It’s your first race. You’re mostly calm. You’ve done everything you can to tame those race-day butterflies. You arrived safely at the appropriate race location, and you even figured out where to pick up your bib number. Now what?
1. Find the start and finish lines. This may sound elementary, but it’s crucial to know. Locate the start and finish lines, which may or may not be in the same location. For example, if the race is a “point-to-point race,” you might need to take a shuttle to get to the start line, or take a shuttle back from the finish line. Look around. If it’s not clearly marked, go ask one of those nice people at the registration table.
2. Bibs and chips. Pin the bib number to the front of your person, not your back. (This will help you find your race-day photo after the race!) You can pin it to either your shorts or your shirt, but pick just one. There may be a perforated tear-away strip at the bottom of the bib. DO NOT REMOVE IT until you cross the finish line. Once you cross the line, tear it off, and hand it to a race volunteer. This tag helps them track which runner came in first, second, third, etc; which also means, do not pass anyone once you have crossed the finish line! Stand in line, in the finisher’s chute, while the volunteers take each tear-away tag from each runner, in order of arrival.
Some races use a “timing chip.” The chip needs to be securely tied to your shoe; the envelope it came it will have directions showing exactly how to tie it onto your shoe. If your race uses a chip, you won’t have to worry about a tear-away tag on your bib, but you will have to remember to remove it and give it to a volunteer before you leave the finish area.
3. Final check. About 20 minutes prior to the start time, check to make sure you have all your essentials —gel, hydration, hat, sunscreen, Body Glide, etc. Then head out for an easy warm-up. Jog slowly for 10 minutes, do a few quick 10-20 second accelerations (strides) and then lightly stretch. Make one last port-a-potty visit. Once you are clear for take-off, head over to the start line. Breath deep and try to relax.
4. Remember your manners. Depending on the size of the race, the first quarter mile to a mile may be crowded. Through all the jostling and bumping, be patient. The crowd will eventually thin out, and you’ll be able to find your pace. In an ideal world, all runners (and walkers) line up according to their anticipated pace: fast folks in front, middle-packers in the middle, and the slower runners/walkers towards the back. If you’re not sure of your pace, line up towards the back.
Just prior to the starting horn/gun/whistle/cannon/shout, expect the race director to thank the sponsors, donors and volunteers; then there will probably be some form of a national anthem; and there may be a moment of prayer/silence/blessing. Remember to remove your hat!
5. All systems are go! Smile. Wish your fellow racers “good luck” and then run your little heart out! Run your little feet off! Run with pure joy knowing that you are able to be out running, sharing the experience with so many other running-passionate individuals.