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10 Must-Know Tips for Running a Race

Running a race is incredibly exciting – regardless of whether it’s your first or fiftieth. Preparing for your very first race, or the first time running a certain distance, can bring a bit of anxiety, but having an idea of what to expect will help you feel confident and prepared.

6 Popular Running Race Distances

Most runners find themselves running either a 5k, 10k, half or full marathon – however, there are a few distances in between as well. Here are some of the most popular racing options and a breakdown of how many miles they are.

  • 5k: 3.1 miles
  • 10k: 6.2 miles
  • 15k: 9.3 miles
  • 25k: 15.5 miles
  • Half Marathon: 13.1 miles
  • Marathon: 26.2 miles

Most beginner runners start out with the 5k; however, some runners set their sights on a distance race after running solo for a while. Whether you’re brand-new or ready to accomplish some long distances, race day likely come with a few surprises.

Running a race is a great way to challenge yourself and improve fitness. Here are some tips to make it the best possible experience!

10 Must-Know Tips for Running a Race

While training and physical preparation are certainly key aspects of getting ready to run a race, mental prep work and logistics both are important when it comes to race day. Here are a few tips to help navigate uncertainties, plan for the unexpected and head to the start line feeling confident.

Enjoy the expo

One of the best parts about running a race is the expo! Many new runners mistakenly assume that the race is simply a one day event. However, most race expos take place over the course of at least one or two days.

If possible, plan to head to the race at least one day early so you have time to really embrace the expo. Most decent size races have a variety of vendors and gear at the expo that can be really fun to browse, explore and shop.

Plan out the logistics

A successful race involves so much more than just training. Race day usually involves quite a bit of traveling – from the hotel, to finding parking, riding race buses, fetting transportation at the end, and even more.

Take the time to plan your lodging, transportation, nutrition, hydration, spectators, race course and anything else that race weekend might involve. Having all of the nitty gritty details planned ahead of time will help ease your anxiety and boost your confidence by the time race weekend arrives.

Bring fuel

It’s easy to get swept up in everything new and exciting when it comes to race weekend. And while part of the fun is trying new things and testing out local places, bringing some of your usual fuel can really help you perform your best.

Planning your breakfast and even evening snacks the night before the race will help your body stay regulated. You’ll be able to practice with your fuel during training and know exactly how your body is going to respond on race morning.

Take advantage of aid stations

Some runners are tempted to skip the aid stations out of the fear that stopping will slow them down and derail their pace. However, most runners are surprised to find that they can breeze through aid stations fairly quickly.

Having an idea of how frequently they occur and where they will be along the course can help plan your hydration and minimize the amount of liquids you’ll need to carry.

Have a backup goal

Races, especially the first few, often come with a few surprises. Big races can be quite congested at the start and sometimes make it impossible to settle into a goal pace for the first few miles. Bathroom emergencies arise, the weather takes an unpredictable turn, or runners simply have a bad run.

It’s important to plan and prepare as much as possible, but understanding that you can’t control everything is key. Setting an A goal, B goal and C goal can be very helpful with big races.

Check the weather

Two of the most important things to prepare before race day are your clothes and gear. Regardless of how excited you might be to wear a certain outfit, if the weather forecast calls for something other than expected, you’ll want to adjust accordingly.

Check ahead of time for a chance of rain, snow, wind, humidity or unexpected heat/cold. Preparing with layers as well as gear that will help minimize discomfort (hats, body glide, ponchos, etc.), will set you up to perform your best.

Start out slow

Perhaps the most common mistake new runners make at their first race is starting out considerably faster than they had planned. It is so easy to let the excitement get the best of you – even if you’ve run many races before.

Try to avoid letting the crowds, cheering, and adrenaline get the best of you in those first few miles. Don’t stress about people passing you or flying by on all sides because it is likely that they will crash and burn by the end.

Don’t be afraid to walk

If your training involved run/walk intervals or walk breaks throughout the run, don’t be afraid to follow suit on race morning. Try your best to ignore what others are doing around you and stick to your own plan. Runners walk at all races and in all distances – even if you feel like no one else is doing it, they are likely plenty of others taking sporadic breaks along the course.

Check your surrounds

When you plan to walk, slow down significantly, chat with a spectator or stop, be sure to check your surroundings before doing so. Most runners appreciate those who make their way over to the sides to walk or take a quick break.

Similarly, before stopping or slowing, be sure to check behind you and make sure that you won’t be stopping suddenly directly in front of anyone.

Don’t try anything new on race day

Perhaps the most important piece of advice to remember when running a race is to not try anything new on race day. Regardless of how confident you might feel about the new strategy, food or piece of gear, make sure you test it out during training if you think you might be tempted to use it on race morning.

New clothing, even brands or styles that you have worn before, have a tendency to rub before they’re worn in. Changes in fueling or nutrition are even more likely to throw off your digestion when combined with nerves. Sticking to what’s tried and true is always the way to go.

Running a race comes with so many emotions – anticipation, nervousness, excitement, exhaustion, and most importantly: joy. The endorphins of race day are amplified by the entire experience and each race brings a sense of satisfaction that is unlike anything you’ll experience during training.

Setting the goal of running a race is something that you’ll never regret. Whether it be a 5k, marathon, or anything in between, the process of training is well worth the effort to experience the reward.

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