The Road Race

Maybe you began jogging as a form of exercise to drop some weight and get into shape some time ago.  Or perhaps you're just curious about road racing.  Are you a competitive person interested in improving your conditioning?  Would you like to socialize with people who get a similar joy from running?  If your answer to any of these questions is 'yes', then road racing is right up your alley.

Road races are great community events, usually devoted to fund raising for a worthy cause.  It's the kind of win-win, feel good event that will leave you feeling great in mind, body and spirit.

Assuming you have been running on a regular basis, jumping into the road racing scene for the first time will truly be a blast for you as long as you adhere to a few simple, common sense rules of the road.

First, don't worry too much about being fast enough to run in a road race.  This is a common fear for a newbie to road racing, but it's entirely unfounded.  It's an iron clad guarantee that any local road race you enter welcomes people of any and all ability levels.  Some people enter and just do a mix of jogging and walking.  So, there is no need to be bashful about your abilities.  Everyone will be cheering for you!

Before and During the Race

5 Tips Before the Start

  1. Do not eat a heavy breakfast.  Something light and easily digestible is better than fried eggs, bacon and hash browns.
  2. Stick to your routine.  Don't do anything that's a departure from your normal morning routine (except the heavy breakfast).
  3. Arrive early.  Get to the start area at least an hour prior to the race.  This will allow you ample time to register, hydrate yourself, use the rest room and warm up.
  4. Drink plain water.  Save the Gatorade, energy drinks, coffee or other concoctions for later.  Water is best because it is absorbed more readily into the body.  Coffee and caffeinated drinks are diuretics, meaning, they force your body to shed water, which is precisely opposite of what you are attempting to do by hydrating.
  5. Set a warm up routine.  Do a very light stretch and jog as start time nears.  Start visualizing your race.
Runners line up at the Starting line for a 5K road race


5 Tips for Visualizing the race:

  1. Break the race distance down into a beginning, middle and end.  Go through each phase in your mind and how you plan to run it.
  2. Visualize the start:  Begin running slowly.  Build into your pace for the first mile.
  3. Always relax:  Continuously repeat to yourself, "stay loose and relaxed".
  4. Always run within yourself:  You may focus on the runner just ahead of you as a way to push you along, but don't outrun your own abilities.  Imagine how you will feel as you run over each mile.
  5. Concentrate on your form throughout.  Imagine yourself as a machine.
Running the race

5 Tips for the Race

  1. Line up away from the elite runners at the starting line.  Somewhere in the middle of the crowd is best.  It will help you avoid starting too quickly and ruining your race experience.
  2. Start slowly to avoid oxygen debt!  Oxygen debt is a very uncomfortable condition caused when you run faster than your body's ability to absorb oxygen and feed your muscles.  Jackrabbit starts are no good for car engines and no good for your engine either.  When the starter's signal goes off, many of the folks around you will dart out like they are in a sprint.  Do not follow them!  The race will go on for miles.  Remember point #2 in the Visualization tips:  Start out slowly.  Build into your pace.  Run YOUR race, not theirs.  Just ignore those folks who sprint out at the start.  Nobody is immune from oxygen debt.  If they are going out too fast, chances are you will be passing them by later in the race.
  3. Focus on yourself.  Don't be distracted by the other runners.  Focus as much as possible on how you feel, how fast your are going, how efficient your form is, etc.
  4. Listen to your body.  As you pass the 1 mile mark, you will either hear or see your time for the first mile.  Ignore this!  You should be paying attention to how you feel:  your breathing, your form, staying relaxed at the maximal effort.  You are an athlete competing in an athletic event.  Athletes listen to their bodies and let their bodies give them what it's got to give.  
  5. Don't be a slave to the clock.  This is your first race.  Your goal is to finish.  As you get into the later stages of the race, your concentration will be challenged until you see the finish line.  I promise you, when it comes into view, you will feel a surge of energy.  Use it and finish strong.

After you cross the finish line, race officials will direct you into the chute where they will take down your number and score your official time and place.  YOU DID IT!

Finish Line

5 Tips for After the Race

  1. Immediately begin re-hydrating.  But now, you can drink that Gatorade or some other kind of athletic drink.  Fruit is also good.  Do it for the remainder of the day.
  2. do a cool down walk or very light jog for a few minutes.  Do not lie down immediately after the race.  This can be dangerous.
  3. find a place to stretch out.  It's important to stretch after a race.  You just stressed your body and a nice stretching session after the race will go a long way toward reducing any soreness or tightness that will come on later.
  4. Socialize and share your race story with the other runners.  You'll want to and so will they.
  5. Stick around for the awards and the published results.  When you see where you placed and your time, you now have something to shoot for in your next race.

Never forget:  No matter where you finished or what time you ran, running for distance is a tremendous athletic achievement.  If everyone could do it, everyone would do it.  Be proud of yourself.  You are no longer a casual jogger.  Today, you are a runner.

Can you feel the anticipation of the starting gun?  Go for it!