Maybe you’ve signed up for a race you’ve always wanted to do and the stars finally aligned to allow you to do it. Maybe you registered for the local half marathon on a whim.
You’ve registered for the race…now what?
Getting Ready For Your First Race
Especially if you are newer to running, signing up for your first race can be a little overwhelming. At least it can be if you are a planner like me. Heck, even after 20 years of running and racing, I still get a little spooked before I hit register.
So much to do…
Before you even hit ‘register’, make sure you have enough time to (at least somewhat) properly train for the race.
If you are newer to running, signing up for a half marathon or a marathon only a few weeks away isn’t a great idea. You won’t have time to properly train and you could be setting yourself up for burnout or injury.
Assuming you have enough time to train, once you register…
Decide If You Are Going It Alone Or With A Coach
Your first decision is if you are going to train on your own or if you want to hire a coach (either IRL or online) to help you.
Training on your own is simpler (and cheaper), but a coach can help with personalized advice, accountability, and a tailored training plan.
As a running coach myself, I (of course) am totally biased towards using a coach, especially if you are totally new to training or if you are training for your first longer event like a half or full marathon.
Pick A Training Plan
Your training plan is the key to arriving, happy and healthy, to race day. It’s the thing around which everything else hinges.
There are a million off-the-shelf training plans available, you can create one yourself, or your running coach (if you are working with one) can work with you to develop a personalized plan for you.
Successfully picking the right training plan for you starts with understanding your current lifestyle, fitness level, and race goals. You need to be sure your plan is realistic for your life. The most amazing training plan in the world won’t do you any good if it calls for track work and 2-a-day-runs, if those are things you know you aren’t going to do.
When picking a training plan, consider:
- How many days a week do you want to run?
- Do you want to do cross-training?
- Do you want to do regular yoga or strength work?
- Are you interested in (and willing to do) track or speed workouts?
Also, consider your non-running calendar. How much can you (realistically) train, given the other responsibilities in your life?
If you are using an off the shelf training plan, always consider the source. While I adore Pinterest, and it has many great looking plans (from a design perspective), it can be hard to tell who created the plan or if they know anything about running.
Review Your Gear
While you don’t need a ton of gear to train for your race (and beware of the tendency to use the hunt for “the perfect…” as a procrastination technique – as in ‘I’ll start running after I find the perfect GPS watch’), you do need a solid pair of running shoes.
- Do you have a good pair of shoes?
- Are they in good shape?
- Do they need to be replaced?
Running shoes don’t last forever and should be replaced every 400-700 miles (the distance varies by shoe). Shoes should also be replaced when they have a frayed or worn lining, a wear pattern on the sole, or if you are noticing increased blisters or hot spots.
You may also want to consider carrying fuel or hydration on the run. Start to review and test different options during your training runs
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If you will be doing a local race, this is a non-issue.
But if you are doing a racecation, book at least the minimum required travel ASAP, especially if your race is in a smaller destination where hotel options may be tight. Hotels in areas like Big Sur sell out a year in advance for marathon weekend.
Even if you haven’t made the rest of your travel plans yet, reserve at least the night before and maybe the night after your race as soon as you can. Those are usually the nights that will sell-out first. Your stay can usually be extended in either direction as you confirm the rest of your travel, but knowing you won’t have to stay at a hotel hours away from the start line can bring peace of mind as you train.
When the rest of your travel plans need to be made can be based on the destination. If there aren’t many flight or hotel options and they might sell-out with an influx of racers, make all your travel plans ASAP. But if you are traveling to a major destination with tons of flights, this is less urgent.
Along with the travel plans, if you have work, volunteer or other commitments, request the necessary days off for the length of your racecation.
Even if you are doing a local race, consider if you want to have the Monday after race weekend off to celebrate your race day success.
Review Your (non-running) Calendar
As you look at the next few weeks or months of training, do you see anything on your non-running calendar that may keep you from training, or that may make training more challenging? For example, holidays, travel, business meetings or work conferences.
Plan for these challenges in advance.
Rearrange your runs ahead of time to minimize the impact of these events or create plan B (non-running) workouts you can still do even if you are busy or can’t run.
Set Training Goals Or Mantras
Even if you haven’t yet set goals for your race, consider what you want to accomplish during your training. Do you want to focus on getting faster? Running with a more consistent schedule? Doing more mobility or foam rolling work?
Set out your training goals.
Develop a training slogan or mantra that you can call on when things get tough during training.