ToTR: My First Race or “What Not To Do”

Welcome back to the next edition of the Tuesdays on the Run linkup with me, Patty from My No-Guilt Life, and Erika from MCM Mama Runs.  Today’s topic is My First Race, but any running related post is welcome to link up with us!

So, nostalgia time…  My first race might have been this one:


But my first actual timed race with a bib was the Micanopy Half Marathon in 1997.  Yes, I chose to do a half marathon as my first race.  That race is what I would consider a “learning experience” because I did just about everything wrong.  And I paid for it!

Here’s what NOT to do for your first race:

1.  Pick a crazy distance.  Generally, the 5k is a great distance for a first race.  I chose to pick the half marathon for my first race.  Go big or go home, right?  Wrong!  I can’t actually remember exactly why I decided to start with such a challenging distance other than the fact that I was in my twenties and invincible.  You can always build up to longer distances, but 5k is a great choice for a first race.

2. Don’t train for the distance.  I did train, I really did.  But I didn’t train for the half marathon distance.  I figured that if I ran at least 8 miles in training then I’d be able to do 13.1 in a race setting.  Well, I was able to do it but it was pretty miserable and there were lots of tears!  Whatever distance your first race is, make sure to find a training plan and stick with it!

3. Wear cotton clothes.  Yes, I wore all cotton clothes.  I don’t know if I’d even heard of wicking clothes at that time.  I think the only running specific things I wore were my socks and shoes.  I was drenched by the end and I don’t want to discuss the chafing.

4. Don’t research the race.  I had no idea what the course was like or what fuel and hydration would be available.  And so, I had no idea that there would be only two water stops and one gatorade stop.  I had never heard of “fueling” for a race, so I didn’t have anything to provide that needed energy on the course either.  No surprise that I ran out of steam somewhere between 8 and 10 miles.  Here I am drinking a whole jug of gatorade after the race!


5. Start off very fast.  This is the most important thing to remember and the hardest rule to follow.  Despite what you’ll feel like, you did not suddenly get much much faster all of the sudden on race morning.  I started off much too fast because, well I guess I thought I’d gotten much faster all of the sudden on race morning.  It didn’t take too long to discover that I was wrong.  For your first race, you’re going to get a PR (personal record) no matter what, so don’t go out too fast.  Intentionally hold your pace down for the first mile, then if you feel great you can speed up.  In addition to feeling awesome, you’ll be able to get the joy of passing other runners in the last half of the race.

Despite all these terrible choices (all of which I learned from before my next race, the Gate River Run 15k which went so much better!) and some tears on the last few miles, I did manage to finish the race and it didn’t make me afraid to race again.


What did you learn from your first race?

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ToTR: My First Race or “What Not To Do” — 35 Comments

    • Thanks. It’s so funny that I was able to find them just in time for this post. I was actually looking through my mom’s old photo albums for some pictures of me at Disney in the 70’s for a contest Disney is running right now and I found these that she took. Wow, that is crazy about your toenail!

    • LOL, I wonder that too! I was just crazy and had no idea how difficult it would be! I’m a big believer in starting with the 5k distance now!

  1. I LOVE This –> Despite what you’ll feel like, you did not suddenly get much much faster all of the sudden on race morning. <– Why do I always believe in that race day magic for the first mile??!!

    My first race helped me learn that I love running. It was a 5K. 😉
    Coco recently posted…When Should I Run? OutSider App ReviewMy Profile

    • I know! Even though I know that, I still am tempted to start out too fast almost every time!

    • LOL, well at least you started with a good distance! 🙂

    • It is an addiction for sure, at least it’s a healthy one though!

    • Yep, it was pretty awful! I haven’t repeated any of those mistakes, though!

    • Thanks, they were hard learned lessons! Glad you could link up with us!

    • Yeah, I think it was because it was so long ago! And I’m terrible about starting out too fast!

  2. Typically I am overly cautious and lack the confidence to pull the trigger on a big goal (like a race) until I am more than ready to tackle it. But the going out too fast thing? Been there done that. Repeatedly.

    • I’m much more cautious about picking the right distance now, lesson learned for sure! 🙂

  3. Great tips/lessons! I have worn a cotton t-shirt for a couple fun 5K’s but even that I wouldn’t recommend. The sweat and heaviness from it is terrible! As for research, I made the mistake and didn’t research a couple races in the past and paid for it – one turned out to be a trail race (I had NO idea until I got there LOL) and one had some massive hills that I should have trained better for!
    Lauren @ Lauren’s Glass Slipper recently posted…2015 Disney Princess Half Marathon RegistrationMy Profile

    • Oh wow, I can’t imagine being surprised by a trail race with huge hills! Yikes!

    • Sounds like my half marathon! I bet I did the first three miles of that race at least a minute per mile faster than I should have!

    • Ha, sounds like we had the same experience! Mile 11 was just pain, tears and straight up determination…

  4. Great advice , April! I’ve driven through Micanopy a few times and it’s a beautiful area for nature enthusiasts! The biggest thing I learned from my first race was not to let myself get stressed out or overwhelmed by the course. The race is much more enjoyable when you smile through the hardships you encounter!

    • Good advice! Smiling probably helps in most situations.

    • I still have a terrible time holding back during that first half mile or so!

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