Getting ready to gear up for your first race? It might feel a bit intimidating because it’s a brand-new experience. However, it feels exhilarating at the same time. You’re taking on a new challenge that will test your physical and mental prowess. Not only is this gratifying, but you’ll have a lot of fun as well. Here are some things to help you get the most out of your first race day.
Preparing the Night Before
Preparation is key and it can make the experience much more pleasurable. You don’t want to stress yourself out the day of the race. You can start by getting your race kit together. Plan a running outfit that will keep you comfortable 15 degrees above or below the predicted temperature. Running sleeves or an extra shirt that can be left at the start are good for cool morning starts. You will warm up fast as you reach your stride.
Also, don’t change up your routine. If you usually eat a banana and a bagel before your runs, stick with the same plan. You don’t ever want to surprise your body because it may have an adverse effect. You might get diarrhea or some type of fatigue earlier than expected. The same goes for beverages. If water helps you hydrate more over sports drinks, then stick with that. When you plan this out early, you’ll be able to relieve a bit of stress because you’re sticking to a consistent ritual.
Get There Early
The night before you head to the race, get some quality sleep. Wake up early to give yourself plenty of time to go through your morning routine and find parking once you arrive. You might be a bit amped and need some time alone to calm your thoughts and reaffirm why you’re running this race in the first place.
Arriving early allows you to use the bathroom before it gets crowded. Pro Tip: Bring your own toilet paper just in case it has run out. Then use your time to warm up, by jogging or walking for 5-10 minutes, or to lightly stretch and loosen up your body. These are a few things to keep you focused on the task at hand.
Take in the Scenery
One of the perks of running a race is enjoying the scenery especially if the race is in a location that is new to you. If your race is in the country or mountains, take the opportunity to clear your mind, take in the fresh air, get away from the world and just enjoy being in your own skin.
If you are running in a city, be sure to take in the unique personality of the city culture. A race is a cool way to cover a lot of ground and get familiar with some incredible sights and sounds. Also, different parts of the city are often closed off during a race, allowing racers to enjoy the more intimate feel of the area. Maybe you’ll pass an intriguing place you’d like to visit after you clean up from your run.
We all love a new water bottle, shirt, or something to help make our workouts more efficient. One of the little things that makes races fun is the free swag you get just for participating. Some race organizers go all out. The Hershey Half Marathon gives the finishers candy, of course, and a shirt as well as two free tickets to “Hersheypark in the Dark.” Talk about having some great fun with other like-minded people! The Phillies Charities 5K gives participants a long-sleeved shirt, a finisher medal and two tickets to a Phillies game. Thinking about the blood, sweat, and tears it took to earn those tickets will make the game much more memorable.
Welcome to the Afterparty
After working hard to get in shape, sticking to a specific diet, and avoiding a big meal the day of the race, you need to re-fuel. Luckily, many races serve a well-earned meal after the hard work is over. In addition, local restaurants often turn out to provide food and brews at the finish line.
The London Marathon is well known for its finish line fare with The Baluchi at Tower Bridge, who offered complimentary butter chicken, or aubergine and tamarind curry, and The Perseverance, who provided pizza. Talk about a nice and fun reward you can share with other participants. Take in a pint of beer after the Hot Dash 5K and 10 Mile in Minnesota and you’ll be accompanied by the beer choir. The Rock n’ Roll Marathon in Washington DC serves finishers mimosas and beers and if you sign up for the VIP treatment, a relaxing massage. Just imagine getting pampered after running 13 to 26 miles.
Self-Confidence: The added bonus
At the end of the day, running is all about having confidence in yourself. Race day is fun and has a lot of perks. However, one of the best results is knowing you can achieve a goal that you’ve set for months. Running takes mental and physical strength, not to mention will and heart. It’s easy to fall off the wagon when you miss a workout or a run session. You might have to adopt a completely different eating regimen. However, nothing feels better than making it to the finish line. The icing on the cake is getting into better shape, feeling rejuvenated as your body performs, and feeling more focused in other areas of your life.
Your first race is not only a new experience, it’s a positive event that can be life changing in many ways.