tips for running your first race

Tips For Running Your First Race: What To Do Before, During And After

Sep 21, 2016 //

Race-day preparation is key to getting you to the start line feeling your best and ready to race. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you cross that finish line feeling like a pro (and have fun while doing it).

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Well In Advance

You’ve made the decision to complete your first race. You’ve got lots of time ahead of you, but don’t delay! Now’s the time to sign up and start logging those kilometres. Running loves company, so find your friends and get this done together.

Read: 10 Exercises That Burn More Calories Than Running

Pick Your Race

Consider what it is that you’re looking for in a race. Do you want something more competitive, or are you looking for something more light-hearted and fun? Or are you trying to race for a cause? If dressing up in costume with your besties sounds up your alley, or maybe running for beer-themed races are dominating the circuit and are a great place for a new runner to start.

paint race

Sign Up Early

Most races offer a discount for early sign-ups and many races will even sell out. Be sure to know your dates and sign-up as soon as possible.

Get Training

If you like running with others, investigate clubs and crews in your neighbourhood. If you’d rather run solo, finding a local coach, or a quick search online with have a schedule in your hand in no time. Keep in mind your past experience, and how much time you can commit to this new venture.

training for your first race

One Week Before Race Day

Let the planning begin. Trust your training and put your energy into getting to the start line as mentally focused as you are physically focused.

Make Plans To Pick Up Your Kit

There is no standard when it comes to rules around picking up your race kit. Some races allow for day of pick up, others are completely against it. Be sure to find out what the options are for your race as well as all the items you’ll be picking and up.

marathon kit

Review Race Day Logistics

Road closers, bus shuttles, bag check lines, and parking are only a few of the things to consider before getting to the start of the race. Without a plan, you could get held up and miss your big moment. Check the races website and information at kit pick up to make sure you are prepared race day.

Day Before The Race

Pre-race nerves are a normal part of the process no matter your level of experience. Spend today with your feet up, reflecting on the work and preparing yourself mentally for your game day.

Eat Well

Continue to keep your eating healthy, and clean. Don’t mix up your diet or try anything new. Consider some moderate carb-loading at each meal (if you haven’t already started) in the form of vegetables, fruits, rice, pasta, breads, or legumes. Avoid processed, fried, or sugary foods. Keep your meals healthy and fresh.

pre race food

Drink Up

Keeping hydrated is important leading up to race day. Being even a little dehydrated can leave you feeling uncomfortable and sluggish. Keep water on hand today and drink as often as your body needs it.

Get Some Sleep

This one might be tough, but keep in mind that one restless night won’t hurt your running. Plan on being home early, unplug, take a bath, and relax before hitting the hay – and don’t forget to set that alarm!

sleep well to run race

Race Day

You’ve done all the work, so look at this race as a celebration of your effort. Try your best to enjoy every moment, but most importantly finish upright and smiling.

Set A Few Goals

Racing and goal setting go hand in hand. Personally, I like to create three goals on race day. The first is my “epic time goal,” which means that if everything goes well, this is what an awesome time would be. The second is my “okay” time goal, which is one that I would be happy with, but isn’t as challenging as the first. My third goal has nothing to with my performance at all. These non-performance goals might include smiling at the finish line, high-fiving six kids on the way there, or saying thank you to at least 10 volunteers.


Get moving about half an hour before your race start. Keep it easy with a short run near the start area, then do some dynamic stretches including walking lunges and leg swings, and finish with a couple 30-second bursts at your race pace.

warm up for first race

Go By Feel

If this is your first race you might consider basing your speed on how your body feels. Leave the watch at home. Tune in to your effort and exertion and let it happen.

Stay And Cheer On Others

I always recommend you stick around after you cross the finish line and cheer on others who are crushing their goals. Everyone could use some extra motivation at the end of the race, so share your voice and energy to those in need. I promise, you’ll feel inspired.

Post-Race Eats

You’ve just finished you race, so need something to eat and fast. Consider immediately grabbing an energy bars or sports drinks because they’re quickly absorbed into the body, get some protein in their too as it will kick-start muscle repair. Within an hour of that snack, you’ll need to eat a full meal, think about a fusion of carbs and protein, typically at a 4:1 ratio. And let’s keep it real, you just ran your but off, why not treat yourself with something special, too? Now’s the time to dig in to a big, delicious meal. You’ve earned it.

post race food

The Day After

What an experience! Congratulations on setting a goal and challenging yourself to make it happen. Take some time to rest, and stretch, and plan what’s next.


Whether you are taking a yoga class in studio, or finding time to stretch at home, giving those tight or sore muscles some movement will help their heal and help you to feel better. A quick Google search will provide you with some gentle stretches and help get you moving.

Schedule Your Next Race

So what’s next? Are you ready to increase your distance? Maybe take your run to a faraway place? Either way, let the searching begin and find yourself your next goal to crush.