Since August I’ve had the privilege of coaching a group of new runners once a week. We’re all 40-50ish. Not that this matters but I think it is important. It’s important because I firmly believe that it’s never too late to start something new, especially if it brings you joy, friendship, and better physical and mental health.
While there are days when I can’t remember what I had for dinner the previous evening, I never have trouble remembering my first race. It also helps to have a timeline post on Facebook to jog the memory.
The point is, that one’s first race, no matter how long, or where, is special. And for two members of my Monday morning running group, this Sunday shall be seared on their brains, and shared to friends worldwide on Facebook, as they are heading to a start line for the first time to run an 8km race. So ladies, here are a few words of wisdom, which I will try to heed myself, as they are probably valid for every race whether it’s your first or your 110th:
- decide on your racing outfit the night before and lay it out ready for your early start. Do not decide to debut your new shiny runners or pushup sports bra. Only wear gear that has been tried and tested several times.
- don’t worry if you’ve had a bad night’s sleep before the race – adrenaline will more than make up for it.
- get to the race location with plenty of time to spare especially as you may have to wait in line to collect your bib.
- also allow time for a loo visit. Some of the nicest chats with strangers I’ve ever had sober have been at race start lines and in queues for portaloos.
- listen to the race director’s instructions before the race.
- it’s a small race, but since it’s your first, keep to the back at the start line so you don’t get trampled over by the herd of PB-chasers.
- no matter what pace you do, it will be a PB, so don’t worry about your speed.
- don’t go out too fast as you will certainly regret it. If anything err on the side of caution and take it easy for the first couple of kilometers, letting your nerves settle down, finding your rhythm. You’ll enjoy sailing past the runners who ran out too fast.
- don’t worry about people running past you. Run your own race and enjoy it. A race doesn’t have to be serious business. Smile, even if inside you’re crying. It will look better on the photographs. If you don’t take off too fast, you’ll most likely feel and look great!
- chin up, eyes forward, take it all in – the other runners, the scenery, the sound of your breath – you are racing and you are amazing.
- if you do start to struggle with the little demon voice that says you can’t do it, banish it by counting 1-2-3-4 with the beat of your cadence, or use a mantra such as I-love-to-run. This may feel strictly true at kilometre 7 but the little demon voice in your head doesn’t need to know that.
- use the water stations even if it’s only to swish some fluid around your dry mouth.
- try to finish strong, sprinting across the finish line but if you feel like wretching, that’s ok too. Be sure to smile, even while wretching (!), in case your coach has recovered from her own race in time to grab an iPhone and aim it at you.
- enjoy the euphoria of finishing while walking and stretching for a few minutes after you finish.
- did I mention that you are to enjoy yourself? Joy is the true essence of nailing it.
And I dear runners, will do my best to practice what I preach!
Irish expat writer and mother-of three who discovered a passion for running at 40. Since 1993, has lived in the Aberdeen, Houston, Singapore, Manila, Oslo, Kuala Lumpur & Perth, Australia. Athletics Australia Certified Level 2 Advanced Recreational Running Coach. 16 Half Marathons and 2 Marathons...so far.