11 Running Tips To Get You to the Finish Line of Your First Race
Most important tip, don’t forget to have fun
Your first race (or even your hundredth) can make you a little jittery out of the starting line. Even though you know you’re doing it for fun, that competitive urge can kick in all the same.
Here are some tips to help you prepare and make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.
Tip #1: Make sure you’ve trained
This may seem like common sense, but I have known people who skipped this step and ended up very sore and miserable at the end of their race. Follow a plan for your distance, or make sure you are running at least a few times a week before you decide you’re ready to race.
Tip #2: Prepare the night before
Eat a healthy well-balanced meal the night before. Don’t overindulge. You can save that for after your race.
Races usually start early in the morning. You don’t want to be blundering around in the dark trying to find your running clothes the day of. Plan for what you will wear and lay it all out the night before.
And finally, try to get to bed early if you can and get plenty of sleep.
Tip #3: Dress for the weather
Pay attention to what the weather will be like during your run, and don’t overdress. If it’s chilly at the start, but you know you’ll heat up during your run, bring a jacket and drop it off it at the gear check before you start.
Tip #4: Eat a light breakfast
Hopefully, you have experimented during your training on which kind of breakfast is best before a run. Keep with that, and don’t try anything new on the day of the race.
Some ideas for pre-run food include carbs and a small amount of protein:
- half a bagel with a bit of peanut butter
- scrambled egg with toast
- yogurt with some fruit
- oatmeal or low-fiber cereal
Tip #5: Pick up your packet early
Many races have options where you can pick up your packet the day before or even a week before. If you can, try to do this as it makes it much easier for you on race day.
If you need to get your packet on the day of the race, be sure to plan for the crowds. In larger races, the packet pickup lines can get long. You don’t want to be stuck in line when the race starts.
Tip #6: Pin your bib to the front of your shirt
I’ve seen new runners pin their bibs to the back of their shirts. But you want it in the front so you can be identified for race photos and so that officials know you are registered for the race.
Tip #7: Pace yourself
Don’t take off too fast. Save your strength to make sure you can make it to the end.
Don’t make the same mistake I did for my first half marathon. I was so excited, and I had so much adrenaline that I took off like a shot for the first half. I ran faster than I ever had, and I don’t know why I thought I could keep it up for 13.1 miles.
Spoiler alert: I couldn’t. I had to drag myself to the finish line, my overall time was a disappointment, and I was sore for days.
Tip #8: Plan for water stops
Your pre-packet information should include a map with water stops. Take a look at this before the race. It’s nice to know ahead of time when these will appear.
Tip #9: Break the race up into smaller parts
It’s a mental game, but I like to get myself to the next mile marker rather than count down until the end. It feels less overwhelming to think I have 1/4 mile to go to the next mile than to imagine how much is left in the race.
Tip #10: Don’t forget the BodyGlide
Nothing is worse than chafing. Use vaseline or BodyGlide on problem areas before the race. I don’t know why but these problems always seem to happen during a race rather than training for me.
Tip #11: After you’ve finished, walk a bit and do some stretches
Grab your banana from the finishing tables and do some recovery stretches. Walk around for a few minutes to help stop any stiffness from setting in.
You did it!
Don’t forget to congratulate yourself at the end! Races are hard, and you should be proud of your accomplishment.
While it’s good to challenge yourself with a competitive race, try to remember, unless you’re a pro, races ultimately are meant to be fun. You will find most runners are very friendly, and there is a great atmosphere of community spirit at road races.
Note: this story was previously published on Medium.