You started running, and you're beginning to feel the benefits. You can run farther. You feel stronger and less winded. You get that famous runner's high, and you feel like you could run for miles. You're ready to test your new abilities and try out a race. With so many races scheduled each year, both locally and throughout your region, it may be hard to choose the one that's right for you. Here are some things to consider to make the best selection so that your first race is a great experience and encourages you to sign up for more:
Of course, one the primary considerations for race selection is the distance. If you are a beginner, signing up for a marathon is not realistic. Since it's your first race, choose a small distance, such as a 1-mile fun run, the classic 5K (about 3 miles), or, if you're up for a challenge, a 10K (about 6 miles). Many marathons and half-marathons include a fun run or a shorter run as well. If you're interested in working up to one of these longer races, you can sign up for a 5K as part of a larger event to get a sense of the course and other race-day conditions. Also, keep in mind the layout of the course. Hilly courses can be much more challenging to complete as a first-timer. A flat course on a paved trail will make your first attempt a bit easier.
Some races have a time limit. This means that you are required to finish the race within a certain time. Otherwise, you will either be disqualified or find yourself running along a road that has been re-opened to traffic. Be sure that you are able to run the distance within the time specified, based on your past training times. Check race rules for any other limitations that may detract from your experience. For example, some races do not allow the use of headphones or portable music devices. Some races do not allow strollers if you wish to run with your child. Others may have limitations on your dress or the support team that you can have with you. Be sure to review these rules in advance to be sure that you can have the experience you would like.
Do you prefer the roar of the crowd to get your adrenaline pumping? Or do you prefer a smaller group so that you can focus more intently when you run? Check out the anticipated attendance or the registration limit of the race to know what kind of crowds you can expect. Larger races can be overwhelming for beginners, who may feel crowded or pushed around on the busy streets. But if you feed on the energy of others, larger crowds can motivate you to your best performance.
There are races for every type of running personality. There are races for the serious runner, which focus on the course and the competition. Then there are races for those looking to have a little fun. Many races allow participants to dress in costume -- particularly holiday-themed runs like a Turkey Trot or a Jingle Bell Run -- and others have a fun course (like the Walt Disney World marathon) or include entertainment (like the Rock n' Roll Marathon). Decide what type of course appeals to you best.
Finally, keep your personal goals in mind when determining your first race. Do you just want to finish the race? Or do you want to try to meet a personal goal, such as finishing within a certain time period or finishing a long distance? If you just want to put yourself out there and finish a race without a lot of pressure, choose a fun run with a lower distance or one of the themed runs with a party atmosphere. If you want to challenge yourself or meet a fitness goal, enter a longer race with official timing.
The experience you have with the first race you enter can influence the way you feel about racing in the future. Make sure you choose a race that complements your personal style and that will allow you to meet your goals.
About the Author:
Bridget Sandorford is a grant researcher and writer for CulinarySchools.org. Along with her passion for whipping up recipes that incorporate “superfoods”, she recently finished research on culinary schools in Missouri and culinary schools in Idaho.