Do’s and Don’ts: Your first road race

Just like my regular running buddies’ running stories, my obsession with running started when I was dragged to a road race a couple of months ago. Through that first 5K, we discovered the many facets of the joy of running.

Out of curiosity, my other friends have asked me about how I started.

“It’s fun. You should try it,” I would always say.

Some have been hesitant to try running a 5K, afraid that they might not be able to finish it, faint while doing it or be the last finisher. I’d always share that I ran my first 5K without formal training and I didn’t end up being the last finisher, but then I’d always volunteer to join them for training, tell them to visit Runner’s World and encourage them to at least give running a shot.

My first convert is Pao, a sports-minded friend of mine who plays badminton and basketball among other sports. I guess he had a lot of fun at the Men’s Health Miracle Run because now, he’s inviting more of our common friends to join us in our runs. He was able to encourage one of our friends to the OctobeRun Festival. Lei, Pao’s convert, happens to be a PR-ish person and has also gotten her officemates to try running as well.

My other running buddies have also been, umm, should I say, preaching, the joys and health benefits of running to their colleagues and other friends. To make it an enjoyable “first time,” I’ve compiled some tips and tricks for newbies. Feel free to fill in more tips or links to other sites through the comments section:

DO

  • Get plenty of sleep before a race. This is something that my running buddies and I have never done. Weekends are supposed to be reserved for relaxation, but these are the only days we could do what we want to do! So Saturdays are often teeming with activities as well.Don’t imitate us, as we’ve ran with runny noses; had headaches on the 8th kilometer during a 10K run; and caught a cold after a 5K. Your first 5K would be a whole lot of fun if you get lots of rest, as you won’t end up feeling beaten up, just like us!
  • Warm up and stretch; cool down and stretch. Our un-official coach, John, had been strict with stretching on our first run. It helped a lot. Prior to my first 5K, I helped paint a house for one whole day. My muscles were then feeling sore from the whole-day affair of painting houses, but I didn’t end up bedridden after the 5K. And I attribute it to the pre- and post-race stretchings. I may be right, but then I might be wrong.

    But experts do claim that warm up, cool down and stretchings reduce the risk of injury. Because it’s usually cool in the morning and the airconditioner makes my muscles stiff and cold, what we do is do some light jog before stretching. I heard over the gym radio that it’s better to stretch when your muscles are warm. So do some warm up jogs first before stretching those muscles. Likewise, it’s good to do some light jogging after a race and then finish off with some stretching. This way, you won’t wake up feeling like some bullies in pre-school picked on you.

  • Prepare for a race at least a month. For newbies like me, it pays to be prepared. For first-timers, it helps to train physically and mentally. Although we ran our first 5K with no formal training, we don’t recommend it. We’re just a bunch of crazy girls, and good thing we didn’t end up injured that we’re still hooked to running and still looking forward to more miles.
  • Prepare your race paraphernalia the night before. It’s not like you’re a little kid excited for your first race. Make sure you bring your race bib, an extra shirt, a towel and water and/or isotonic sports drink. And for first timers, don’t you want to document it and bring a camera as well? It pays to have them ready as you might not be able to have time to prepare them early in the morning, especially if you overslept or if the alarm clock failed to wake you up.

    My parents had taught me early on that no one else is to blame for any homework undone but myself. Hence, I—and not our household help—would clean my school shoes, prepare my school uniforms, home work, and books for school every night when I was in grade school. My mother was just there to enumerate anything that I could’ve forgotten. Thus, since grade school, it has become my habit to prepare my school uniform, clothes and my stuff for the following morning—be it another day at the office or for a race.

    So even if it’s past midnight, I’d toss my race bib, extra shirt, towel, keys and wallet into my bag, and I’d fill my flask with water and put it with the sports drink in the refrigerator.

  • Eat something before and after the race. A cup of oatmeal, a banana, a whole wheat bun—these are just some of the quick fix options that we have. Pundits say that the banana is the best pre- and post-race snack.

DON’T

  • Drink too much. I don’t mean water. I mean alcoholic beverages. And I don’t mean a glass of wine. I mean buckets of various alcoholic drinks. Tequila was a traitor. Net’s resolution is to never drink or party before race day. My office mate, a former runner and mountaineer, had advised me to rehydrate well before a race.
  • Overeat. I once read from Runner’s World that one shouldn’t do carbo or protein overload before a 5K race.My friend, in fact, survived his first 5K race without eating breakfast, just downing a bottle of juice. But that’s not advisable either. A banana topped with peanut butter, Nesvita cereal drink or a single serving of oatmeal are some of the options.
  • Overload on isotonic sports drink before the race. Half a bottle is enough. When I ran my first 10K (with a hangover), I drowned myself with sports drink a few hours before the race. It didn’t help the hangover. And it didn’t help my tummy. I felt like I was carrying a bottle of drink in my tummy while running.
  • Be overly excited. I read from Runner’s World that it’s a newbie’s mistake to be too excited and dash during the first hundred meters. One should start with a slow, steady pace, gradually pick up speed, maintain a good running form and have that strong finish. Visit Runner’s World for the do’s and don’ts of a good running form.
  • Forget to have some fun. You’ve probably decided to take running seriously. But as with all things under the sun, it’s not bound to last if you ain’t having fun. 🙂 So tie those shoe laces with a smile, relax, enjoy the morning sun (or the rain), have a blast with your running friends/family and your first 5K might just mark the birth of your running passion.

I’m no running coach, so for more in-depth info on running form, dealing with first-time race jitters and core training, I suggest you visit the following links:

Good luck and enjoy!

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7 thoughts on “Do’s and Don’ts: Your first road race

  1. Oh, the benefits of being young…running 5k without proper training…
    I trained for 14 months before I ran my first 5k. I am now training for 10k (hopefully 12 months lang hah hah …)
    See you at the KOTR, dasher!

  2. nice tips. 🙂

    when i was starting out i didn’t even bother training for 5k races (as in kung minsan wala akong takbo for months), and i still managed to do sub 30min runs… but as i grew older i realized na brute force would one day take kill me so i started doing this more scientifically. (kasi pabagal din ako ng pabagal… hehe)

    anyway, see you in kotr… pag may nahimatay na 21k runner, ako yun! haha!

  3. great list tracy! hehe. wala ako training nung first run natin…even yung second at yung mga sumunod pa. =) haha, bad bad me.

  4. haha. yeah, it’s not just you. i haven’t been a good girl, either. i only trained once, di ba? pero i showed up with a hangover naman on race day. haha. 🙂 hope to run with you again soon! let’s join the isuzu run on halloween. but there’s a halloween party at warehouse on the same night. 😦

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