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How to Make Your First Race the Best Experience EVER

Your first race is a lot like your first day of school, your first day at a new job, or your first date with someone new: super-exciting—and super-nerve-wracking. While we can’t guarantee that first date will go well, we can help guarantee that your first race day is incredible.

How? We talked to real women (from casual fun runners to marathoners) for their best tried-and-true tips on how you can make your first race experience as fun and memorable as possible.  

Run With Someone Who'll Keep You Motivated

“My first 10-K was a bridge run between Camden, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. I did it with friends, including one who was a much better runner than me. She really helped get me through it.” —Jill W. 

“My first race was the Oakley New York Mini 10-K. It was a women's-only race, which made me feel less intimidated going into it. There was a lot of camaraderie instead of straight-up competitiveness.” —Marissa G.

“I don’t really run much, but I ran the Run 10 Feed 10 with my sister, and she really kept me going. She does a ton of races. She just did a half-marathon, and I’m getting ready for my wedding, so I thought this would be a great way to get in shape.” —Jordan F. 

Find An Event That Emphasizes Fun

“I did a cupcake run last fall with a friend. She hurt her ankle before the race and we ended up walking, but it was super-fun anyway. They gave you a cupcake after every mile, which was definitely something to look forward to!” —Christina H. 

Related: 3 Secrets to Preventing Running Pains: Watch the Video

“I’m not much of a runner, but one of my friends suggested doing a color run together. The idea of having rainbow powder thrown at me seemed like it might distract me enough that I’d forget how exhausted I was. As a first-time runner, I recommend doing a fun even that will take your mind off the daunting task ahead.” —Kelly S. 

Read Up On the Course

“Definitely look up the race course early in your training plan so that you don’t find out you have a few hills the day before—or even worse, during the race—and freak out. When you go in feeling prepared, you’ll be able to enjoy it so much more.” —Robin H. 

Stock Up on Z's

“I went to bed super-early the night before my race and, of course, couldn’t fall asleep until my usual bedtime. Even then, I kept waking up—damn pre-race jitters! I definitely recommend making sure you get some solid shuteye the week leading up to your race because you likely won’t get much sleep the night before." —Marissa G.

Recruit Someone to Cheer You On

“I was a two-season athlete in high school, but I’d never run more than three miles in my life. For some crazy reason, I decided my first race would be a half-marathon. Every time I reached a mile-marker, I FaceTimed my mom to let her know—she was my biggest cheerleader. Though I probably shouldn’t recommend doing this for safety reasons…” —Tori B.

Related: 10 Moves That Will Make You a Stronger, Faster Runner

“The morning of my first race, I was so nervous I could have puked. As I got ready for the start, I saw my dad walking toward the course—he’d driven almost two hours at 5 o’clock in the morning on a Sunday to come cheer me on. And suddenly I was ready. Having a support system there made me feel so much more confident and motivated me to do my best.” —Lauren D. 

Plan Your Post-Race Feast Ahead of Time

“Have a great brunch after your race! Pick a place or a meal and say, ‘When I finish this race, I’m going to that place and eat my heart out.'” —Christina H. 

Have a Distraction Ready for When You Get Tired

"Music really helps me. I put together a playlist especially for the race that’s really upbeat. It gets you excited and can push you through those tough moments." —Stephanie L. 

Related: What Happened When I Stopped Telling Myself I 'Couldn't' Run

"My mom ran the New York City Run 10 Feed 10 last year, and this year I did it with her. When we hit those last two miles and needed a little boost, we started playing brain games with each other. We'd go through the alphabet and name a TV show that started with each letter. Then we went through it again with boys' names, then girls' names, then suddenly we were at the finish line. It really helped us take our minds off being a little tired, and we had so much fun with each other." —Gabrielle P.

Race for a Cause

“My first race was a 5-K for The Valerie Fund, an organization dedicated to supporting children with cancer and blood disorders. My close family friend was a Valerie Fund patient, and it was an incredible experience to run and walk with her and the other Valerie Fund kids. Feeling like a part of such an important and emotional cause made the race such a powerful experience.” —Lindsay A.    

 

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