Once you start running, you may decide to sign up for a race. Wanting to run a 5K or even a longer distance is a very common reason for wanting to learn how to run. But, as race day gets closer, you may get nervous because you don’t know what to expect. Below, I’ve written up the biggest things I’ve learned from running races, which I hope will help those of you who are just learning how to run have a great first race!
What should I eat the night before?
Unless you’re running a half or full marathon, there’s really no need to do any carb loading. In fact, eating a huge pasta dinner the night before a race can cause a lot of GI distress the next day, including in the middle of your race. Instead, it’s generally a better idea to eat a smaller meal for dinner to decrease your risk of GI woes. When you’re learning how to run, pay careful attention to what you eat and when you eat it before your runs. This will help you learn what your stomach can tolerate before running.
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What should I pack?
Be sure to set out everything you’ll need for the race the night before. This includes your race bib, everything you want to wear, any food you’ll want to eat, and anything else you’ll want for before or after the race, like a change of clothes or a jacket. One thing I always pack is hand sanitizer—the port-a-potties tend to run out pretty quickly, if they’re stocked with any to begin with.
When should I arrive on race day?
I always like to get to a race early. I’d rather have a little extra time to chill out and prepare for the race mentally than be racing around to find the start line. This is especially true for larger races—finding parking and getting to the start line can take quite a bit of time when a lot of people are coming to the same place at once, so plan to arrive early. Pro tip: check the race website to see if there will be any road closures before the race that might get in the way of finding parking. Many race websites will tell you where is the best place to park for the race, too.
How should I run the race?
Everyone has their own opinion, but I’d recommend running your first race at an easier pace rather than all out. You want to enjoy your first race so you’ll want to keep running and doing more races.
The easiest way to have a terrible experience is to run too fast, especially at the beginning of the race. Your adrenaline will be going and you’ll be excited about the race, which makes it very easy to start out too fast. Starting out too fast will make the last part of the race harder. So, my recommendation is to start at a comfortable pace and speed up from there if you’re feeling good. Again, the main goal is to have you feeling great as you cross the finish line.
More “How to Run” articles from Running with the Sunrise:
Seasoned runners: what are your tips for running a race when you’re just learning how to run?
What was your first race?
New runners: any questions about running your first race?