Sometimes those of us who’ve been running races for decades take for granted things that would never occur to a novice runner.
If you’re a novice and looking to do your first 10km race, follow these simple but vital tips and you won’t look back. They may seem like common sense, but everyone’s learned at least one of these lessons from personal experience
1 Train right
Just like writing an exam without studying, running a race without training is an unpleasant experience. Set a realistic goal time, follow a routine training programme for four to six weeks, and ensure you can comfortably complete at least 5km at your goal race pace. For more input, consult a coach or experienced runner – there is much freely-available advice out there, so learn from others’ mistakes.
2 Don’t run injured
There’ll be other races on other days – don’t risk serious damage by being stubborn and training or racing through pain. If a few days rest doesn’t solve the problem, get a professional diagnosis and correct treatment as soon as possible. Don’t mask pain with painkillers or anti-inflammatories.
3 Confirm race details
Find an official race flyer or contact the organisers. Fixture lists, printed months in advance, are subject to cancellations and changes in dates, times and venues. It’s very disappointing and frustrating to arrive at an empty venue! Pre-register if required, and check the race cut-off time to aim for.
4 Get there an hour before the start
Set two alarms or get someone to phone and check you’re awake. Give yourself time to find parking, enter or register if you haven’t already done so (pay with correct change and the organisers will love you), use the portaloos and walk to the start.
5 Wear race numbers/timing chip/race tag as instructed
If you finish without one or more of the above, your name won’t be in the results and you won’t get that hard-earned medal to brag with.
6 Don’t try anything new on the day
Run a training run in your race kit so you know where to ‘lube up’ to avoid blisters or chaffing. Test your pre-race meal and energy drink in training. Drink according to thirst at the water tables, but you don’t need energy gels or food during a 10km.
7 Don’t start in front (unless you’re realistically aiming for sub-40 minutes)
You’ll be drawn into starting too fast as the leaders head out at a blistering pace, and it’s demoralising being overtaken both by faster runners at the start and by slower runners finishing stronger than you later in the race. Rather start further back and aim to overtake people in the second half.
8 Rather walk than give up
Any experienced runner will tell you how awful it feels to bail before the end. There’s no shame in walking. In fact, if you’re in the 60-minute-plus group, a walk-run strategy from the start will ensure not only a comfortable, strong finish, but almost certainly a faster time.
9 Mind your manners
Thank marshals, race organisers, helpers at water tables, supporters on the route – they are volunteering their time to make your race an enjoyable experience. Throw water sachets and juice cups in the bins provided.
10 Enjoy it!
This should be FUN. Talk to others around you (but don’t be offended if they don’t have breath to reply!), and listen to the banter or advice of other runners – it’ll take your mind off how tired your legs are and before you’ll know it you’ll have completed your first 10km.
by Candyce Hall
Originally published in the November/December 2012 issue.