How to Run Your First Race with Strength and Confidence

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How to Run Your First Race with Strength and Confidence


Written by fitness expert Chris. Last updated:

Are you thinking about running your first race? Good for you! You’ll be successful with the proper preparation, but there are a few major points to keep in mind. The three keys to race day success are to prepare yourself, pick your race, and stick with a plan.

Prepare Yourself Before the Real Training

The biggest mistake you can make is to get too eager about the race before you are ready. Sure, it would be great if you could just go from running nothing to running several miles a day, but that is not physically safe for you. Start by gearing up. Your first test of confidence involves walking into a running store and asking for help picking out shoes. A shop filled with experienced runners may look intimidating, but these people are a huge help.

The next thing you need to do before you get into more serious training is focus on your form. Both your full body physiology and your footstrike and cadence are important. If this is already sounding like Greek, don’t worry, you’ll get used to all the crazy terminology. Now, why does form matter? The bottom line is that bad form directly causes injury. Avoid rotating your pelvis, slouching, overstriding, and smacking your feet to the ground.

Be aware that there is a difference between pain and soreness, and stay attuned to what is normal for you. Shin splints are very common in new and returning runners, so they are not necessarily a huge concern. On the other hand, they can indicate a problem with form. You may want to consider taking video of yourself to see if your form looks off. There is also a significant amount of technology available to analyze your form if you are still uncertain.

Pick Your Race

A group of runner running in a half marathon

The 5K is a great starting point for any beginning runner, so look up local 5K’s using your zip code or ask about nearby races at the running store. Don’t be too focused on your race time because finishing is a huge accomplishment to be proud of. Give yourself at least eight weeks from the start of your training to race day, and make sure to give yourself some extra time to adjust to your shoes and running in general. If you think you will need more time, don’t be afraid to sign up for a race that is 12 to 16 weeks away.

Be wise when you pick your race. Consider things such as the weather at that time of year and what the hills on the course looks like. A 5K is ideal, and it sets you up to prepare for a 10K if you would like. Of course, each distance beyond a 5K requires a longer training plan and more mileage, so be aware of what you are signing up for when you pick your race.

Make a plan

You have your gear, and the date is set, now what? Plan out your runs! Write out what you will do to train each day on a blank calendar. This should include rest days, some cross training, and runs of gradually increasing distances. There are thousands of example schedules online, but it is best to make a plan and tailor your training to your calendar so that it is difficult to make excuses.

Stick to your training schedule as well as you can using various sources of motivation. This could mean treating yourself to a new pair of running shorts or movie tickets as a reward for accomplishing a particular goal. Keep in mind that it won’t be easy, and you may not even fall in love with running until race day. Just make a plan and stick with it.

Remember You Are Strong & Confident

A female runner celebrating as she crosses the finish line of a race

With all this prep work, you will be able to arrive at your first race strong and confident. Gather your things the night before and get some sleep. Wake up, have some breakfast, and do a little mental preparation. Step up to the starting line, and give yourself a pep talk. You are strong, and you have every right to be confident.

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