How to Run Your First Race

28 Jun

How to Run Your First Race. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Ha! (Edna Krabappel laugh)

No, stop, think of the children

This weekend marks the Perth Kilt Run, and for a handful of runners, this will be their debut race. First off, congrats on signing up for a race. That in itself is a huge accomplishment.

I’ve been running races for nine years, and since my first five-km, I have learned about what to eat, what to wear, what to think and most importantly, what not to think during a race. I’m not an expert, but I have taken some new information with every experience.

Here are my tips for running a first race:

1. Relax.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? You’re obviously going to have pre-race jitters, but the more worked up you get about the race, but more stressed you’ll become. What happens when we’re stressed? Bad things happen. The day before the race, or the hours leading up to the race, keep yourself busy to keep distracted. But also, don’t do something that will make you tired. Watch a movie, don’t hunt for vampires.

2. Eat. And Eat Normal Things.
Though you may be nervous leading up to the race, make sure you eat. Even if it means forcing yourself to do so. Your body will thank you as you toe the start line. What should I eat before the race? Eat what you’ve been eating on a normal basis. If you have a peanut butter and jam sandwich for lunch everyday, but think you need to add more protein, or subtract whole grains, just go with your routine. If it’s worked for you for this long, then it will work with your stomach for the race. This is especially true if your stomach already has butterflies. You don’t want to be messing the butterflies up with some homemade mayo.

3. Stick to Routine.
This echoes the last point, but it’s a point I take seriously. I don’t try new shoes, socks, medication (wha?), food, or anything new that could hinder the race. Stick with your training gear, and you’ll feel confident during the race.

4.  Enjoy the Crowds.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you arrive at your first race. That guy looks fast. Why is that chick using a water belt? Those girls legs are amazing. Why the heck am I here? Whenever I get nervous and compare myself to others before a race, I think about the training I put in to prepare for the race, and it usually gives me perspective. There will be the fast cats at the front of the line, but otherwise, everyone is there for the same reason you’re there – to run a race and knock off an accomplishment.

'We like sports, and we don't care who knows!'

5. Give Yourself Props!
Once you’ve finished the race, your mind goes one of three ways. 1)’That was amazing and I’ll do it all over again!’ 2) ‘That was awful, but I might, in another five years, consider doing it again!’ 3)’That was awful, I got a cramp, I was too slow, that guy cut me off, I stepped in a puddle, I should have been better, etc…’. In my early years, I almost always finished my races thinking the third ending. I then walked away being mad at myself. When, really, when you think about it, I had just completed a race, and not a lot of people do that. No matter how the run goes, once you’ve finished, take a few minutes to get perspective on what you just accomplished. No matter how fast, slow or wet your shoes may be at that point.

Good luck to all the racers this weekend!

Today’s Question: What is your advice on running your first race?

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2 Responses to “How to Run Your First Race”

  1. Anne June 28, 2011 at 8:18 am #

    Great blog! I would say that just like you, my first races always ended with #3 thoughts. It’s hard not to be negative when things don’t go our way, but as you said, at the end of the day, races are an AMAZING accomplishment that no one can take away!

  2. Madeline June 28, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    Do a lot of Positive Self Talking.
    During any of my races (as well as any training runs or Boot Camp), when I’m feeling tired and want to STOP, I do a lot of POSITIVE self talking……… “You can do this” “You have trained for this” “You are strong” I don’t let the negative self talk overpower the positive self talk. That is what helps me get from the start line to the finish line.

    and one other tip ……… make sure your shirt is on the right way!

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