behold, we caught up with a fair few of them before long. Take note that there will likely be ‘proper’ runners who have entered marathons also competing. It’s best to let them get on with their showing off about split times and remember that you’re just at the start of your running career.
- Can people lap you? We had to do three laps of a course, and by the time we were nearing the end of the second, people were already starting to lap us and finish the race. It was disheartening, but important to focus on your race rather than anyone else’s.
- Decide your plan for water. I normally don’t run with a water bottle, but I knew there would be water stations around the course. It’s worth considering if the bit of water could give you a stitch, or if it’s necessary to get you around. My race was so hot that I was gasping for water by the time we reached each station!
- Track your run using an app as well as the mile markers. There will probably be distance markers along the route which will be super helpful, but they can’t tell you how fast you’re going. It’s worth setting a tracking app to go near the start so you know if you’re going at your preferred pace or not. I noticed that MapMyRun was telling me that I had finished a kilometre quite a lot before each marker, so don’t rely on apps for distance too much.
- Don’t try anything new. Keep the same trainers, clothes and even hairstyle as you’re used to on your training runs. If you really want a new pair of running shoes, it’s worth saving this treat until after the race. This is so you won’t get blisters and it will help you feel like you’re still in your routine.
- Do your prep the night before. There is a lot to think about on the night before as this is when you can really help your body. The water you drink now will keep you hydrated during the race, so get guzzling! Eat a carby meal and get everything ready so you’re not stressing in the morning.
- Research your medication. I only just realised that an allergy tablet can have a dehydrating effect, and I took one on the morning of my run. Combined with the heat, it could have been a bad combination. It’s worth checking the small print before your event.
- Morning meal. Even though my race didn’t start until 10.30am, I got up before 7am to have a small breakfast. I had scrambled eggs and a banana to give me energy. The early start meant that I could digest it properly without getting much of a stitch.
- Don’t forget to stretch! In the euphoria of crossing the finish line, it’s easy to forget the importance of a good stretch. You’ll want to carry on reveling in your triumph, but don’t forget to take five minutes to stretch out those calves as well.
There is so much to think about, but try not to stress about it too much. Eat well, get to know the event, and you’ll figure out the rest as you go. Good luck!
Don’t forget to share your beginner running tips in the comments. Are you going to enter a race soon?