Signing up and training for your first road race isn't intuitive. You might be surprised to know that not all runners have fancy gadgets to measure time and pace, the same form, or a secret handshake that sets runners apart from the rest of the world. Even if it's your first race, you will look like a pro knowing these tips.
No Matter the Distance, There's a Training Plan Here For You
- Wear the right gear: It doesn't take much to look like a runner, but if your gear is wrong, other runners are going to know it's your first race. Investing in a good pair of real running shoes and a sweat-wicking fabric will help you fit in - and keep you from ruining your feet and skin. Sweat-wicking shirts will pull the sweat away from your body and leave you feeling comfortable throughout the race.
- Know the basic logistics: If you've adequately trained for your first race, you should have an idea of what your pace is going to be on race day. If you're a middle-of-the-pack runner, or on the slower end, start towards the back of the starting line. If you line up with the ultra-fast runners on race day, everyone behind you is going to know you don't know what you're doing as they stagger their footsteps to get around you. Larger races have designated corrals based on running pace. Be realistic when finding your place, and realize that it's easier to catch up and get faster later than it is to get run over at the start.
- Have a pre-race ritual: While there's no one-size-fits-all ritual, find something that gets you mentally ready for the race. You can easily practice this during your training runs to figure out what works right for your mind and body. Run in place, roll out your shoulders, meditate, whatever it is that gets you in the mood to run hard. Standing and flipping through your playlist will make other runners think you don't know what you're doing.
- Don't go too fast, too soon: Every runner has made this mistake, but if you can prepare for it in advance, you can avoid the consequences of burning out in the first quarter of the race. During your first race, you're likely to experience a rush of adrenaline when the gun goes off, but don't let it push you too fast, too soon. An eight-minute mile may feel great for the first mile, but the last two miles of a 5K are going to be painful. Practice pacing during your training runs, and learn when your body is comfortable to push harder. Learning to keep a little gas in the tank for the end of the race will help sustain you to the finish line.
- Celebrate: Most runners that compete in local road races aren't super competitive, and after your first race, you shouldn't be either. Let your friends and family congratulate you on a great first race; enjoy the post-race celebration and free snacks at the finish line. No matter how your race went, when you finish your first road race, you've just earned yourself your first PR!