If you're getting ready for your first race, here are some pointers to help you get there successfully.
Enter with a friend of similar fitness and ability. It will be less intimidating and more fun with a companion.
Make sure nothing you wear is new. Everything on your body, from socks to a headband should be road-tested.
Line up with runners of similar ability. If you run a nine-minute mile find the part of the pack that runs your pace, and that won't be at the front. Being swept into a pace that is too fast will be a bad experience and, of course, isn't fair to the faster runners who will have to navigate around you.
Always begin slowly. The easiest mistake for a beginning racer to make is to respond to the exuberance of the race and head out too fast. Doing so begs for an injury or at best a rotten finish because you spent your energy too early in the course.
Use the water stations. Keep yourself well hydrated. Sports drinks can help keep your energy up. Some marathons provide Vaseline, Band-Aids, and even masseurs.
Don't be disheartened when other runners pass you during the race. There will always be runners in front of you--and behind you.
Know when the cutoff time is for your race so that you can pace yourself accordingly. It is depressing to finish without a finish line and an official time. For a 10K, the cutoff is usually 1:30; for 15K, from 1:40 to 2:00; for some marathons, as much as 6:00.
Tuck some tissues in a baggie pinned to your shorts, just in case you need an emergency pit stop--it happens.
Adapted from Marathon Runner's Handbook, by Bruce Fordyce with Marielle Renssen, 2002, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, $19.95, 160 pp.
Running & FitNews, Vol. 20, No. 8
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