You spend months running hard and pushing yourself ever further and faster in preparation for ...
How to prepare for your first running race
What to do before your first race
You've been running hard for a few months and are now ready to run in your first race event. You may have little idea of what to expect, but after choosing the right run for you and signing up early, by following a few basic running advice you'll have a successful first race experience...
Select the right race for you
It's almost essential that you select a race distance you will be able to handle and enjoy for your first event. If you've only been running for a few months, leave the marathon until later and choose a shorter event for your debut performance. A very common race distance is the 5k, or a little over three miles. This distance is a good challenge, yet short enough for you to finish the race easily after around two months' training.
Register for the race early
You are likely to find race application forms at your local running shop, on the Internet, and at gyms or health and fitness clubs, or you can send a stamped self-addressed envelope to the race director or office and request an application form. It's recommended that you send your application form in as soon as you can. This isn't completely necessary, but by registering early, you will be making a commitment to run in the event and give yourself some motivation for running. Also, the price of entry will often be higher if you decide to register on race day.
The night before the race
Just as important as race day is the night before the race. Regard the night before your event as the chance to get all of your equipment ready and ensure you are adequately fuelled for the next day.
Consume food and drink that is likely to agree with your stomach. Experimenting with different foods during your training is a good idea. If a particular item doesn't agree with you (and you'll know when it doesn't) then make sure you definitely DON'T consume it before your race. This isn't the evening to try the Indian restaurant that opened recently in town!
Don't be too concerned about carbo-loading unless you'll be racing very hard for 90 minutes or more. What and the amount of food you eat is completely up to you, but it's probably best to eat lightly. Remember to take in plenty of fluid. Try to drink approximately 200ml of fluid each hour that you are awake in the lead-up to your race in order to prevent dehydration.
Check you race equipment
Lay out your running clothes and shoes the night before the race. It's also a wise idea to pack a bag for race day. Be sure to include a towel, a light snack, a bottle of water, an additional change of clothes, registration money (just in case your entry wasn't received), and clothes for bad weather.
Don't attempt to have a few additional hours of sleep before your race. Your body will be much better at the start line if you've been up and moving for two or three hours. Immediately after you get up, drink plenty of fluids and consume a light breakfast. Steer clear of fried foods, and have toast or bagels with jam instead.
Arrive early for the race
Try to arrive at least an hour before the race's scheduled starting time. Make sure you allow for traffic problems and queues at the registration points and toilets (which it's a very good idea to visit before the start of the race). If you've already registered, just find the early registration table and ask for your race number, which you'll be able to pin on the front of your race singlet or shirt. If you haven't registered already, find a registration table and register for the race - it's that easy.
Warm up before the race
You'll be nervous, but you will still have to warm up. This process will make you ready for the race and help to relieve some of your pre-race worry. Ensure you do plenty of jogging (ten minutes minimum) and stretching.
At the start line, make sure you position yourself in the centre or back of the pack. Steer clear of the front row, as it's often reserved for the most experienced or elite runners. You won't want to be caught up in their race plan - don't forget that your aim is to complete the race. Stay at an easy pace for the first few minutes. If you run too fast at the start you're likely to become downcast for most of the rest of the race and could have difficulty getting to the finish. Once you're past the first few minutes and are into the race, aim to settle into a pace that is comfortable for you and try to enjoy the scenery.
You're prepared for a long and successful running career!