Friday Five: Five Things To Know Before Your First Race Day

Hi everyone!  It’s a glorious, warm, and sunny (until after 10:00 pm!) Friday here in Alaska, which means that it’s time for another Friday Five with Mar, Courtney, and Cynthia.  This week’s theme is “Race Day”, and since race season is getting into full swing and my Girls on the Run girls are running their first 5k next weekend I thought I’d share some tips on gearing up for your first race day!


Fun fact:  My first race day was over two and a half years ago!  I ran a 5k for Alex’s Lemonade Stand.  I showed up late and they ran out of all shirt sizes under XL, I went out too fast and crashed by mile 2, had no idea how to hand over my timing chip at the end…and had a blast!  I ran my second 5k a month later and the rest is history!

1.  Pick a race you’re going to enjoy.  Want to be in a big race with lots of spectators and other racers?  Or do you want to run a smaller race with less people?  Is there a specific charity you want to run for, a location you’d enjoy running in, or a type of course you’d like to run (flat vs hilly)?  Think about your preferences and find a race that fits them.  When I lived in the Lower 48 I used Running in the USA to find all of the races I ran!

2.  Don’t have any time goals.  There will be plenty of time to chase down a PR later, but your first race is all about adjusting to running with other people, the race atmosphere, and enjoying every second!  This applies to every new race distance that you do as well.  You better believe my first marathon is going to be amazing but slow!

3.  Be confident…  I honestly don’t think there’s ever been a race where I haven’t been nervous the night before.  But just know that you’ve got this!  If you’ve put in your training, you can finish this race!  Try to do some visualization techniques and deep breathing to stay calm.  Also, cheering or volunteering at a race a few weeks before yours will help you be comfortable with race day happenings and will help you know what to expect for your first race.

4.  …But know that it’s probably going to be tough.  I think a big part of my nerves always comes from worrying about how tough it is going to be to run hard for so long.  My current 5k PR happened at a race where I actually admitted to myself that yes, it’s going to be hard – but I can handle it!  Knowing that I was tough enough to push through the difficult moments made me run faster than I’ve ever run before.  Running is such a mental sport so don’t let it get to your head – remember why you’re out there running!  My race mantra is “Strong, smart, steady” (AKA “let’s positive-split this race by not getting too crazy in the beginning and then pushing hard when I can!) and it helps me get through the moments where I think I can’t keep going.  Google race mantras to find one that works for you!

5.  Celebrate!  You only get one first race – when you cross that finish line it will be the best feeling ever!  And I can almost guarantee that you’ll be searching for more races to run a few hours after crossing the finish line  🙂

IMG_4298The best finish line picture ever at the Zion Half!

What are your tips for a person’s first race day?  What was your first race day like?

24 thoughts on “Friday Five: Five Things To Know Before Your First Race Day

    1. Thanks! It’s been a while since I was a newbie, but it’s what I would have loved to know!

  1. Great tips for the first timer! I wish I had been in this running community when I ran my first race, it would have helped… A LOT! Have a wonderful weekend!!

    1. Me too! I had to learn everything on my own. I didn’t start my blog until I’d been running for a year!

  2. My tip would be to double check your race bib and timing chip. We once got the wrong timing chip ( with another runners name on it) and didn’t notice it until the night before when we were laying all our clothes out!

    1. Haha that’s a good one! I do have to agree that it’s not a good thing. I’m terrified of chafing from wearing a new shirt during a race!

  3. Absolutely great tips! I especially like the first one 🙂 It’s so important to pick a race that fits you but I don’t think most people think about that one. My tip would probably be to see if you have a friend to sign up with you, it’s always more fun that way!

    1. I have no running friends, but if I did I’d totally sign up for a race with them! It was scary doing it alone for the first time!

    1. So true! Mine was super hilly, but it was held in the park where I trained so that helped me prepare. I don’t know if I actually enjoyed myself…but I did get bit by the racing bug!

    1. Oh no! I hope everything is okay! I’m going over to stalk your blog now to see if I missed something!

    1. I secretly had a time goal for my first one and I didn’t meet it…for like a few years! It made me disappointed in myself when I should have just been proud I completed it. I try not to have time goals for new race distances to enjoy myself a little more!

  4. Great tips.!! mostly no expectations is best. just have fun.!
    I wish I could remember my first race.. but I was like 10. hmm.

    1. Haha that’s awesome! That’s why my GOTR girls will be doing next weekend! I wish I’d been a runner when I was that age.

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