When I first began running I didn’t even know about races. I mean obviously I knew about the Boston marathon and stuff like that, but a 5K? Nope. Didn’t know I could sign up and run one.
So my first race was a 5k….it was just small one, maybe 80-100 people there total. It was fun but I think I was so nervous I didn’t really get to enjoy the experience. The thing I remember the most is the young boy, maybe 10 or so, running in front of me. I had to beat him. Turns out I did. First in my age group, but that was only because the first and second overall for women were in my age group. I didn’t care. I got a medal and stood on a podium. Finally I won something! What an amazing experience. I was hooked. This was years ago and except for a brief time shortly after I transferred here in 2012 I have run at least 10 races a year.
I’ve learned some things…mostly through mistakes on my part and if I can help someone along the path of running by imparting my knowledge I’ll do it.
- Make sure you have your gear ready to go. My brother and I ran our first half marathon the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach. We were somewhat smart because we decided to stay in a hotel room along the water front. Meaning we could sleep in a little. Of course my brother forgot his bib! So at 1030 that night he had to wake up my dad and have him “break” his house and get it for him. Then he had to drive over an hour to meet my dad halfway to get it. I think he got home well after midnight and we were up by 500 and walking down towards the starting line half an hour later.
- Dress for the weather. On two occasions I’ve not dressed for the weather. The first time was The Love Run. The forecast had been calling for rain all week and I was nervously checking the weather app every day praying it would change. When Saturday rolled around I decided to give in and buy a raincoat. At the last minute I decided I didn’t need it. It was misting 30 minutes prior to the race starting. Guess what, it started raining shortly after I got to my corral. My boyfriend felt bad and bought me a poncho. I wore it the whole race. In the future I’ll wear the raincoat. The second occasion was this past November. I ran the Run The Bridge race. A 10K over the Ben Franklin Bridge. Super cool experience but it was freaking cold! I’m talking in the 20s and then add winds blowing at around 20 knots and yup it’s cold. I did not wear nearly enough. On top of that we had to get there like 2 hours early and then walk to the starting line. I was so cold. There was no warming up. Not until I got home. I can’t claim this tip as one I created but it is still genius and I will be using it for the next cold weather race. So you have a winter race coming up, you don’t want to layer up with your cute, fancy running gear and then contemplate tossing it when you get it warm. Go to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army and buy a big fluffy bath robe or something equivalent to that. The you can keep warm, help support a good cause and most races collect discarded clothes and donate them. It’s a win win for everyone!
- Eat properly. I’m fortunate that I’ve never had any major food issues. My first half marathon I think I had a granola bar and some water. Not necessarily wise but I didn’t have anything crazy happen. My biggest problem arose after I completed my first ultra run. I assumed I could rely solely on GU and Honey Stinger waffles. Both are awesome but after a certain point a girl needs more. I have a go to breakfast. Steel cut oats with some egg whites, cocoa powder and peanut butter. It’s delicious and gives me enough energy to get me by for awhile. My issue after 12 hours of running was retaining fluids. I used salt capsules but I don’t know if I was using them properly. Plus I thought that running 40 miles over the span of 11 hours meant that I could eat whatever I wanted. Oh and I did….of course going for the salty chips and subs and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I wish I had taken a picture of my legs. They were so swollen I was a little concerned!!! My next ultra in July I’m going to be much more prepared.
- This one is obvious, which is probably why it is overlooked. Make sure you race in the clothes you’ve run in. Oh and make sure they are in good condition. My first half I had pink capris on. Super cute but I had worn them a lot, and the fabric on the inner thighs wore out completely. I had quarter sized raw spots on both inner thighs. It was awful!
- Be prepared for chafing. In a pinch Vaseline will work. I have a tube of Run Goo. This stuff is amazing. I’ve used it on my feet, legs, anywhere I think I might have issues. And the places are endless by the way. I’ve had it on my back, legs, arms and waist. Believe me I have the scars to prove it.
- Music! I know a lot of races say no music but that honestly is just a recommendation. The only races where I would avoid music is mud runs. That’s only because it’s not worth the rise of ruining your iPod.
- Look at the course map and if it’s a local race maybe run it once or twice. My second half marathon was in Wilmington North Carolina and I lived 10 minutes from the starting line and I never even looked at the map. The Battleship Half Marathon straight up kicked my ass. I never even trained on a hill and there were 3 bridges on the course. Never again…..I look at every course even if it’s only a 5K. Of course this doesn’t mean I take the course map or description seriously. The Charlie Horse Half Marathon which I looked at and read about and all that nonsense still kicked my ass. They weren’t hills they were legit mountains!
- The Charlie Horse Half Marathon also taught me to be better prepared. My iPod armband broke on me….at the starting line. I also got eaten alive by black flies. Next time I will bring a camel bak stocked with food and bug spray.
- Thank the volunteers! You think you go up early? They were up earlier. They do the thankless jobs that we just assume are magically done by little elves. On that note, please please PLEASE throw your cups in a trash can. It drives me bonkers to see runners toss their paper cups on the ground when there is a trash can right there.
- My final tip….have fun. Remember why you run. It’s because you love it. It’s not for the PR, the medal or the T-shirt. It’s because you love the feeling. The way the wind blows in your hair, the sound of your feet hitting the pavement. I’ll say hitting, not pounding. Although I’ve run without earbuds and guess what, I sound like a herd of elephants. We run for the love of the movement and for a cause. Whether that is autism, cancer or to support police. We runners meet at a given place and time to unite and celebrate our love of running.