Training and running your first race is monumental. Whether it’s been a longtime goal to run a race or you just got started a few months ago, your first race will be memorable because, after all, it is your first. After waking up at unholy hours before the crack of dawn, after sweating buckets running at lunch only to spray yourself down with perfume and dry shampoo before an afternoon meeting, after scheduling night runs with the moonlight, finally, finally, your day has arrived! And as it arrives, you need to make sure your head and body are both in the game before your feet hit the pavement.
Preparing for Your First Race
1. Prep the night before.
Lay out all of your clothes, your race bib, and your shoes the night before. Nothing is worse than waking up and realizing your lucky sports bra is dirty from your last run or not being able to find your running shoes. Have everything ready for you in advance so you won’t waste time and nervous energy looking for attire.
2. Eat well – but don’t overeat.
Every time I think of carb-loading, I think of this scene from “The Office.” Do you remember what happened to Michael during the race? Vomit. Lots of it. The night before your race, eat well – if you’re running a 5k, though, don’t focus so much on the carbs. Get your protein, get a few carbs, but basically, just eat healthily. (And don’t eat beans – or anything that might wreck havoc on your digestive system during your run. Not every 5k has bathrooms on the race route.)
3. Drink plenty of water.
Similarly to No. 2, drink lots of water the day before. You may be nervous about needing a potty break if you drink a lot of water right before the race (or is that just me?), so be mindful of what you drink the day before a race.
4. Give yourself ample time to get to the race.
Hundreds (if not thousands, depending on your destination) of other runners and family members are trying to get to the same place you are. This isn’t like lacing up your shoes and going for an everyday run. This is race day. Plan to get to the race 30 minutes early – and allow for extra time to park and find the starting location.
5. Set a goal.
Whether your goal is to complete the race or you have a certain time you want on the race, set a goal. It can help to motivate.
6. Have a running mantra.
Lots of runners use running mantras to get them through a race. I’ll be honest – I’ve never used one. When I was giving birth to my daughter, however, my labor mantra was, “I’ve run a flipping half-marathon – I CAN DO THIS.” Not a stereotypical mantra, but it’s what I repeated to myself over and over. Basically – find a phrase that helps you realize that you CAN do this.
7. Wear comfy clothes.
This is not the day to try out a new pair of socks or shoes or sports bra. This is the day when your Ol’ Faithfuls come through.
8. Figure out to do with your personal belongings.
ESPECIALLY if you’re running a race like a Warrior Dash, you’re going to need to figure out what you need to do with items such as keys, your phone, ID and such. It may be that a family member or friend who is a spectator at the race can hold your personal belongings, but if not, you need to remember that after the race is over, you probably still will need to have your keys and driver’s license to go home and shower.
9. Amp yourself up.
Get some positive thoughts here! This is what you’ve been training for! Think of all the reasons why you decided to start running in the first place – to lose weight, to inspire others, to inspire yourself! You’re amazing, and while everyone else is sleeping the morning away, you’re running in a flipping race! That makes me want to fist bump you right through this computer screen.
10. Plan an after-race celebration.
My running partner and I talked all about the IHOP pancakes we were going to eat after our first 5k. My husband had such a runner’s high that after his first 5k, he spontaneously decided to attend his 10-year high school reunion. Plan something to celebrate your first race. It doesn’t have to be anything big; it just has to make you happy.
Get ready for your first race! I am so excited for you! Let us know where and when you’re racing so we can cheer you on!