Five Tips for Running Your First Race

Posted by Filed Under: Running Tips

racing tipsIt’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.marathon

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.

About Dianna

Dianna, also known as the Running Chick with the Orange Hat (Running Chick for short) moved from being a periodic gym rat to a runner in January of 2003 during a botched New Year's resolution. Her newly rediscovered fondness for running quickly blossomed into a full-blown obsession. Within a year and a half, she went from suffering through two miles on the treadmill to running a marathon. Cotton was discarded for wicking fabrics and gel was no longer something she put in her hair. Since then, she has continued to challenge herself, first with achieving her Boston Qualifying time, then running a PR at Boston and doing an occasional sprint distance triathlon. Future endeavors include a trail marathon and longer distance triathlons. Dianna has been blogging about her running adventures since April 2004, even getting an article 'published' online at Runner's World as well as capturing the attention of a local news channel. She can discuss all things related to running, swimming, and biking, at great length, without ever getting bored. In her free time, she enjoys pina coladas and getting caught in the rain, with her husband and multi-racial canine in Connecticut, U.S.A.

  1. Caylynn on September 4th at 3:28 am

    Great recommendations. I can also add: if you are wearing layers during a race, and think you might want to shed an outer layer at some point in the race, look at getting a race number belt. I love mine – I just attach my race number too it, and don’t have to worry about pins, or if I get hot and want to take off an outer layer.

  2. Dianna on September 4th at 12:41 pm

    Caylynn – excellent suggestions! Race number belts are fairly inexpensive (average around $7 U.S.) and are a great addition to any runner’s – or triathete’s – gear.

  3. Anne on September 4th at 2:50 pm

    I’d also add under the Remember Your Manners section that if you do find you’re misplaced in the crowd, i.e., far slower than the people around you, move to the right. If you find you want to run faster than people around you, politely call out “On your left” and people should move in to let you pass through the crowded sections. This is also true if you suddenly have to slow.

    Also, keep in mind good race etiquette says larger crowds never run with members more than two or three (max) abreast to prevent faster runners from passing with ease.