15 Tips on What to Expect on Your 1st Race
Written By: SportsShoes
Your training is in the bag, you’ve got your race bib and you’re all set for your first race. If you’re nerves are kicking in and you’re not sure what to expect, read on for our guide to race day for first timers.
1. Nerves are Normal
The first thing you need to know is that no matter what your experience or ability, every runner feels nervous on race day. Have faith in yourself. Whether it’s a seasoned runner stressing over whether they can hit a PB or a first timer worrying about whether they’ll finish at all, every runner toeing that start line is as nervous as you are. Your nerves are a sign that you’re mentally ready to go and guaranteed, as soon as your race starts, you’ll forget them and focus only on your race.
2. Find the Bag Drop Off in Good Time
The first thing to do when you arrive is to go and find the bag drop off. This will usually be either a tent or, at events where the race finishes at a different location, a bus. These are sometimes allocated according to race number, so make sure you’re dropping your bag off at the right place. Make sure your bag is clearly labelled with your race number and pack warm clothes and a snack for the finish. Take care not to leave anything in the bag that you’ll need for your race, like your GPS or sunglasses.
3. Avoid the Loo Queues
Rest assured, the queues for the loo at the start line will be immense. Make sure to go to the loo before you leave the house and resist the urge to drink too much water at the start. If you do need to go before the start, get in the queue well before the race start time - the last thing anybody wants is to be queueing for the loo and panicking that the race is about to set off without them.
4. You’ll Feel Chilly on the Start Line.
It doesn’t seem to matter at what time of year you’re racing, the early start of most races means the start line always seems to feel chilly - and it might also be raining. You’ll probably be hanging around for a while at the start, especially in mass participation races like the Great North Run where the start is staggered, so take something to put on over your kit that you don’t mind leaving behind. That can be an old jumper, a plastic poncho, a foil or the runner’s make-do classic – a bin liner.
5. Make Sure You’re in the Right Pen
At larger races you’ll be allocated a pen according to your predicted time. It’s important to make sure that you’re in the right pen to help avoid congestion and let the race flow smoothly. If there are no pens, then it’s etiquette for faster runners to start at the front and slower runners at the back – check the results from last year before you go to see broadly where you’ll need to position yourself.
6. Don’t Forget Your Timing Chip
No chip, no time! Make sure you’ve got this whether it’s attached to your bib or your laces. Check the race rules before you go to find out if you need to hand this in at the end of the race.
7. Soak in the Start Line Atmosphere
The atmosphere at the start of a race is like no other. The anticipation and excitement makes for an electric and yet friendly atmosphere that is full of camaraderie. Usually most runners are more than happy to chat, share a smile or a joke and wish each other luck, especially if they’re running alone. Friends are made on the start line so don’t feel nervous about speaking to the person standing next to you – they’ll most likely appreciate it.
8. Don’t Start too Fast
Every runner has done this and every runner has regretted it. The excitement and adrenaline of the start means you’ll be tempted to race off as soon as you hear the gun, and the pace is often fast at the beginning of a race. This is the tried and tested way to ruin your race plan when you run out of steam later on. Let the speed merchants go and focus on your own race and plan.
9. Look Out for Water Stations, Mile Markers and Marshalls
The pre-event information should tell you where these are on the course but the excitement of the race means you can easily miss your water station, or marshall pointing out the route so it’s important to stay alert and focused on these points. In particular watch out for water bottles on the ground at water stations that are a tripping hazard. It’s also very easy to miss mile markers, but these are important to make sure that you can keep track of your pace.
10. Your GPS Might Seem “Out”
You’ll often find a mis-match between the distance showing on your own GPS and the course markers. This is usually because during a race you can find yourself weaving around other runners as you overtake them – and as you’re doing so, your GPS measures this extra distance. So, while your GPS is telling you that you’ve hit mile 4, you might only be at 3.7 miles on the course. Keeping an eye on the mile markers will help you accurately keep on tabs on your pace and distance – don’t rely on your GPS alone.
11. It’s OK to Walk
There’s no shame in walking and most of us have done this at some point when we’ve started to struggle or many people race utilising a run/walk strategy. The important thing is that you finish the race. If you do need to walk, for whatever reason, make sure to move to the side of the course to allow the other runners to run past you and never walk in more than two abreast.
12. Smile for the Camera!
Warning - there may be photographers on the course. If you manage to spot one, make sure to smile. Your race pics are your race memories and ideally you’ll want to try to avoid facial expressions of pain, looking as though you’re trying not to cry and other varieties of race photo fails (we’ve all been there).
13. The Crowd is Your Friend
Crowd support can make your race and the crowds at races are always supportive, whether you’re an elite athlete or a beginner – and especially so when you’re tired. There’s nothing like a high five or hearing your name cheered to give you a mental boost when you’re flagging and the going is getting tough.
14. You probably won’t finish last (but it’s ok if you do)
Everyone’s worst fear is always finishing last. It’s important to know that a) it probably won’t happen and b) the running community is the most supportive there is. Every runner understands the journey you’ve been on to make it to the finish. So whether you’re first or last, you’ll be cheered home just the same.
15. Be Proud
When you cross the line, the glory is all yours, whether you’ve run a 5K or a marathon. Collect your medal and goody bag and go to meet family and friends, proud in the knowledge that you’ve achieved your goal.
Pick up a bottle of finisher’s water, rehydrate and if it’s chilly wrap up as soon as you can in foil or in warm clothes from your bag. If you can stomach it, try to have a small recovery snack as soon as possible. Where there are high numbers of runners at the finish there often isn’t a mobile phone reception – so arrange your meeting point with family and friends before the race.
Now it’s time to celebrate…and guaranteed, you’ve now been bitten by the racing bug, so how about signing up for the next one? Good luck!