Tips for Running Your First Race

25 May

First of all, I saw this on Caitlin’s blog this morning and had to share it. I’ve worked as a server for 3+ years and oftentimes it is a crappy, thankless job. Her post serves as a reminder to not only tip those in the service industry well, but to also show them some respect and kindness. Do unto others and all that.

No kitty, that does not qualify as an appropriate tip

Racing for Newbies

I’m still very much a newbie to racing myself. I only ran my first race in March of this year. I’ve done five since then, including one half-marathon. I’m currently signed up to run 10 more this year (of all lengths, and a triathlon!) although, I’m certain that number will grow because I have a death wish think racing is fun.

 Even though I’m still learning a lot of the ins and outs of racing, I’ve learned a few key lessons in the races that I have run. There are just some things I really wish I had known prior to and on race day. So if you’re contemplating signing up for your first race, just go for it, click that button! You’ll have the best time. But hopefully, these tips will help calm your nerves and allow to have a totally awesome race experience.

1) Run your first race with a friend

I really wish I had run my first race with a friend. I would have had someone to talk to, run with, encourage me, etc. Unfortunately, most of my friends aren’t quite as crazy as me and don’t see the joy in running or racing, so I was on my own. But if you have a friend who runs, or can con someone into joining you, do it. It will help manage your nerves and give you something else to focus on.

2) Have a Pit Crew

This only needs to be one person, but having someone with you on race day who can keep your bag while you race, hold your water bottle and camera while you stretch, provide you with sustenance after the race and whatever else you need is SO helpful.

My first race I ran without a pit crew and using the bag drop was such a pain, plus I was paranoid that someone would steal something, like my falling-to-pieces two-year-old flip-flops. There wasn’t anyone to hold my stuff while I made a last minute bathroom dash, and I had to fight my way at the finish line to get to the food.

For three of the five races I’ve run, I’ve had a very large Pit Crew consisting of one person (thank you!!) and it’s made the whole experience run a lot smoother. Plus, you can bribe them into taking ridiculous pictures of you.

I said smile, not grimace!


I would say that this is especially important for longer races. If I hadn’t had someone with me the day of the Marine Corps Half, I probably would have had a complete system meltdown. As it was I was stressed and freaking out about very silly things (hello Type A) and having someone there reminding me that yes, I am indeed wearing socks and no I do not need to carry both of my phones with me during the race in case of a freak emergency was very helpful.

Pit Crews can also provide spectator support, which is critical in long races when you start to flag. Knowing that you’ll get to see your mom, dad, brother, sister, husband, wife, etc at some point along the course can give you a huge boost when you’re really feeling down. Even just having them at the finish line can help immensly. Plus, they can carry you to the car if necessary when you pass out at the finish line.

3) Pack everything you need the night before

And double and triple check it. You will be super nervous come race day, so lay out EVERYTHING you plan to take with you and or wear. From socks, to hair ties, to fuel. Lay it all out and then go over it all to make sure everything is there.

4) Don’t worry about sleeping the night before

Seriously, don’t. It probably won’t happen. The night before Marine Corps I layed awake staring at the ceiling for hours. Make sure you get plenty of rest in the days leading up to the race and you’ll be fine.

5) Stop drinking 1-2 hours before the race

This may be more of a personal preference, but you don’t want to be wasting precious time running to the porta-potties (gross!) because you have to pee every two seconds. On top of that you’ll end up with all that water sloshing around in your stomach come race time. Not cool.

But I needz the water!

Also, even if you are nervous try to eat at least a little something 2-3 hours before the race. Before long runs and races I eat a 1/3 cup of oats mixed with 1/3 cup water, 1/3 cup of coconut milk (or almond milk, or whatever is in the house, I avoid dairy in the couple days leading up to a race, otherwise my tummy tends to disagree with me), a little bit of peanut butter and 1/2 a banana. It’s easy to digest, keeps me full without feeling heavy, and gives me the energy I need to get through the miles.

6) Do NOT do anything new on a race day

This is bit of advice that crops up everywhere but it is so important. Do not eat anything new, do not wear anything new, do not try anything new. Stick to what has worked for you through your training, and wear an outfit that you feel comfortable in and that you now can stand up to whatever mileage you may be running.

Whaddaya mean I can't have this as race day breakfast?! I've had beer before!

7) Start slow

Especially if you’re running a longer distance, go out slowly, or you will burn out later in the race. For Marine Corps, I made sure to put a couple of slower tempo songs at the start of my playlist so I wouldn’t be tempted to blast out of the gate.

If I keep running at 2 miles an hour, how long until I finish this race?

Along with this, if you are a slower runner, start a slower corral. If you’re faster start in a faster corral. Try not to over or under estimate what you can do. Otherwise you’ll spend the first few minutes of the race either dodging everyone or they’ll be dodging you.

Obviously this corral is only for the really slow people

8 ) Make friends and have fun

That’s the whole reason you signed up for this crazy thing in the first place right? I’ve said it before and I will say it again, runners are very friendly people (unless you get in there way). Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation to the person next to you in the starting corral. At my first race, I started chatting with the woman next to me and she was such an inspiration! She was 63 and had run 8 marathons, and didn’t start running until she was 50! She also kicked my boot-ay in that race. Humbled? I think so.

They may not be runners, but they’re still my new friends

These are just a few of things I’ve learned from the five races I’ve run. Any other helpful hints or suggestions for a successful first race?

Check back later today for the first edition of Work It Out Wednesday!


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