If you're looking to run your first ever 5k, 10k, or half marathon, follow our top tips to beat the nerves and make the most of your day. You never know, it could be the start of something big!
1. Make sure you know all the race information in advance
Usually, race organisers will email you important race information before the big day. Make sure you check your emails regularly and keep an eye on your spam and junk folders.
If you don't receive any emails, keep an eye on the official race website so that you're sure you know all of the important race information before you arrive at the race.
2. Check the race route and elevation profile
There will be many different reasons why you might have chosen this particular race. Maybe it's close to home or you have friends taking part. It's important to bear in mind, however, that it's the route that could make or break your day, especially if you haven't trained for it.
If the course description says it is 'undulating', you should be prepared for a few hills! If you can, check the elevation profile of the course beforehand and make sure you know whether it is all on tarmac and roads or whether it goes off-road and onto trails. Is there a large downhill section that could help you get a PB if you push hard enough? You'll be gutted if you realise afterwards that you were seconds off! So long as you're prepared, you'll have a great time.
3. Arrive in plenty of time
There's nothing worse than arriving late and having to rush to the race start. If the race is done on closed roads, there is a chance the car parking may become compromised and you won't be able to park close to the start of the race. Check the race information beforehand and make sure you know where you can park, if you are travelling by car.
Give yourself plenty of time to use the toilet, warm up, and make your way to the race start. If you need to pick up your race number on the day, allow yourself even more time to do this. Starting the race without stress will make a huge difference to your performance and enjoyment of the experience.
4. Give yourself time to have a comfort break before the race starts
One thing that is for sure at a lot of races, the queues for the portable toilets are epic! It's understandable that you'll want one last comfort break before the race starts, but make sure you join the queue in plenty of time as the race organisers won't wait for you to start the race.
5. Take your own hydration and nutrition
Especially if you've been training with a specific sports drink brand or with particular gels, you should take them with you so that you know you'll have them. While some races do offer aid stations, it's not guaranteed that they'll have what you're used to and it's not guaranteed they'll have enough for everyone.
Avoid disappointment by taking your own water so that you know you'll be well hydrated throughout the race and won't go without if there isn't enough. It will also mean you aren't gasping for water between water stations and you won't be preoccupied the whole time wondering when the next station will be.
6. Don't forget to warm up
Nerves can get the better of you on race day and this can cause you to forget your usual pre-run ritual. Especially if you're in a rush or things aren't going as expected, you could easily forget to warm up, but this could mean disaster and you could get injured.
Take some time to relax and do what you usually do pre-race so that you're in the best condition to run well and finish with a smile on your face.
7. Listen carefully to the race brief
At all good races, there will be a race brief conducted by the Race Director before you set off. There will be important safety information as well as information about the course and aid stations so make sure you listen carefully to anything you need to know.
Being well prepared will hugely affect your enjoyment of the race, so listen carefully to the race brief and don't be afraid to ask any questions if you have them.
8. Stick to your pace
You'll inevitably end up running faster on race day due to adrenaline and chasing other runners, but make sure you don't burn yourself out. Your first ever race will be a crazy experience and you won't know what to expect.
It's natural that you'll end up running much faster than usual, and this will happen at most races, but so long as you don't over-exert yourself, you can use this to your advantage. Try to stick to your planned pace as much as possible, but don't be afraid to push a little harder and maybe even get a PB.
9. Take a change of clothes
Most people plan well for the race but then forget about what will happen afterwards. Even in winter, you will be sweaty and uncomfortable after the race and if you have a long way to drive to get home, you'll want a change of clothes.
It's also a good idea to take a friend or family member with you, not only for support during the race, but so they can help you afterwards. If you pushed hard, you'll be exhausted as well as hungry and thirsty, so your support crew can help you get food and water and can drive you home while you relax in the passenger seat and enjoy a job well done.
10. Enjoy yourself!
This is certainly the most important point. If you adhere to all of the points above, there is no reason why you can't have a very enjoyable race. Being part of an organised race is a fantastic experience and you could well become hooked after your first one. Make sure you remember to enjoy yourself as that is the whole point! If you have prepared well, there is no reason not to.