“You never forget your first”

Spring is just around the corner! I know it doesn’t feel that way right now, especially if you live in a city that experiences winter weather, but it’s actually not that far off. As we inch closer to spring, we’re also getting closer to the time of year when road races start to become more frequent. If you’ve always wanted to run a 5k or 10k, this is a great time to start thinking about it.

Perhaps you have started to think about it. Or perhaps you’ve been thinking about it for years but have never quite gotten there. That’s okay! You’ve got plenty of time to do it if you really want to. I’ve got a little advice to get you from the starting point to the starting line.

At Least 6 Weeks In Advance (Or More, Depending On Your Fitness Level) 

Get excited - soon you'll be here.

Get excited – soon you’ll be here.

1. Get Psyched
Training for a race is exciting and scary, empowering and daunting, gratifying and exhausting. You know you’re going to put in a lot of hard work but you may not be prepared for the emotional rollercoaster ride you’re about to take. You’ll be energized some days, dread running others. You’ll want to push your speed some days, throw in the towel altogether others. That’s all to be expected so the best way to start is on the right foot – no pun intended.

2. Find a Training Program
You can wing it and just start running but it’s best to find a training program for your first race. Not only does this ensure your body will be properly prepped, it will help you avoid overtraining or burnout.

There are tons of programs out there – which can be a good and bad thing. My advice is to find a reputable site, like Runners World, for a standard program or trusted person to provide you with a more customized one (I’ve done this for a few friends).

3. Find Good Shoes and Clothes
Do your body a favor and invest in quality running shoes and clothes.

When it comes to shoes, one style doesn’t fit all. Be sure you find shoes that are appropriate for your arches and gait – if that sounds confusing, don’t worry! Most quality sporting goods stores have knowledgeable associates who will help you identify your needs and the proper shoe.

As for clothing, whatever is comfortable and prevents chafing. If you’re planning to log a lot of outdoor miles in chilly weather, you’ll need gear designed specifically for cold-weather running. Think layers and fabrics that wick away moisture while keeping your core warm.
A Week or Two Before 

1. Find the Right Foods  

This may be better as a post-run meal.

This may be better as a post-run meal.

You’ve probably started to learn what foods sit well with you prior to a run – and, more importantly, what foods don’t. This is the time to refine that list and make sure you’re only eating foods that make your stomach happy. After you’ve worked so hard and spent all this time running, he last thing you want is stomach trouble ruining your race.
2. Log Some Morning Miles
With the exception of some new novelty events, most races take place in the morning hours. If you’ve only been running in the afternoon or evening, make the effort to get up early for a couple runs. This will get your body a little more used to running right away, as well as give you another chance to make sure last night’s dinner doesn’t cause issues the next morning.

3. Remember the Why
The week or two leading up to a race is often the hardest because you’re so close, yet you feel so far away. You’ve worked so hard and you’re feeling ready, yet you have several days and a few more runs still standing between you and the start line. This is the time to remind yourself why you’re training for this race.

Was it to lose weight? Unless you’ve been eating like garbage, you’ve probably achieved that goal.
Was it to get in better shape? Unless you still can’t run a mile, you’ve achieved that goal too.
Was it a bucket list item? Unless you’re really ready to quit now, you’re on the verge of crossing it off the list.
Was it just to feel a sense of pride in yourself? Congrats, you’ve stuck with it this long!
Days Before

1. Choose Your Outfit
By now you should have a good idea of what the weather’s going to be like on race day. Take the time to plan your outfit, from your race day top to your socks. One could argue you could wait until the night before to do this but doing it a couple days in advance allows you time for a last-minute trip to the store just in case you realize you need something.

2. Check Out The Course
Calm the pre-race nerves by taking a little peek at the course that lies ahead.

If you’d rather not spoil it, don’t look. Just be sure you know where the race starts and finishes, as well as where to park, where the bathrooms are, those types of things.

3. Scale Back the Miles
A traditional taper isn’t necessary for a 5k or 10k race but you should still ease up on your bod to make sure your legs are light and fresh for race day.

The Night Before

1. Set Out All Your Stuff
Your watch, your body glide, your bib. It’s amazing what you can forget on the morning of your race. Plus, your morning should be completely stress-free, with your mind clear of everything but the start line, finish line and miles in between.

2. Set Three Alarms – And Double Check Them All
Remember the episode of Seinfeld where Elaine hosts marathon runner, Jean Paul, famous for oversleeping at the Olympics and missing the entire marathon? Naturally, the gang finds a way to screw it up and cause him to oversleep again.

Calm your fears about oversleeping by setting at least three alarms – I’m not even kidding, three. A backup can fail. Having a backup to the backup is a pretty safe bet you won’t oversleep on your big day.

3. Don’t Stress About Sleep
Speaking of sleep, you know it’s important to get good rest every night. But the night before a race, it’s probably not gonna happen. You’re going to be excited, nervous, worried about oversleeping – all of that adds up to a mind that won’t shut off and likely some missed zzzzs.

That’s okay! You’ll be so energized by the thought of crossing the finish line, you can make it on just a few hours. Don’t stress over sleep or lack thereof. Plus, after you crush the race the next morning, you can treat yourself to a well-deserved (and necessary!) nap.
Are there other questions you have to help prep for your first 5k or 10k? Tweet me anytime, @runlikeagirl311. If you’d like help coming up with a training plan, send me a message and I’ll gladly help! Veteran racers, do you have other helpful tips to share? Comment or tweet me.


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