First Time Runner Tips for Race Day

In these first time runner tips, coach Vivian Vassall shares her advice for your first race day. From how to prepare for weather to what to expect mentally, she is here to help your initial running event go smoothly. 

Your first race is a big deal. You have been working towards it for months, planning the logistics for days, and hyping up to achieve this first running landmark. Here are the tips I give my athletes to make sure they make the most of their race day as first time runners:

Tip 1: Train for All Weather

Be prepared for all possible weather patterns on race day. The best way to do this is by training in various conditions. Try not to skip or reschedule training runs based on the weather. Instead, get experience running in various conditions, and try to have go-to clothing and gear for each. 

Tip 2: Don’t Do Anything New on Race Day!

You will be tempted to buy clothes, shoes, accessories, fuel, and tons of gimmicky products at the pre-race expo. Feel free to buy them all! Just don’t use them on race day, despite how convincing the vendor is. Feel free to buy anything you want, but don’t test it out on race day – save it for your next race. You don’t want to be distracted by any unexpected discomfort. 

Tip 3: Prep Your Race Day Kit

Pin your bib to the front of your shirt (or square in front of your shorts). That way, the photographer can capture you! Also, runners tend to frown upon wearing old race shirts for races you haven’t actually run, or wearing the race shirt for the race you are currently running. I’m not sure why; I think it’s superstition. 

Tip 4: Look for the “Solutions” Tent

If you’re at a larger race and anything goes wrong before the race starts, make a beeline for the solutions tent. The solutions tent is the place at the race where all the logistics and registration things happen – there is one at every race! Did you forget your safety pins? Is your registration under the wrong gender, or age? (Pro-tip: keep your ID on your person throughout race weekend, including the race). Are you panicking about anything? The solutions tent is your friend!   

Tip 5: Expect “The Wall”

If you run a distance race, you will inevitably hit the wall. Even if you’ve trained properly, it happens to the best of us. It’s more than just a rough patch in the race. “The wall” is when your mind starts to play tricks on you – you become convinced that you must slow down, or stop – you may trip and fall – you may cry…it’s a dark place. It’s hard to fully prevent encountering the wall as a first time runner, but you can have a plan for it in advance. Long before race day, think about other major obstacles you’ve overcome in your life, and borrow some techniques that were successful for you then. Additionally, think of 1-2 short mantras to say in your head (or out loud) that will give you the power to run straight through the wall!

Coach Vivian Vassall first time runner tips
Photo: David Jaewon Oh

Coach Vivian Vassall is part of Team RunRun, whose mission is to match runners with the right coach for their lifestyle and budget. Sign up for the free Team RunRun newsletter for more tips!

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