You've done the training, got the blisters and now you're ready to race. But what will it be like and how can you make sure your first race won't be your last? We find out what to expect in your first running race so you can approach the start line with confidence.
1. What if I come last? I’m definitely going to come last
You probably won’t. But why not look at the results list from last year’s race and see how your training times compare? And hey – if you are last over the line you can expect a lot of love from the race marshals.
2. Oh god. It’s so early. I’m not sure I can stomach breakfast
You’ll have been up for hours by the time you cross the start line, so it’s crucial to fuel up. Go for easy to digest carbs like porridge or nut butter on toast, or pop a banana in your bag.
3. I don’t have a ticket. Do I need a ticket? Or my confirmation email?
All you need is your race number and timing chip. This might be stuck to the number or a separate plastic chip you tie to your shoelaces. And that’s it! You’re good to run.
4. Why do I need so many safety pins?
You can’t fix your number to your top without them. No number, no race. Some races will send you safety pins with your number, some won't, so buy a bunch and always have a couple spare in your race bag. And by ‘a couple’, we mean ten.
5. What if I get blisters? What if my nipples bleed?
Yeah, chafing’s a bitch. Cover your feet in Vaseline (even in between the toes), wear kit and shoes you trust, and chaps – Bodyglide those nips liberally.
6. Those portaloo queues are insane. Maybe I can just hold it in
The first rule of running: Go to the loo at the start. Then join the back of the queue and go again. Repeat until the race is about to start. No-one wants to do a Paula.
7. OMG we’ve been waiting at the start for ages. I’m freezing
Big races mean big crowds, and big crowds take a while to squeeze over that start line. Take an old jumper or bin bag to keep you warm enough to avoid taking part in the race’s cheesy pop-soundtracked official warm-up.
8. Okay. We’re off. Wow, this feels easy, I’m flying
You finally get started, and the adrenaline kicks in. Cool your boots, slow down to your planned pace and save your energy. That way, you get to spend the race overtaking people. Win.
9. Wait. How fast should I be running?
Whether you’re aiming for a fast time or just to finish, take a watch on your last few training runs and see what your mile time is. Try to stick to this on race day. Big races like the London Marathon even have official pacers – stick with them, and you’re sorted.
10. What’s with all the drummers? Japanese drummers. Sikh drummers. So many drummers
Loads of big races pay for drumming groups to play by the course. To quote Blades of Glory: No-one knows what it means, but it gets the people going. We bet you a tenner it’ll help you push the pace.
11. Okay, water station. Should I drink the whole bottle? Do I have to run and drink at the same time?
They may be little bottles, but you don’t need the whole thing. Take a few sips and swill it round your mouth. Slow to a walk if it makes you queasy. Squirt it on your head too, if it’s a hot day. Then chuck it to the side to avoid other runners tripping (and watch out for discarded bottles yourself).
12. Headphones on? I do give good running playlist...
If it’s a long race and you’re alone, then music can be the difference between a PB and misery. In fact, it can add a 10% bump to your performance. But at shorter or busy races, you’ll miss out on the atmosphere by plugging in and tuning out.
13. I'm nearly there. One more km!
Get ready to sprint and smile. This is your moment, your perfect moment. Pick up those tired feet, pump those arms and get ready to overtake as many people as possible. It’s cheesy, but there is no feeling like charging towards the finish line, knowing you’ve given it everything.
14. Wow. That’s the fastest I’ve ever run!
Yup. And that’s why racing rocks. The sense of occasion, the cheering crowds and all the other runners mean that – given the right training – you’ll be amazed what you can pull out of the bag.
15. And now I’m in pain. Oh god, so much pain. Please can someone stretcher me home?
You pushed to your limit and, whatever the distance you ran, you’re going to hurt. If you can’t face an ice bath, schedule in a gentle yoga class for the next day to avoid the Tin Man vibe.