Sporty shorts and jacket—check.
New race tee shirt and entry number—check.
Oh yeah, we are feeling it! It’s springtime, and for those who prefer running to just about any other mode of transportation around town, that means it’s racing season. With race events scheduled all throughout the summer months, this could be the year for you to tackle a 5k or 10k like a champ.
If this is the year of your first race, here are five ways to get the most mileage out of your first racing experience.
1. Confidence is key.
Make a plan that builds confidence. Start with a great pair of shoes (preferably purchased at a store loaded with runners), pay attention to your running form, then set a progressive plan that brings you closer to an optimal, kick-butt, racing form. Running enthusiast Jenny Hadfield says to start with twenty minutes of walking, then slowly build up to a run-walk combination, and eventually progress to running for thirty minutes. Remember, small steps lead to big achievements.
2. Food is fuel.
Your diet will either boost your progress or become another obstacle between you and your goals. “For a 5K, there is nothing special you should be eating,” Marty Beene, USA-certified track and field coach, and competitive runner, says. “If you stay away from fast food and excessive fats and sugars, that will likely be enough.” According to Beene, the focus should be on hydration. The best way to determine adequate fluid intake is to take a peek at your urine. “If it’s pale yellow to clear, you are doing fine,” he says. But if it looks medium to dark yellow, it’s time to reach for the water.
When you’ve arrived on the day of the race, here are two things to remember.
3. Go with the flow.
Feeling nervous at the beginning of a race often results in a faster pace–and a torched finishing time. “Most racers give their best effort in the first mile leaving two more to go,” health writer Elizabeth Waterstraat says. Instead, she recommends you finish the second half of the race faster than you ran the first half.
4. Be prepared.
The more you are prepared on race day, the better chance you have of feeling calm and mentally focused. Laura LaMarche, DPT., a runner, and a physical therapist at University of Utah Health Care, says to do practice runs in the clothing you plan to wear for the race. Also when you are burning through your pace (literally, burning), anti-chafing products can help control those pesky high-friction areas like your inner thighs, armpits, and shoulders.
Also, although you may know the route, you may not know what amenities will be provided on the day of the race. Savvy runners will bring a trash bag to cover the wet grass for a comfortable rest, and they bring extra tissues for the rest room. Hey! The portable toilet only has so many rolls of toilet paper, so it’s good to be prepared.
This is one of those moments when you can just focus on your performance. Show up early, find your place near the starting line, then look around and take in the positive vibe of your surroundings. Everybody has their goals for the day, so stayed focused on yours. No, you are not going to cross the finish line long after the race has ended and everybody has gone home.
“The truth is that you probably have as much chance of finishing last as you do of finishing first,” running expert Christine Luff says. “Most short-distance races (such as 5Ks) have a number of walkers participating, so if you’re planning to run or try a run and walk combination, you’re most likely going to finish ahead of a bunch of walkers.” So, stop worrying, and enjoy the experience.
Whether it’s an annual tradition or an item on your bucket list, running your first race is a self-fulfilling adventure you won’t forget. By being prepared, you can be sure your time on the trail will be one worth remembering long after you’ve crossed the finish line.
This article was originally published in The Daily Herald. It has been republished with permission.