When I did my first road race in October 2009 (Run Like Hell 5k) I had absolutely no idea what to expect. None. Reading magazine articles, surfing the web, nothing prepared me for the actual race day. I’ve done a few races now and feel like I have a better understanding of how to prepare. Here are a few tips I’ve thought up to pass on to my lovely readers who are considering entering a race.
1. Don’t be intimated by the idea. You CAN do it! Sign up for a 5k to start out and work your way up after you get more practice.
2. Pick up the Race Packet the day before. Waiting for the day of the race is a bad idea. Race Day is complete chaos. And not only that, if you’re like me you want to be prepared before race day.
3. Don’t try a new food the night before (or the day of). Be sure to eat plain food that your stomach is familiar with.
4. Carb-loading isn’t really necessary for races that are short (5K) but something a little longer–definitely. Read up on some athletes and what they eat. The standard carb-loading dish seems to be spaghetti and garlic bread (hold the wine).
5. The Race Bib gets pinned onto the front of you –not the back (even though that is more comfortable). It’s for the photographers that will take your picture during the race.
6. Speaking of photographers….you will want at least one official race photo. And they are EXPENSIVE. So buy one and have a friend take the rest of you for free.
7. Don’t go to the front of the line if you aren’t a strong runner. There’s no shame in holding back. If you start at the front of the line, you will be tempted to run faster than your abilities and burn out sooner. I realized this with my first 5k. I ran really fast at the beginning, started to pucker out in the middle and had to walk for a minute or two to catch my breath. Not good. Not only that, more experienced runners don’t want to weave and dodge slow-pokes.
8. Bring your friends! Having your own personal cheerleaders can really help. Seeing Michael’s face at the end of the finish line during the Shamrock 8K made me push myself harder the last half mile and I practically flew across the finish line.
10. Don’t overdress. You will get hot and sweaty.
11. Use the bathroom as much as you can. There will be LONG lines for the port-a-potties at the race location. I tend to get a nervous bladder right before a race and have to pee like 5 times (at least).
12. Don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself. My goal for my first 5k was to just finish. My goal for the 8k was to complete it without walking. If I ever do a 5k again, my goal will be to beat my last time.
13. There’s no shame in stopping at the water stations. Hydrate!
14. Get there early to find parking and navigate the throng of people.
15. Don’t eat a huge breakfast before the race. I usually eat toast or an English muffin with peanut butter and a banana.
16. Thank the volunteers!!
17. Don’t wear new clothes or new shoes the day of the race. Make sure before hand that it all fits right and doesn’t cause blisters or chafing.
18. Once you cross the finish line, move out of the way!
QUESTION: How many races have you participated in? Do you have any good stories about them?