It’s 2023 and a new year has begun. You’ve been jogging for some time. Naturally, you want to take the next step and sign up for your first race. Depending on your skill level and interest, that might be a 5K or a half marathon. Feelings of excitement take over as you click that registration button and you get the confirmation email. At this point, you can almost visualize the challenge and the finish line together. Of course, you’re also thinking about that awesome finisher’s medal. Then, the dust settles. Now, you’re wondering where you even start.
The starting line for a race isn’t on race day, it’s from the moment you hit the register button. Suddenly, you’re overwhelmed with all kinds of things. This could be how you’re supposed to train, what to wear, and if you can actually do the dang thing! Firstly, I’m here to tell you that you can. While there are numerous places you can start, there are a few things to not procrastinate on before your first race. Here are those things and why.
What do you want out of the experience? There can be multiple reasons. Typically, most of us just want to finish, have fun, and challenge ourselves. There can also be other reasons, such as racing for a charity. Speak your goal out loud because your “why” will get you through the hardest training days.
The proper fitting shoe is the great equalizer. I’ve made the mistake of choosing the wrong shoes and getting injured. Most running specialty stores will do a proper analysis for you (usually free of charge) to determine several brands that might work best for you. For example, the Boise community has the long-standing Idaho Running Company. Getting fitted for the proper shoes takes time and maybe a little bit more money, but you only have two feet. Besides, feet don’t change overnight. Once you’ve figured out a shoe formula, you’re pretty much set.
Look, things will almost always not go according to plan. Generally, most of us do this as a hobby and work a full-time job. Some of us have families and kids. This is why having a training plan is important. Using the internet, we have access to so many training plans. Honestly, there is no perfect plan, only some accepted norms based on studies. Choose a plan that fits you and adjust it to your schedule. No matter what you choose, just stick with it. Consistency and doing your best is what matters, not how polished your plan is.
As I sit here and write this, I can confidently say reading the race details is something I’ve procrastinated on more than once. This is something that often gets overlooked. Remember, you don’t have to read the race guide from top to bottom. All you have to do is make sure you understand what you’re getting into. For my first half marathon, I signed up for a race that I assumed was going to be a road course. If I had read the course map, I wouldn’t have found out a week before race day that it was going to be sand! Skim through the details a bit and get yourself hyped for your journey.
Make Mistakes and Have Fun
Both of these go together. The human journey is anything but perfect. Runs will be less than perfect. As discussed above, plans will have to change because we have to work our hobby around our other commitments. Laugh off the mistakes and learn from them. You don’t have to do this, you get to do this awesome thing. Learn from mistakes that are made by taking stock of them, but be your own best friend.
You can do hard things. As a procrastinator, I’ve made all the mistakes here so you don’t have to. Even if you do, that’s okay! You’re going to grow, have fun, and build some great life experiences. At the end of the day, it’s a hobby, so have fun with all the good and bad moments. Commit to your first race and go for it.