Conquer Your Fears of Running Your First Race

One of the best ways to boost your fitness is to sign up for a running race. Whether you’re already running or aspiring to start, having a firm date on the calendar will get you out the door much more consistently.  And, if your goal is to lose weight, research has proven that having an external goal, like finishing a race, is a much better motivator than a weight loss goal alone.

Still, pinning on a race number and signing up for an event can be a scary proposition, especially for first time racers.  Here are 3 strategies for overcoming your race fears and getting to the start line of your first endurance race:

1. Realize That EVERYONE Thinks They are an Imposter

As an endurance coach, I’ve helped hundreds of new runners across their very first finish lines, and here’s what I’ve realized:

When it comes to running, everyone thinks they are an imposter. “I can’t run,” “I’m not fast enough,” “I don’t do races,” ”I’m not a runner” [often stated while running], “Oh, I could never do that,” etc.

Here’s the deal. If you run—no matter how slow or with how many walk breaks--you are a runner.  Period. Many beginner runners assume that because there is a start line, it’s a very competitive atmosphere, but that’s simply not true. A very small minority of the runners in your typical 5k or 10k field is concerned with time or placing. Most are just there to have fun, socialize, and—oh yeah, earn those post-race pancakes.  And, if you are worried about placing, I can promise you that by showing up, you are, without a doubt, lapping everyone sitting at home on their couch.

If you’re new to running, the 5k or 10k distance is a great place to start, and, don’t worry, there are resources available with detailed training plans for all fitness levels.  First timers should allow at least 6 weeks for a 5k, 9-12 weeks to prepare for a first 10k.

 2. Establish a Routine & Make Race Day a Catered Training Celebration

Use the weeks leading up to the race to dial in things like pace, shoe selection, pre-race meal, and what kind of warm up best suits you.  That way, the race itself feels like a regular training run but with fans, food and drink stations, and a few hundred (or more) of your new friends. Not so scary when you think of it that way, is it?!

➔ Need advice on what that training should look like? Download a free 5k or 10k training plan. There are options for first time to advanced runners, and everyone in between.

  • Not sure what to eat pre-race? Experiment with different breakfasts in the weeks leading up to your race. Low fiber, carbohydrate rich foods tend to be the best options—toast with jam and a little nut butter, oatmeal with banana, or a whole grain waffle are a few popular choices.
  • Be sure to try out all your gear—particularly shoes—in runs beforehand. No one wants to deal with chafing during a race!
  • Develop a short warm-up routine. For example, 5-10 minutes of fast-paced walking or easy running, followed by  four or five 30 second pick ups to race pace can help get your legs and heart ready to perform optimally.

3. Sign Up Together

If you’re a first time racer, find someone who has done a running event before or a fellow first timer who is eager to pin on their first race bib.  Even if you don’t stay together during the race itself, having someone with you in case pre-race nerves strike can be very comforting.

Need a race to enter? A quick Google search for 5k or 10k races in your city will likely turn up several events.  Your gym, local running shop, fellow runners, and the local newspaper are great resources as well. Chances are, you won’t have to look very hard!

Then, sign up right away and encourage your running mates to do the same.  This one simple, but actionable step is important because it will help mentally shift the race from something you “might do” to something you WILL do. Enjoy the benefits that come with training for your first race, from start to finish!

4/13/2017 9:00:00 PM
Katya Meyers
Written by Katya Meyers
Katya Meyers is a pro triathlete turned ultra runner, new mom, and health coach living in sunny San Diego. With a Human Biology degree from Stanford University, Masters in Public Health, and ACSM Health & Fitness Specialist certifications, she loves geeking out on the science and psychology that help her clients achieve ...
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