Your first race

Tips to ensure your first race is a happy day.


by Annie Rice
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Your first race is a landmark in your running career. No matter the distance, it is a sign of commitment and the first time you get to experience the glory from crossing a finish line of something you worked hard for. A simple, joyful experience. It also comes with a bundle of nerves and unease about exactly what to expect. There are a few useful things to remember in the build up and to prepare to make the day as stress-free and successful as possible.

Nothing new on race day

This is a big one. Wise runners often recount tales of that day they wore a brand new pair of shoes on race day, oh the blisters, or the new shorts you decided to wear because it was a sunny day, did somebody say chaffing? Yep, no matter how cool your new kit is, it’s not worth the quiet word you have to have with yourself a quarter of the way through the course about your own stupidity.

Food

The same goes for food. Stick to a breakfast you are used to having before a run. Races can start obnoxiously early so if you have difficulty eating as soon as you wake, it’s worth experimenting with a few options in your training runs to see what works for you. Take a look at our breakfasts for runners recipes here for inspiration but porridge is a classic that many runners swear by, avoiding anything high fat and opting for a carb option is the best advice.

Get there early

Let’s be honest, from the moment you wake up on race day morning, the race will be on your mind. By signing up for a race you’ve scarified a lie-in so just take the hit, set your alarm way before you need it to make sure your at the race site with time to pick up your race number, warm up and freak out a bit without any unnecessary stress that comes from getting lost or being stuck in traffic.

Nutrition plan

For a 5 or 10K, you will be fine without a ‘strategy’ but for anything longer, planning is key. The best way to do this is to practice. Use your longer training runs to try gels or sweets to see what works for you. Practice carrying a water bottle on the run or suss out the race course to check out where the fuel and water stations are and practice accordingly. You can’t be over-prepared for this, it will take away the stress or potential disaster than can come from trying a new brand of gel on the day or finding there is no fuel at your stations.

Pacing

The good news is that no matter your finish time, your first race will be a PB so no stress there. Nailing your pacing is also a learning curve and it’s a good idea to simply have a goal to finish your first race then work on getting faster for the next ones should you wish. However this is a handy tool if you want to get an idea of where to start with pacing. You will feel much better about the experience if you end with a strong finish. 

Put your name on your T shirt

Even if you’re not usually the happy clappy type, during the dark moments of a race, hearing someone cheer your name will feel amazing. You won’t regret it. 

Enjoy

Don’t lose sight of how far you’ve come to get to even the start line of your first race, it’s a huge step. Be proud of yourself, smile and enjoy the day. 


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