Running is an amazing way to stay healthy, both mentally and physically. In fact, just last year almost 60 million people jogged, ran, or hit the trails. You may be drawn to running for any number of reasons—and perhaps one of them is an upcoming race.
Running your first big race is thrilling—congrats on deciding to get out there! It takes hard work, but your efforts will be worth it in the end. Whether you plan to run a 5k, 10k, or half-marathon, if you’re not entirely sure how to prepare for a race, we have some tips you should keep in mind.
While a race sounds straightforward, you shouldn’t “just go for it.” If you’re a new runner, start with a smaller race that’s close to home. With any type of run, it’s important to accept that you need to train and that, if running is totally new, you likely won’t be able to run the full race length right away. Therefore, when choosing a race, make sure you leave ample time in which to complete a race training plan.
Overtraining and cramming everything at the last minute will only exhaust you. You should be progressing every single week, and then keeping it light the week before the race. You may feel reluctant to train this way, but you don’t want to subject yourself to burnout or injury. When you rest and properly recover from your runs, you’ll be able to make progress without interruptions from injuries.
On Race Day, conserve enough energy to finish strong; in other words, build your strength throughout the duration of the race. You don’t want to work too hard too soon and fizzle out before the finish line.
It’s important to figure out what works for you and stick with it. Maintain a race training plan and have a predetermined pace for the race. You should also take some time to become comfortable with your running form. No matter if you lead with your heels or your toes, once you find a stride that feels right to you, you should maintain it throughout your training. Plus, just by running more, you’ll naturally develop better form.
Finally, if you can, train on the race route. This way you won’t be lost, and you won’t feel overwhelmed with the combination of new spaces and pre-run jitters.
If you’re preparing for a race, you should be sleeping longer each night, especially the week before the race. It’s easy for anxiety to hit the night before Race Day, so make sure you’re getting at least two restful nights of sleep before then.
However, you don’t want to rest too much, and you also don’t want to take the day before your race off. Just 15 to 30 more minutes of rest a night will be enough. As long as you follow your training plan and try to hit the sack early, you should be in good shape.
Don’t get discouraged
People of all ability levels participate in races; therefore, you shouldn’t compare yourself to other runners. Maybe you had an upsetting training day or two, but it’s natural to have ups and downs in the grand scheme of things. Don’t let those days get to you, and more than anything, don’t give up!
Try to think positive thoughts and encourage yourself. Visualize yourself crossing the finish line with a big smile on your face, meeting up with some of your favorite people at the end of the route. Doing so will help you stay focused and keep your eye on the prize.
Most importantly, trust your body—you’ve put in the work for weeks ahead of time. If you need to, don’t be afraid to take a break and catch your breath. Even the best athletes need to walk or stop midrace and give their muscles some much-needed recovery.
Plus, don’t think you’ll get last, and even if you do, don’t beat yourself up about it. Think about how you gave it your all. Perhaps you beat your personal best—that’s still something to celebrate. Don’t fret, there are always more opportunities to race and improve your time!
Set aside your Race Day clothes and running shoes the night before. Then, pack extra. That means extra socks, extra shorts, a raincoat, sunscreen, bug spray, anything you think you may need. You just never know what the day will have in store for you. Don’t forget to charge your wearable tech (such as your wireless earbuds or smartwatch) and your phone!
Is the race organization providing participants with hydration and snacks? If not, make sure you bring your own fuel. Furthermore, do you have your bib? Or will you receive it the day of the race? If you have it, don’t lose it—you can’t run without it. You’ll also need to bring some safety pins to fasten it to your clothes.
Get up a few hours before the race to wake up your body. If you get up late, you’re bound for a frustrating morning. If you’re driving, make sure you get there early and know where to park. We suggest arriving at least an hour early, so you can have plenty of time to find a convenient spot and use the restroom. Plus, without the crowd, you can calm your nerves and warm up peacefully.
Additionally, if possible, register for the race in advance. Not only will you be prepared, but early registration will also save you money! When you register ahead of time, double-check that you’ve done so properly.
Taking these extra steps will ensure less stress on Race Day. Trust us, you don’t want to scramble and risk forgetting something right before the big event.
Enjoy the experience
Learning how to prepare for a race takes time and patience, but you’re sure to be in for a great day. Your race experience is a time to feel proud of what your body can accomplish. In addition to crushing your goals, another perk of races is the community support. Friends, family, and strangers will be cheering you on from start to finish. Plus, you may even receive a medal for your efforts! Go ahead and embrace the challenge. From all of us at Precor Home Fitness, good luck, and have fun.