Preparing for your first running race

What to expect from your first major run

You have been training hard at running for several months and finally feel ready to enter your first road race. You might have no idea of what to expect but by following a few basic running guidelines you will have a successful first race experience. After choosing the right run for you and signing up early here is the guide to preparing for your debut.

Preparing for your first running race and woman eating foodPreparing for your first running race and choosing the right running 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 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 running race you can find race applications at local running stores, online, 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. This is not absolutely necessary but, 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 night before the run

The night before the run can be as important as the day of the race. This is the time to get all of your running gear ready and make sure that you are properly fuelled for the task that lies ahead.

Pre-race meal

Eat food that will agree with your stomach. It is a good idea to experiment with foods during your training. If something doesn’t agree with you (and you will know it) then definitely don’t eat it before the race. In other words, this is not the night to try the new restaurant that just opened in town.

Don’t worry about carbo-loading unless you will be racing at a high intensity for 90 minutes or more. The amount and what you eat is totally up to you, but it is probably better to eat light. Don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids. You should try to drink around 200ml (approx 7 oz) every hour you are awake leading up to your race to avoid dehydration.

Race equipment check

Prepare for your first running race by laying out the clothes and shoes you plan to wear the night before the race. It would also be a good idea to pack a race day bag. Include an extra change of clothes, towel, water bottle, light snack, registration money (just in case your entry didn’t get there) and clothing for unpredictable weather.

Race day itself

Don’t try and squeeze a few extra hours of sleep in before the race. 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. Stay away from fried foods; but bagels or toast with jam are usually a safe bet. Check out the race day checklist for more tips on preparing for your first race.

Arrive for the run early

A great tip to prepare for your first running race is to arrive at least an hour before the start of the race. Allow for traffic and queues at the registration tables and restrooms (which you will want to visit before the gun goes off). If you have already registered, simply find the early registration table and get your race number, which you will pin on the front of your race shirt or singlet. If you have not pre-registered, find a registration table and sign up for the race that you plan on running — it’s that simple.

Warm up for the run

You will be nervous, but you still need to warm up. This will get you ready for the race and relieve some of your pre-race anxiety. Make sure you get plenty of jogging (at least 10 minutes) and stretching in.

The start of the race

At the starting line, position yourself in the middle or back of the line. Stay out of the front row; it is usually reserved for the most experienced runners. You don’t want to get caught up in their race plan; remember your goal is to finish the race. Keep the pace easy the first few minutes. If you go out too hard you will be miserable for the majority of the race and may have difficulty finishing. Once you are into the race, settle in at a pace that feels comfortable to you and enjoy the scenery.

Congratulations and good luck!
You are ready for a long and successful run racing career!

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