Running or walking your first road race can be intimidating, especially if you have never been to a race before and don’t know what to expect. I’ve been running races for a couple of years now, everything from 5K’s and 10K‘s, to half- and full-marathons, and I still get nervous about each one of them! But there really is no reason to worry. I will (hopefully) ease your mind about your first race.
Choosing a race—I had no idea how to go about looking for a race at first. Now, I like to go to Active.com to search for races near me. I look at the location and date, obviously; but I also look to see if the race is timed (“chip timed” means that you wear a chip on your shoe or bib to determine your exact racing time), if there are t-shirts and/or medals included, and what the course looks like (Hilly? Flat? Dirt trails? Closed roads? Etc.) These are all personal preferences, but I always like to make sure the race is timed and that I get at least a t-shirt for my race fee.
Once you have chosen a race, you can usually take advantage of “early bird” specials, which means the cost is cheaper if you sign up further in advance.
The Expo/Packet pick-up—Depending on how large your chosen race is, there may be an Expo you can attend. This is where you will pick up your “packet” (bib with your number on it, race shirt, and anything else the race wants to give you); there are also vendors from running –related companies that have booths set up where you can shop. You can find everything from GU gel packets to running clothes and shoes to headbands and bumper stickers. Usually the Expo will be the day before the race.
Preparing for race day—I like to get my outfit laid out and ready to throw on the morning of the race. You may want to pin your bib to your shirt; charge your iPod and/or running watch; lay out your shirt, pants/shorts, socks, shoes, hat, etc; and double check to make sure you have everything. I also like to make sure I drink plenty of water the day before a race so that I am well-hydrated. If you’re doing a longer race, then you may want to eat more carbs than usual for a few days leading up to the race. You also will want to make sure you know where to go on race day—where to park, how to get to the starting line, etc.
The morning of the race—I set my alarm to wake me up about an hour and a half before I have to leave, so there isn’t any rushing around last-minute. I leave early enough so that if there is traffic, I won’t be late. Sometimes I get to races much too early, but I’d rather be early than late. Once you park, you can go use the bathroom, walk off nerves, or stand around at the starting line.
The race itself—Larger races will usually assign you a “corral” at the starting line, based on your projected finish time. The faster people in the front, slower people in the back. If there aren’t corrals, you should try and put yourself where you think you may line up (if you’re running five minute miles, go to the front; if you’re walking, go to the back; somewhere in-between, just try and make your best guess).
The announcer will usually tell you how many minutes until the start. When the gun sounds, it may take a couple of minutes to get to the actual starting line (it has taken me anywhere from one minute to 30 minutes to get to the starting line—depending on how big the race is). Once you cross that line, your “chip” will start your personal timer, and you can go!
The most important advice I can give you is to not start out too fast. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, and feel like everyone is passing you, but just stick with what you’re comfortable with. At my first race, I could have sworn that I saw thousands of people passing me, and I felt panicked. But chances are, you will not be last—and even if you are, so what? You’re doing a race, which is a fantastic accomplishment!
During the race, there will be water stations with volunteers handing out water or sports drinks. It’s up to you whether to walk through them, run through them, or not stop at all. I can’t drink from a tiny cup and run at the same time, so I walk for about five seconds and throw it back, then start running again. I always make sure to say “thank you” to the volunteers.
When you get to the finisher’s “chute” (the last part of the race before the finish line), make sure you look up and smile, because there will usually be a photographer taking photos as you cross. Once you cross the finish line, there will probably be water and snacks for you to grab, and possibly a spot to get your photo taken.
And that’s it—congratulations! I can almost guarantee that you’ll be looking up your second race as soon as you get home.
I wasn’t sure up until a week before if I was even going to do it. I went back and forth about IF my body was ready to run another half marathon.
You see, I am a planner. I like to make a plan and stick to it. I had an 8-week training plan and I missed a few of the long runs. This caused doubt in my head that I wasn’t ready.
I did two 10 mile runs on the last two Sundays and those went well. I was slower than I had run them before but I still ran them in a decent time.
It wasn’t until the Sunday before the race that I decided I could in fact do it and I would run it.
I wasn’t going to break any personal records. I wasn’t going to get out there and be miserable the whole time I was running. I decided I would enjoy the race, walk if I needed to, and enjoy the beautiful fall weather.
That’s exactly what I did.
I finished about 10 minutes later than my first half-marathon but you know what, I finished. And…I enjoyed it!
I allowed myself to go at the pace that was right for me. I allowed myself to enjoy the beautiful fall weather and the trail I was on. I allowed myself to just be in the moment.
And I finished.
Later that afternoon, I was sitting down having a moment of silence for the morning I had just had. I sat there thinking, “This moment would have happened whether I ran that race or not.” The good thing was, I was sitting in that moment with no regrets. I did it. I doubted it, but in the end, I did it.
I lived with no regrets.
I think this is pertinent to so many areas of life. Things come up daily and decisions must be made. Ask yourself next time you are making a major decision, “Will I regret the decision I make?” Make sure you live with no regrets.
I don’t regret joining Weight Watchers almost 4 years ago.
I don’t regret doing my first half marathon or my second.
I don’t regret signing up for my fourth Gobble Jog on Thanksgiving morning.
In general, I don’t EVER regret a workout or a good health decision.
The only regrets I have are the ones where I make an unhealthy decision for me and my body.
I want to encourage you to…Live with no regrets.
Jennifer Swafford writes about weekly weigh ins, healthy recipes, product reviews, and weight loss at It Sux To Be Fat. Follow her journey on Twitter or Facebook as she goes through life’s ups and downs and takes her new healthy lifestyle one day at a time.
What a few of our Fitteratis have been up to…
- Katie is involved in a cool project in which 12 formerly overweight strangers will attempt to run a 200 mile relay… — kickstarter.com
- Ali biked 100+ miles, aka a “Crohn’s disease miracle!” —Ali on the Run
- How to wear white after Labor Day? Courtney answers the question on many fashionistas’ minds —Sweet Tooth Sweet Life
- Jennifer figures out how to eat Chick-fil-A three time a day without going over her Weight Watchers points —It Sux to Be Fat
- Meanwhile, Callie asks a great question: If you’ve been pregnant more than once, how did your pregnancies differ? —The Wannabe Athlete
- Speaking of babies…Caitlin shared her insights and “review” of natural childbirth —Healthy Tipping Point
I don’t know about you but I was all into the Olympics this year. I was really into it at the beginning when the gymnastics and swimming were going on. The track and field was amazing too! The speed of the runners makes me envious. I am a bit of a slow runner so to see them running that fast is truly impressive!
One night while watching the Olympics, I saw this commercial:
Wow! What a great commercial! Some of my favorite points of the commercial are:
- Greatness IS for everyone - NOT just a chosen few.
- It is within all of us.
- We are all capable of it.
- All of us.
“Even me?!? I am capable of greatness? But I weigh over 250 pounds. I can barely walk to my mailbox without breathing heavy. Forget walking up a flight of stairs. How can I have greatness?!?”
Let me repeat…GREATNESS-IS-FOR-EVERYONE! That means you.
Oh, I am going to lose 100 pounds?! Sure…right! No way. Greatness is not for me. I am destined to be overweight the rest of my life.
Oh, now you are telling me that I am going to start a blog and have thousands of followers and people tell me daily that I am an inspiration to them? Now you are just plain crazy!
Well…guess what?!? All of that happened and so much more! Like the commercial said, it was always within me. I was capable of greatness. Even weighing 275 pounds and taking naps on the couch every afternoon. It was within me. I just had to find it.
Guess what?!? It is within you too! All you have to do is find it!
Jennifer writes about weekly weigh ins, healthy recipes, product reviews, and weight loss at It Sux To Be Fat. Follow her journey on Twitter or Facebook as she goes through life’s ups and downs and takes her new healthy lifestyle one day at a time.
I think it’s important for runners to also set non-mileage goals because – trust me – you can’t always be increasing mileage and speed. Even if you’re not prone to injuries like me, sometimes life gets in the way. Work ramps up or a new baby arrives. And sometimes, you just get burnt out on running and need time to focus on something besides the numbers.
When it comes to setting non-mileage fitness goals, I think it’s important that the goal is somehow quantifiable (or, in the very least, you decide in advance how you’ll know you’ve achieved it). Here is a list of non-mileage goals, some of which I’m currently working towards myself:
- Train yourself to do a certain number of push-ups or sit-ups.
- Do a plank for a certain amount of time.
- Take a 30-Day Yoga / Zumba / Whatever-Floats-Your-Boat Challenge: The key with long challenge like this is to build in room for error. Instead of saying you’re going to go to yoga for 30 straight days, say you’ll do 25 yoga workouts over 30 days.
- Learn how to do indoor rock climbing.
- Take dance lessons.
- Learn to do a headstand or crow’s pose.
- Become more flexible (for example, touch your toes or go into a split).
- Increase arm strength to the point where you can do a chin-up (or two).
- Regularly meditate.
- Learn how to swim.
- Start cycling for distance.
- Bench-press a new weight.
- Go for a walk every night before dinner.
- Last through an entire hot yoga class without having to take a break.
- Do all your housework to music and dance to the beat.
- Stand up every 30 minutes and walk around your office.
I also think it’s a great idea to set non-mileage, non-fitness goals during injury, such as reading a new book each week or learning to sew.
What non-mileage goal are you currently working towards?
In my mind, I look like a gazelle when I run… grace, strong, and steady. In reality, I’m sweating buckets, snot is pouring down my nose, and my thighs are chafing. Running is one of my favorite forms of exercise, but it isn’t always pretty.
The top 5 running gross-outs include:
- A nearly (and sometimes actually) uncontrollable urge to poop
- A nearly (and sometimes actually) uncontrollable urge to pee
Told ya running could be gross.
Let’s tackle the first gross-out: chafing. Chafing occurs when your body rubs against itself (like between your thighs or your breasts) or when your body rubs up against your clothes. Chafing hurts a lot and can actually sideline you for a few days if it gets really bad. The odds you’ll chafe are greater if you’re a salty sweater or are dehydrated, have sensitive skin, are running for a long time, or your clothing is worn or has exposed seams.
I chafe like no one’s business during the summer because I am a very salty sweater when it’s hot outside.
There are several remedies for chafing:
- Rub Vaseline or Body Glide into your skin to make it slippery and therefore less likely to burn as it rubs against your other body parts or clothing. Chap stick also works well in a pinch (and is easy to carry on long runs).
- Line your chafe areas with athletic tape. This creates a permanent barrier against your skin (I tend to sweat through Vaseline).
- If you chafe in between your legs, wear spandex shorts underneath your running shorts.
To read my solutions for running-induced snot, blisters, and – of course – urges to go number 1 and number 2, head over to Healthy Tipping Point: How to Handle 5 Common Running Gross-Outs.
Every once in a while, something comes along that touches your heart in a way you never felt possible. Maybe it’s because I recently found out that I’m pregnant with a girl this time around, but when I heard about Headbands of Hope, I immediately knew I had to help.
Last week, Jessica emailed me to tell me about this organization she started last year after an internship with Make a Wish Foundation. She got to know some young girls who had lost their hair as a result of the aggressive chemo treatments they had to undergo. She realized that headbands would be the perfect way to for these girls to keep their feminine identity and have a constant reminder that they’re not alone. Girls just like Tori, who is fighting neuroblastoma.
Jessica started Headbands of Hope to help provide hope for all girls who are fighting childhood cancer – one headband at a time. Not only does $1 from each purchase go to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for childhood cancer research, but everytime you buy a headband – another one is given to a girl touched by cancer. (Click to keep reading!) Read more
A friend of mine posted this on Twitter last night:
A dream doesn’t have to be BIG to be a big dream. Big dreams come in all sizes
And it got me thinking about dreams.
I once dreamed I would become a pediatric oncologist. Then I realized math and science weren’t my forte and headed toward the law degree I now have. I dreamed about traveling the world – and have had some pretty amazing experiences realizing that dream. I dreamed about moving back to my hometown and becoming the Executive Director of an amazing non-profit – and that dream has come true.
On my fitness journey, I’ve had a few dreams too. I dreamed about doing a sprint triathlon.
I dreamed about running a half marathon.
I still dream about running a sub 30 minute 5k.
Maybe it’s because I’m pregnant and am “sitting on the sidelines” for the time being, but I really haven’t been thinking about big dreams lately.
Maybe it’s because part of me is afraid that I have achieved all this “wannabe athlete” is capable of achieving. Maybe I should leave the “big dreams” to others more athletic, more dedicated than me.
But then I remember that if I had that mentality when I started this journey, I still wouldn’t be able to run a mile. I wouldn’t know the thrill of crossing the finish line of my first half marathon. I wouldn’t know that I really am so much stronger than I thought I could be.
So maybe…just maybe…it’s time to dream big again.
What is your BIG dream?
Sure, running a race is the best, but spectating is pretty cool, too. And to be a great spectator, you need an amazing sign. Here are five of my favorite race signs from over the years.
Here’s a few posts about racing from Healthy Tipping Point:
- How to Select Your First Race
- The Bib Transfer Debate: Is It OK to Transfer Bibs? Or Bandit a Race?
- So You Want to Run a Half Marathon
I know that for many of you who read Fitness Magazine, running a 10 minute mile is no big deal. In fact, you may be like my husband who says it is physically painful for him to run as slow as I run.
So on behalf of all the 10+ minute mile runners out there, I have a few things I’d like to tell the rest of the world.
1. Yes, we ARE running.
It’s true. You may be able to walk as fast as we are running. It may look like a slow jog to you, but we are giving it all we’ve got. Please do not insult us by telling us we are not really running. We are giving it everything we’ve got.
2. It is OUR race too.
At a recent 10k race, we ran on roads that had to have some level of vehicle access. The volunteers did an awesome job of directing traffic. The drivers, however, weren’t so kind. I actually had a UPS driver honking at us, tell us to stop so he could get through. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? You know there is a race going on! I turned and yelled at him, “I am having the best 10k of my life! PLEASE do not do this!” Less than half a mile from the finish line, a volunteer directed a car to cross across the road in a gap in front of me. It would have been just fine – except that the car behind him went too, blocking my access to the road. I got SO mad. I ran around the car, smacking it with my hand as I went past. Childish? Probably. I couldn’t believe that I had run over 5.5 miles without walking but that car tried to get in my way. It was as though I wasn’t even racing. As if I didn’t matter.
True, I may not have been racing against others in the race itself. The first place runner had long since finished. But I was in a race – against myself. Against the voices in my head telling me it would be easier to walk. Against those feelings of self-doubt. Of not feeling good enough. And you know what? I won that race!
3. We can use some encouragement too.
Sometimes it’s easy to cheer for the people running a ridiculous 5:20 mile on the race course. And yes, I’m sure they appreciate the cheers too. But please save some for those runners gutting out a 12 minute mile.
You don’t know their battle – what they have overcome. You may be tired of cheering by the time we pass by a half hour later, but please muster up a cheer. You never know how much your encouragement might mean to someone!
Any other 10+ Minute Mile Runners have something you’d like people to know? Please share!
Callie, 29, is a working mom in Venice, Florida who blogs about her journey to a healthier lifestyle and hopes to inspire a few other “wannabe athletes” along the way. You can follow her on Twitter at @AthleteWannabe or on Facebook at /TheWannabeAthlete.