You’ve got the gear, you put in the training, you’ve discovered what nutrition works for your body, and now you’re ready for your first race! I have completed SO many races, but I will never forget the first! It such an exciting time, but it can also bring about some nerves! While I can’t help with anxious feels, I will encourage you to change your mindset from just ‘nervous’ to ‘nervous-excited!’.
HOW TO PICK A RACE
I may be biased, but I think everyone should experience at least one runDisney race in their running journey. But I understand that runDisney is a lot (logistically, financially) so you may want to start with a smaller race closer to home. Small/local races are a great intro and usually provide a more relaxed atmosphere. You’ll likely be able to get a more personalized experience (ex: if you have a question for the organizers or need accommodation). Bigger races that accommodate thousands of runners can seem overwhelming with multi-day expos, big-name sponsors, and sometimes thousands of spectators watching you run. A more positive consideration for the larger races, is that if you find comfort in numbers, it’s easy to ‘blend in’. At the beginning of my racing, I felt more comfortable in these big races because I knew I wouldn’t finish last and all eyes wouldn’t be on me (they won’t for a smaller race either, but that was just my thinking). In choosing your race, consider how far the race is from home (will you need to travel & stay overnight or can you drive there), how many people are in the race, how much does it cost, what are their cancellation policies (I’m lookin’ at you Covid), the race course, etc. All of these considerations will determine what your race atmosphere will be like and if that’s the experience you are looking for.
Depending on the actual race, it’s size, location, and race distance, the logistics can differ from one event to the next. Always read carefully about the race policies, any important dates and times (like packet pickup date and race start time), and what the plan is if there is bad weather. Also, try to plan ahead as much as possible (especially if you are considering a runDisney race). With so many races getting canceled/postponed in 2020, I can imagine a rush of sign-ups once live racing is safe to return. Don’t stress too much about this, just signup when you’re ready. Which leads me to…
HOW TO KNOW IF YOU’RE READY TO RACE
Signing up for a race is the easy part, but how do you know if you're actually ready to run it? Of course, this list is not exhaustive, but here are 5 considerations to make if you're thinking of participating in a race:
You're consistent in your running - you have followed a training plan or other type my running regime where you have been consistent. You're familiar with what works for you (shoes, clothing, pace, etc) and logged steady mileage.
You've incorporated cross-training activity - In addition to running, you have conditioned other muscle groups through cross-training. This is a regular part of your training schedule.
You've covered the distance in training** - You're familiar with the distance you will be racing. The asterisks are for marathon runners. I know many first-time marathon runners that specifically cut their run short so that the first time they run 26.2 it is during the race (I was one of these runners).
You know you're nutritional needs - You have practiced with nutrition during training and know what your body needs and doesn't need to complete the race.
You feel ready - Your mental attitude has a huge impact on your running! If you have a positive attitude and feel ready, maintain that positivity and have the best race day ever!
I know I say this a lot, but I'm here to cheer for you! I hope you're first running race experience is as wonderful as mine was and turns you into a lifelong runner. There's nothing like the energy of the crowd, the on-course entertainment, and of course, the finish line! See you on course!