So you’ve been running for a while now. Just doing your thing, having fun, losing weight, etc but seeing and hearing the buzz over big races has peaked your interest. However, are you not sure where to start? Well here are some of my tips and tricks to selecting your first race!
Pick a Location
- Do you want your first race to be nearby or a destination race?
Picking a local in-town race means you can sleep at home in your own bed, wake up and prep in a familiar space, and not worry about forgetting to pack something. Local races are usually cheaper than big international/destination races. Another plus for picking a local race is familiarity with the course. There are a couple races that take place in a trail nearby my place and that means the weeks before, I can do my training runs there so get a feel of the terrain (any hills, any sharp turns, how the ground is – pavement, gravel, grass). Another reason local races are great first races is because you can have your friends and family there to support you during the race or at the finish line. Having your friends and family around for your first race can be quite exciting as it means lots and lots of (free) race photos!
Your second option is a destination race. Destination races are a great way to sneak in a mini vacation haha. Destination races means you can do sightseeing, shopping, and go to a new town that you’ve never been to before. However, destination races can be a bit difficult logistically since it involves a lot of planning. My first destination race was luckily not too far so we were able to road trip there but I had to pack multiple race outfits as I wasn’t 100% sure what the weather would be like at the race. Also, my meals weren’t planned like I usually do before a race since we were out of town and I forgot to cook/pack a meal ):
Pick a Distance
- 5k? 10k? half-marathon? marathon?
What do you want your first race to be? Did you just start running and a 5k is something you’re comfortable with or have you been running a while with a good base mileage that you can do a longer race? Personally, my first race was a 5k because I wasn’t feeling ready for anything longer but over the years I’ve moved up to 10ks and half-marathons.
Pick a Terrian
- Road Race vs Trail Race
Road races are usually larger and have more spectators compared to a trail race as it’s in a more isolated area. Keep in mind that trail racing can be a bit more difficult if you don’t already train in trails as the paths aren’t paved and there’s more obstacles such as tree roots to run over/around which may slow your time. Keep in mind the elevation of the path as some races has hills while others don’t.
Pick a Training Plan
You may or may not want to use a training plan but it’ll be a good idea to have a plan to make sure you’ll be finish your race in the time that you want (without hurting yourself by increasing your mileage too quickly!) A good beginner’s plan is Couch to 5k and Runner’s World has a couple plans that you can follow. Having a plan also means you can calculate when you’ll be ready to race so you can pick a race in that time frame.
Pick a Race
A good way to pick a race is by reading race recaps of people who’ve done the race the years before to see if it’s something you want to participate in. If you’re Canadian, we have a Canadian Race Guide that you can pick up for free in Running Room or you can download the app. The race guide has a list of races available in the next year organized by province and they all have a little blurb to let you know what it’s about. If you’re American, Cool Running and Running in the USA can help you find a race in your State.
And finally… sign up!
So tell me, is there anything you’d like to add to this list? What was your first race? What’s your next race?