Are you ready to enter a race?

Here’s what it takes to be race ready

As your finger hovers over the ‘enter now’ button on the race website you’re filled with a mix of apprehension, excitement and possibly uncertainty. There is a common misconception amongst new runners that you need to reach a certain standard before entering your first race. However, for the vast majority of races you don’t need to be a member of a running club, nor do you have to have clocked a certain time. There are in fact no definitive milestones that you need to have reached. So, how do you know if you are race ready?

You’ve banked some consistent training

In order to maximise the likelihood of having a positive and enjoyable race debut you need to have done some groundwork. This will not only ensure that your body is prepared physically but it will help you to feel psychologically ready to tackle the challenge of a race too.  The amount of preparation that you’ll need depends on your fitness levels, your goals and your training history.

Of course everybody is different, but if you are new to running you’ll probably need around 8-10 weeks of running 2-3 times a week before you feel ready to tackle a 5k. The longer the distance, the more preparation is required. If you are targeting a half marathon for example it would be prudent to have around 6 months of training under your belt. It’s important to remember that your training doesn’t have to be record breaking; consistency is key.

You’re healthy

Good health is a definite prerequisite for consistent training and is essential if you want to make it to the start line of a race. It sounds pretty obvious but ask yourself whether you are medically fit enough to enter a race. You’d be amazed at how many runners are hell-bent on starting a race rather than listening to the signs and signals that their body is giving them.

If you toe the line with a nasty cold or are suffering from a persistent niggle you risk a poor performance and almost certainly a delayed recovery from your ailment. In fact many races abroad actually require you to produce a doctor’s certificate to prove that you have a clean bill of health before entering!

You’ve gone the distance

For shorter distances, such as 5k and 10k, it’s a good idea to have covered the distance at least once before in training. This will ensure that your joints and soft tissues are physically able to handle the demands placed upon them over the distance and you’ll feel more confident and less daunted by the challenge ahead.

Of course for the longer distances this isn’t always possible or practical. However you’re more likely to feel more physically and mentally comfortable if you’re able to run for a substantial amount of time continuously. For half marathon and marathons you should aim to have covered around 75% of the total race distance at least once in training.

You feel ready!

The psychological aspect of running is huge and should never be under-estimated. A little self-belief and a positive mental attitude go a long way and can have a significant impact on your performance and whether you achieve your goals.

Often the most powerful indicator that you are ready to race comes from within. Once you feel that desire to challenge yourself over a certain distance or that competitive instinct kicks in, trust yourself and your instinct. When you feel ready to race, you almost certainly are!

Written by Louise Damen

Louise is a two-time England Cross Country Champion and a former European XC Trials winner. She has also represented GB at various international events and her marathon PB is 2:30:00.

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