Running Preparations For Your First Race

About to enter or run your first race? Find out how to choose an event and what to do in the lead-up to your race in those final few months, weeks, days and hours.

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Choosing a race to enter

Choose the right race

It is important to choose a distance you can handle and enjoy for your first race. If you have only been training a few months, save the marathon for much later and find a shorter race for your debut. A common distance is the 5k, or just over 3 miles. The distance is challenging, but short enough for you to easily complete the race after a couple of months of training.  

Sign up for the race early

To prepare for your first race you can find race applications online, at local running stores, and at health and fitness clubs, or you can often request an application from the race organisers. It is a good idea to get your application in as soon as possible, as by signing up early, you are making a commitment to yourself to run the race. Also, often the price rises significantly for race day registration.

The final few months and weeks  

Stick to the plan

Hopefully training has been going well and you’ve been sticking to your training plan and adhering to the golden rule of not increasing your weekly distance by more than 10-15 per cent. Remember that if, as you get ever closer to your race date, you don’t feel you have done enough training, then focus on quality and not quantity with your sessions.  

Taper

If training for a long distance event such as a marathon or half marathon, then make sure that you taper effectively in the final few weeks. The last week means plenty of rest and not much running, but don’t come to a complete stop - you still need to keep the legs ticking over!  

Don’t ignore a niggle or injury

Don’t train if you have a bad cold or feel an injury developing. If you feel a twinge then book an appointment with a sports physio and have it checked out. A niggle ignored can very quickly develop into something more serious which could put your participation in the event at risk. Leave nothing to chance.  

Accommodation

If your race is some distance away from where you live then you need to have some accommodation booked rather than travelling to your race on the day. Make sure you book your overnight accommodation well in advance, and bear in mind that for big city marathons all the available rooms can be booked up months ahead of the race date. Also remember to plan where you are going to eat (and carbo-load) the night before the race and on race morning.

The final week including the day before

Rest before your race

The final week before race day should see a gradual decline in mileage and an increase in rest, recovery and sleep. It is important to ease back so your body has time to recover and get ready to perform well. Plan your last four to five days like a military operation so you are able to get to the start line fully charged and raring to go.

Fuelling up the night before the race

One of the most important running preparations you should do for race day is fuel up the night before. Make sure you eat well the night before your race, and make sure you eat something that you know agrees with you. It's not a good idea to start experimenting with foods the night before big race. You can eat as much as you want to, but the day before race day it is wise to eat often but in small amounts.

Stay hydrated

Make sure you drink plenty of fluids in the run up to your race. You should drink around 120 to 180ml (approximately 4 to 6oz) every hour that you are awake leading up to your race. Try and eat more healthily in the final week and make a special effort to eat more vegetables and less fat.  

Prepare your race kit

Lay out your race kit the night before the race. It is so easy to forget something on race day, so make a list to remind you of everything you need to take with you. Check that your gear is in good shape and that nothing is going to let you down on the day. Don’t race in brand new kit, especially new running shoes, but also your running top, shorts and socks.  

On race day

If you've trained hard enough, and over a long enough period of time, you should be able to cope physically with the challenge that awaits you. What you need to do now is get mentally and practically prepared for the race ahead.  

Early riser

Get up early and get yourself prepared. Your body will function much better if you have been up and active for a few hours beforehand. Avoid fried foods in the morning. Porridge or bread and jam are a safe bet if you don't feel like eating much at all.  

Arrive early

Arrive at least an hour before the start of the race. This will allow you time to check out the start and go for any last minute toilet trips which may be required. Traffic is always bad on race day so take this into account when setting off.  

Get warm and stay warm

Remember to warm up. This will help focus your mind better and get you ready for the race, as well as relieving some of your pre-race anxiety. Your warm-up should be simple and not too strenuous. Easy jogging of about 10 minutes followed by light stretching should suffice and is key to your race day preparations.  

Get in position

Get to your start position early. When the gun is fired, stay calm and keep the pace easy. You may have no choice anyway due to the number of runners around you. If you start off too hard you may have difficulty finishing. Once into the race, settle in at a pace that feels comfortable to you.  

Think positively

Put aside all thoughts about not being ready, or too tired, and concentrate on what you achieved in training over the last few months. If you've put the training in, and got everything organised, then you are prepared, so just think positively. Ensure you maintain that positivity throughout your race even when the going might get tough.