Whether you’re running your first 5K at a local race, or about to attempt a half marathon, the feelings are always the same. You’re second-guessing your ability and every little twinge feels like a serious running injury.
Not to mention all the questions buzzing around your mind about the event itself…
“Where do I go when I get there?”
“Where will I put my bag?”
“I hope there’s plenty of toilets.” Just us?
Your first running event is always going to be nerve-wracking. But with a bit of preparation and a little self-belief, you’ll be able to overcome those nerves to enjoy your race.
To help you along, we’ve spoken to 4 runners - from a beginner to a seasoned ultra-marathoner – to ask them what you should know before your first running event.
Here’s what they had to say:
This is when you’ll be feeling your most nervous. And that’s totally normal because as a first-time racer, you don’t know what to expect yet.
Quash these nerves by doing as much prep as you can in the lead-up. Libby ran her first marathon earlier this year. her advice is to test run your routine before the event, so you feel confident in what you’re doing.
“Practice your whole run plan, from your kit to your breakfast, to the gels you’re going to have, and when you’re going to refuel. Make sure you’re happy with that routine, adjust it until you get it right and then once you know what you want to do, just follow that exact same plan on race day.”
You’ll start to feel excited when you arrive at the event. There’s always a great atmosphere of runners raring to go.
Russ, our regular 5 and 10K runner has a clever tip for first time racers, he says you should “stick your name on the front of your running top. It’s great when you’re running along to have people cheering you on and can give you that extra boost you might need.”
We think you should always have your name on you when you run. Our wristbands let you carry discreet identification whenever you’re out training or taking part in a race.
What a lot of people don’t realise before their first running event is that there’s a bit of a wait before you actually cross the start line.
Dave found this out when he ran the London marathon back in 2017: “Don’t warm up too early – it’s likely you’ll be held in a holding area for some time – for me it was 40 minutes before I actually crossed the start line.
Prep some good dynamic warm-up moves that you can do as you walk towards the start line in the mass crowd.”
Even though it can take a while until you actually reach the start line, it’s a good idea to arrive at your event early so you can register, use the bag drop and go for one last wee.
You’ll find there’s plenty of helpful stewards to direct you where you need to be.
By this time, all your nerves will have drifted away, and you’ll be ready to focus on the race. This is what you came to do!
Dan, who has a 53-mile ultra-marathon to brag about, tells us that at this point you should “avoid getting caught up in the atmosphere and going off too fast. This is likely a little bit faster than you do in training, so for example if all your training runs are at 10 min/mile then don’t try and stick with the sub-4-hour marathon pacers.”
The atmosphere at running events can be really exciting! So just remember not to get carried away or you could hurt yourself.
This is the good bit. All your hard work and nerves have paid off and you’ll cross the finish line to get your medal.
You might find you’re not that tired or hungry straight away, but half an hour later and the effect of your run will hit you.
Dave suggests booking a restaurant in advance to “avoid hunting for a somewhere that has a table.”
This way, you won’t waste any precious time searching for the perfect post-race meal, and you can celebrate your run with loved ones stress-free.
Now you’ve completed your first running event, you’ll be feeling a huge sense of accomplishment. And rightly so! The first one is always scary, but now you’ve got that monkey off your back, it’s time to sign up for the next one…
For even more advice on running your first event, check out the full video below: