Friday, July 1, 2011

Unofficial Guide: First Race

Edit:  Even if you don't need a first race guide, feel free to skim it to see if you have anything to add :)

I was thinking of a way to write a more serious, helpful article rather than just a stream of training updates and I think I found a way to do it!  I am going to write a series of Unofficial Guides to help with running.  While this is still more of an opinion and experience based piece, I do hope that it will help new runners, and possibly even experienced ones as well!

Because I ran my first non school sponsored event yesterday, I was able to experience the process from signing up for the race to stepping up at the starting line.  While this race was pretty relaxed I was able to come up with a few things that I think will happen with any race and how to be ready to handle it so it is smooth sailing from signing up to starting.  Since this is a longer post, I will be adding a break so that it doesn't take up too much room.

If you are still interested, keep on reading!

Finding a Race

Should you Race?
I figure that if you are still reading, you will be interested in a race.  I think it is great that you are!  Racing is a fun way to break away from the normal running routine.  Even if you don't think you would get 1st, or don't care to compete for the fastest time, that shouldn't dissuade you from signing up.  A lot of runners race to have fun with friends, or as the pinnacle of a training schedule.  It's also a great place to push yourself to break a goal that has been looming for a while.  I think that if you have been training for any period of time, and you just want to break out of the running rut, it might be time for a race.  Plus, a T-Shirt is always nice.

Finding the Perfect Race.
Okay, so the race doesn't have to be perfect, but it should be achievable.  By that I mean don't sign up for next weeks marathon if you have been running 10 miles a week.  A great first race is the 5k, which is roughly 3.1 miles long.  This is also one of the most hosted distances, so there should be more locally and throughout the year.  The best way to find a race, in my opinion, is to jump over to Google and search "(your location) running club".  The usually will be the ones hosting some really good 5k's and a lot of running clubs keep a good list of upcoming races(for example, here is a local running club for me).  Then just follow their instructions for signing up.

Race Day Preparation

What to Wear
What you feel comfortable running in of course!  Race day is not the day to try out new running attire, especially shoes.  Make sure you have some broken in shoes so your feet wont hate you at the end of the day.  Once you get to the race site, just pin on the bib(if they have one, they most likely will) and you should be set for the run.  Depending on the day, you may/may not want to wear a hat or sunglasses but that comes down to personal preference.

What to Eat
Again, there shouldn't be much change from what you would normally eat before a run. Changing things on race day usually leads to not feeling great and overall less performance.  Drink plenty of fluids and bring for for during(depending on how long the race is) and after.  Don't forget the water bottle!

- Don't eat anything to heavy/greasy, see how your body reacts during this and future races to find what really works for you(Brian)

What to Bring/Do
- Wear sunscreen(Brian)
- Run outside if you have been primarily running on a treadmill(Brian)

The only other tip I can really think of is having all your race gear set out the night before, nobody likes to stress out looking for that other shoe or shorts.

Once at the Race...

Check In
In the race information sheet or page, it should have a registration time.  Make sure to get there as close to that time as possible to ensure you will get checked into the race.  This is also the time you will be paying if you haven't already, so have that money ready to help keep the line moving!  This is where they will give you the check in bag and it might have some goodies in it, so have fun checking that out as well.

- Give yourself enough time to put goodie bag into your car(Brian)
- Use the restroom early!(Brian)  <--- Can't believe I forgot that one.

In all the excitement, don't forget to do some pre-race warm-ups and stretches.  Nobody wants to get hurt, especially on race day!  Find a nice open area and set up shop there.  It's almost race time!

Getting to the Starting Line
The moment has arrived!  The coordinators will probably make an announcement for the runners to get to the starting line a few minutes before the scheduled time, so head on over.  Once there, do some last minute preparations(make sure that shoe isn't untied!) and get ready for some fun!

And now the fun begins!  Do your best, and I promise it will be one of the most rewarding experiences when you cross the finish line to cheers from friends and family.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it with friends/family that might be interested in racing.  Also, if you have any more tips to add post them in a comment or email me at so I can add them in(and give you credit of course).

 - Brian (blog:


  1. Brett, nice job on this. Thinking back to my first race, I think the only things I'd add would be:

    1. Make sure you get to the race with some extra time. Give yourself time to walk your goodie bag back to the car and get back to the start (this is really only an issue in some of the bigger 5Ks). Pick up the day before, if offered, if you think that's a concern. Also, however many people are signed up for the race, that's how many people are going to be lined up for the bathrooms.

    2. If you've done all your training on a treadmill, get out and run outside before race day. It's more different than you might think. How long a distance your treadmill says you've run may not correspond to how that distance feels in real life.

    3. What to eat -- I recommend something rather bland and carby the night before one's first race. Nothing too greasy or heavy seeming. As you race a couple times, you'll find how your body reacts to it. Play it safe the first time.

    4. Sunscreen! (This is probably obvious to everyone but me.)

  2. Ahh those are some good ones Brian, ill add them in now :)