5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before My First Race

© Jeff Ferguson | Dreamstime.com

© Jeff Ferguson | Dreamstime.com

1) How to drink water

Some runners can drink while running. I cannot. It was especially deceptive because I’d been training with squirt top bottles that funneled liquid directly into my mouth. Or I’d stop and give myself a break on my training runs.

Suddenly, every second counted on race day and I ended up choking trying to run and drink from a wide mouth cup. Had I had known to pinch the sides of the cup or gasp, walk a few steps, I might have ended up with more water actually in my mouth.

2) How to have fun

I was so serious when I lined up to race the first time. I could hear other runners chattering about and expected it to quiet down once we started racing. But they kept talking? And laughing? I was so confused that not everyone was taking this so seriously!

Then it dawned on me how I was supposed to be doing this for fun. It may be uncomfortable and hard to race at times, but it’s also really incredible to share the joy of competition with a fellow runner.

3) How to pace

I ran my first race without not only a GPS watch, but without a watch at all. I’d trained with a watch/timer so I had a good inclination as to what my goal time should be. However, I was so caught up in the excitement that I took off way too fast and paid the price with a major bonk.

4) How to dress

Race day was on one of the coolest days of the year after a warm fall of training. I wore what felt comfortable to stand outside in the dark and discovered later that I severely overdressed. I knew nothing about throwaway clothes or proper layering. Later, I’d discover the reason people were wearing garbage bags and really ugly sweats at the starting line.

5) How “never again” is a big fat lie

I’m sure there are plenty of people who race once and never feel the need to race again. But just as soon as I found myself uttering the words “never again” in the middle of my big bonk, I found myself registering for another race a few days later.

Because the joy of the finish always seems to hold more weight than the struggle it takes to get there. The blood, sweat, and tears are all worth it again and again when you can push yourself to accomplish your goals — whatever they may be.

9 comments… add one
  • Jason April 21, 2016, 10:54 am

    I really stress to others that I have two goals when it comes to any race: 1- finish, don’t worry about pace and placing, it doesn’t matter if you’re the winner, it’s the journey. 2- have fun! Remember, you paid for this. Relax, enjoy all of what’s around you, talk to others if you get the chance, always smile and laugh often. I started running in 2014 at the young age of 45, at 47 I just completed the Blue Ridge Half Marathon. In between I’ve done everything from 5k’s to a full marathon and a couple Spartans thrown in the soup, half of life is just showing up. As far as ” I’ll never do that again!” I have a 50k slotted for September with my wife, I told her my goal is to finish, nothing more, nothing less. I look at the rack of medals, the stack of race shirts, every bib from every race I’ve ever done and laugh. I get asked “why do you do it? That’s crazy!” One reason: I have made a commitment by registering, I am now bound to put my toes on the starting line and my heels on the finish and keep going regardless of pain, discomfort, boredom, and the list goes on BECAUSE I am teaching my children when you start something, even though it’s difficult and you feel like you can’t go further, just keep looking ahead and move in that direction, don’t look behind you, you’ve already been there, and finish with humility and grace regardless if you are dead last, the goal was to finish what you started no more, no less.

  • Jojo Gosse April 15, 2015, 5:11 pm

    This will be my first half marathon. I NEVER thought at the age of 55 I would be running but here I am training for over a month and right now I am running 3 miles in 35 minutes. Not bad… I am so excited in running the Diva race in May and I am sure this is not my last race. It’s never to late to challenge your self. you may be surprised in what you can do.

    • Freda January 3, 2016, 10:31 pm

      Good for you!!!! I started running at 61 and never thought I would run a 5K. I have ran 6 half marathons and will be 70 when I run the Cleveland in May. You are never too old. I try not to think about it.

    • Holly January 14, 2016, 9:00 pm

      Good for you Jojo! I ran my first half marathon last year too. I’m slow, but I keep in mind that I’m having a blast. I did better than I expected and now I can’t wait for the next one. I know that each race is unique, so I’m trying to keep my head in a good place.

    • Holly June 12, 2016, 7:23 pm

      Good for you! I ran my first half marathon in December at the age of 55. Now I’ve run three more and have put training for a full marathon on my schedule. I just want to see how far I can go and still have fun. You meet the greatest people and always learn new things. Keep running…and smiling!

  • Andrea Dietze January 12, 2015, 3:21 pm

    This will be my first half and I have type one diabetes. Anyone’s help would be greatly appreciated. I’m just throwing myself in

    • Caitlin February 10, 2015, 12:46 pm

      If you are worried about your blood sugar, bring a mid run snack. Many marathoners do this to keep their blood sugar from dropping but also giving a boost of energy. Some examples: Sports gels, raisins, gummie bears etc. Something that doesn’t have a lot of fiber and breaks down quickly.

      Also, see how you feel on your long runs during training. If you start feeling weak, add these to see if you start feeling better. I’d also consult a doctor 🙂 Good Luck! and Enjoy!

    • Al C February 18, 2015, 8:49 am

      Keep running, I was type II diabetic for several years but in an effort to get off meds I began to exercise again and to control my food intake. that was four years ago and I’ve run numerous 5/10ks, one Half and one full Marathon.
      Take care of you

  • HipHopSays December 9, 2014, 11:09 pm

    Just did my first race (NYC marathon) and much of this rings true for the most part….especially the drinking and running thing.

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