First Race: Essential Guide to the Do’s and Dont’s

So race day has nearly arrived! Running in your first race can be a nerve-racking experience. Especially if you have been used to just running on your own during your training plan, the prospect of sharing the tarmac or trail with tens, hundreds, or even thousands of other runners could be a scary prospect. Then there are all the other things to consider like what and when to eat, what to wear, logistics, and don’t even mention the toilets!

But fear not, all you need to do is follow our 10 step guide to running your first race and you will be nice and organised and ready for action come-race day, allowing you to focus on the importance stuff like actually running.

Race Day Tips

1. Don’t Over-Do It During Race Week
It will be tempting to want to squeeze in one last confidence-boosting run before the big day but try to resist. No extra fitness or improvements in speed will be realised in the week leading up to race day, but it’s entirely possible to tweak a muscle or leave your legs feeling fatigued. Tapering down for a race is a personal thing and is different for each race and distance that you are running. But as a general guide, when running a 5k race, you should be looking to take the day off completely 2-days before race day and the day before should consist of a light jog with a few short strides thrown in. Think of it as stretching your legs out getting them ready for action tomorrow. For longer distances, work backwards from race day to give yourself a proper period of rest for the big day.

2. Get an early night
This one speaks for itself. Make sure you are nice and rested and get a good night’s sleep the night before race-day.

3. Get and Stay Hydrated
Remember that hydration is cumulative. A camel-esque approach of taking on board vast quantities of water on the morning of the race while neglecting to drink properly in the days leading up to the race will do you no favours and will potentially leave you with other problems (see point 6).

4. Logistics
Avoid last minute stress by getting all the logistics sorted well in advance. Plan your route to the race venue and check for things like parking if it’s not provided at the venue (keep some loose change in your car in case you need it for parking). Remember to check the event website the evening before the race to check that there has not been any last minute cancellations and that the race is still going ahead.

5. Kit Essentials
You’ll no doubt be checking the weather for race day so make sure you take the right kit for the conditions. If rain is forecast take a small towel and a change of clothes for after the race. There’s nothing worse than sitting in your soaking wet running gear for the drive home. For events where you collect your race pack on the day they will 99.9% of the time provide safety-pins for attaching your race number to your shirt, but just in case try and keep four small pins in your race bag for emergencies.
Obviously don’t forget your running shoes!

6. Get There Early
It’s advisable to get there early so you can pick up the ‘vibe’ of the event. That way you have plenty of time to use the loo’s before the queue’s build up and you can warm-up properly. As any pre-race nerves kick-in it’s likely that you’ll need to use the facilities more than once before the start so leave yourself plenty of time.

7. Don’t Go Off Too Quickly
It will be very tempting to be the hare not the tortoise if this is your first race, but try and resist and play the long game. There is not a runner alive who has not got carried away at the start and regretted it, but save that experience for another day. This is your first race, there will be plenty of opportunities to catch those speedy types whizzing past you at your next race.

8. Follow a Nice Bum
If you are struggling and are hanging on, the sight of a well proportioned rear up in front of you can really give you that extra bit of motivation to stay with the pack.

9. Plan your Water Stops
It takes practice to drink on the hoof so if this is your first race and you need to take on fluid, then prepare to slow down at one of the water stations for a quick drink. Ensure you look behind you on the approach to the water station as to not take out any runners coming up from behind.

10. Sign-up for Your Next Race
After completing your first race it’s important to reward yourself for a job well done. But don’t bask in the glory of your new found status for too-long, there are many more races to be run and PBs to be had now you are a proper runner! Sign up for another race next month and aim to better your time. Try one of our structured training plans if you want to aim for a particular time.


Keen amateur runner & qualified coaching assistant who likes keeping fit & devising training plans that help you get faster. The plans on this site have helped me knock minutes off all my times.

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