Racing is the reward for your training. Whether you've been running for a few months or a couple of years, regardless, a race should excite you. This race is the cap and gown to all of your hard work, and there's no better way to celebrate than to toe the starting line.
How do you know when you're ready to run a race?
As a rule of thumb, we recommend that you've conditioned to the point at which you can comfortably complete at least half of the distance in training you plan to run on race day. For example, if you plan to start with 10k or 6.2 miles, be sure that you've run at least 3 miles in training. If your goal is a half marathon, try to complete a few training runs between 7 - 8 miles in length. Remember, the more time you have on your feet running or letting your body acclimate in general, the better position you'll be in to run and finish the race.
What should my goals be for this race?
If this is your first race or an event in which you're attempting a new distance, your top priority should be to finish. While it can be tempting to set a specific time goal, this may negatively impact overall performance by placing too much pressure on yourself. However, if you insist on setting a time goal, give yourself some flexibility by having an A goal, B goal, and C goal. There are many variables in racing, such as weather, course conditions, nutrition and fueling in the days leading up the race, and even your sleep patterns that may impact performance. By formulating multiple goals for this race, you create space for success regardless of the outcome.
"The person who starts the race is not the same person who finishes the race."
How do I decide where to race?
When selecting a race, it's best to choose a race with which you have some emotional connection. Perhaps it's a race close to home, and the course shares portions of your training loop. Or maybe you consider a destination that excites you, such as a race by the beach. Regardless, it's important to pick a race that carries some sort of meaning beyond the fact that it's just a race. Often during the ladder portions of a race, when things get challenging, runners draw energy from external influences like crowd engagement or beautiful scenery to distract your mind from the task at hand.
Another factor to consider when choosing your race destination is climate. Runners who complete all of their training on the Florida coast might not fair well in a race taking place at elevation during the winter months. It is possible to acclimate in the build-up before the race, but that will be something else to consider before signing up.
Know what you're getting into and mirror this in training.
Once you pick a race, spend some time researching the course. Familiarize yourself with the general layout, including elevation changes and the frequency of aid stations. As best you can, try to mirror the race formate in your training leading up to the event. If the race demands include significant climbing and you live in a relatively flat location, it might be worth taking a short trip to a neighborhood with hills to practice and assess how you respond to the increased demand. If this is a summer race, be mindful of the potentially warm temperatures. You might consider running mid-afternoon vs. your typical pre-dawn, morning run.
Although some runners may prefer to go blind when signing up for a race, having some knowledge of race details can help limit unknowns the day of.
Lastly, you should be excited about your race. Regardless if you're a first-time racer or reaching for new milestones, this will be a huge accomplishment. Celebrate with family and friends after crossing the finish line. Before you know it, we bet you'll be itching for another.