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Surprise! 8 Things You May Not Expect From Your First Race

  • Instagram/@thetrexrunner

    I Didn't Realize Just How Under-Prepared I Was

    "My first race was a 10K, and even though I ran the distance regularly throughout my training, it was only on a flat loop in my neighborhood," says Danielle Cemprola, 30, an environmental scientist and barre instructor from Greenville, SC. "The race course was incredibly hilly, and I had no idea! It was the most miserable 6.2 miles of my life up until that point. I didn't do another race for two years afterward because I was so traumatized!"

  • Dani Sturtz

    I Didn't Realize I Would Do So Well

    "I placed second in my age group during my very first race," says teacher Dani Sturtz, 33, from New York City. "I didn't even think I could finish the distance! My mom had signed up for a 10K and asked me to do it with her, but I hadn't ever run more than a few miles. I didn't train for it, so I didn't even expect to finish, let alone get to see a podium."

  • Liz Heisler

    I Didn't Realize I Would Feel So Awful Afterward

    "I only ate a handful of dry Frosted Cheerios before my first half-marathon," says Liz Heisler, 34, an investment analyst from Chicago. "Looking back, I'm surprised at how stupid I was for thinking that would actually fuel me for 13.1 miles in the hot, muggy Chicago summer. I also wore a cotton tank top and cotton socks, so all around, I was clearly well prepared. But even though I felt like complete crap after the race, I knew immediately that I wanted to run another, because I knew I could do better. That next year, I ran two half-marathons and the Chicago Marathon—and that's where the addiction began."

  • Samantha Cosenza

    I Didn't Realize I Would Love Running Hills

    "When I reached the first big hill of my first race, I noticed most people around me starting to slow down," says Samantha Cosenza, 28, an accountant from Brooklyn, NY. "But I charged up. I thought to myself, 'Wow, these muscular legs I've had since the end of middle school really do come in handy!' Since then, I've never been intimidated by a hill."

  • Lucy Wallace

    I Didn't Realize How Emotional I Would Be

    "When I signed up for my first race, it was because I was pressured by my friends, who are all runners," says Lucy Wallace, 27, a technology consultant from New York City. "I was excited to start a training plan and become one of those people who had to 'get their miles in' every week. Before I started, I was so nervous—like I was having phantom 'I have to pee' instincts and was afraid to eat or drink anything. I went out way too fast because I was so excited and was passing people from the start. It was exhausting and harder than I expected. There was a lot of walking involved. Within the last mile, I started to realize, 'Oh my god, I just ran a 10K.' I came into the finish line beaming and smiling. I hugged my best friend, and as soon as I got my medal (and free water!) I completely broke down crying. I remember saying over and over, 'I can't believe I did it!'"

  • I Didn't Realize How Little I Would Remember

    "I remember nothing from my first race," says Maia Deccan Dickinson, 25, a project manager from Anchorage, AK. "I swear, I black out so much while running."

  • Instagram/@sammysweatheartnyc

    I Didn't Realize How Sore I Would Be

    "After my first half-marathon, I was so incredibly sore," says Cosenza. "I couldn't even sit on the toilet—and felt the need to tell everyone about it, and that it was because I just ran a race."

  • Beth Isaac

    I Didn't Realize It Would Change My Life

    "I always enjoyed running, and started doing it in college as a way to lose weight," says Beth Isaac, a 38-year-old pharmacist from New York City. "But it was crossing the finish line at my first race—the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure—that proved my true love for running. Racing taught me how to go outside my comfort zone, and how to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It made me learn to look fear in the face, and taught me how to go after things, even when they scare me. I learned that I'd rather try and fail than always wonder, 'What if?' My first finish line gave me strength, confidence, and determination. That feeling of accomplishment never gets old."