After building a consistent running routine, many beginners will be ready to complete their first 5k race. Even if not interested in running competitively, participating in races is a fun and motivating way to spend a Saturday morning. Before completing your first race, however, there are a few things every beginning runner should know.
Do not Bandit the Race
“Banditing” a race refers to the practice of running the race without paying the proper registration fees. Not only does paying the fee cover fun items such as the finisher’s medal and t-shirt, but also goes towards behind-the-scenes costs such as water stops, post-race food, entertainment, and security. Most races also have a charitable component, as well. If unable to pay the registration fee but would still like to participate, contact the race director and find out if fee assistance is available
Plan to arrive to the race at least an hour before the gun goes off. This will give you plenty of time to find a parking spot, pick up your bib number, warm up your legs, use the restroom, and find the starting line.
Set a Goal
Whether your goal is to simply finish the race, run without walking, or complete the distance within a certain time, having a goal can make your experience more meaningful. For extra incentive choose a reward for yourself, such as a special dessert or café item, for successfully reaching your goal.
Expect Pre-Race Jitters
No matter your reason for racing, expect to feel some butterflies in your stomach. Standing on a starting line with hundreds of other anxious athletes is enough to make anyone nervous. Remember that these nerves are nothing to be ashamed of, but rather are a sign that you are invested in what you are doing. Harness this energy to help propel you through the race!
A common beginner’s mistake is to run too fast in the first 1k, resulting in a loss of energy towards the end of the race. Nervous energy can easily cause adrenaline to take over when the gun goes off. Instead, focus on staying controlled, and aim to make your first kilometer the slowest and your final kilometer the fastest. Be sure to find an appropriate position in the starting area, and never start in the front of the pack unless you fully intend to try and win the race.
Remember Proper Etiquette
Racing is unique in that there is both an internal and external competitive component. Although racers are ultimately battling themselves, they are also trying to beat the runner next to them. There are a number of rules to follow when racing, including never intentionally cutting someone off, always watching where you spit, never passing someone on the inside when making a turn, and always having good sportsmanship after a race. If a faux pas is made during the race, be sure to find the runner afterwards and apologize.
Stick around after the race is completed and participate in the revelry. Stay at least through the awards ceremony and cheer for the runners who won age group awards. Local races are also great venues for finding new running partners and friends!