It’s a good idea if your first race is near where you live. If it’s local, it’ll be much easier to get to the start line in good time, without having to get up horrendously early or arrange overnight accommodation.
Races can begin at all times of the day, so make sure you select a race with a start time to suit you. If you’re not a fan of early mornings, you may wish to avoid the 8am start times, particularly as you’ll need to get up in time to get to the event, have a good race-day breakfast and give it time to settle in your stomach.
You’ve probably watched the Virgin Money London Marathon, which is a good example of the biggest crowds possible at a running event. Your first race is unlikely to get anywhere near this scale, but you should give some thought as to whether you want to run your first event in a crowd of a couple of hundred or a couple of thousand fellow competitors. Larger races can be exciting and motivating, but also quite overwhelming if you’re not used to the logistics of race day or to pacing yourself around the distance.
Selecting the right distance for you is an important decision – if you aim too low you might not get motivated to train; if you aim too high you’ll get anxious that you might not be prepared as race day approaches. A little thought is required to pinpoint the length of the race and ensure you have just the right amount of time to prepare yourself for this distance.
Many events have multiple distance races on the same day, so for added reassurance with your training, you might want to enter an event that has a 10K and a 5K option. That way, if you enter the 10K but you’re not quite where you want to be with your training, you can drop down to the 5K on the day and still get that great race-day experience.
Events take place on roads, trails and through fields. There are even races that cover all of the above, so pick the terrain you like and that suits the training you do. When thinking about the terrain, also take into consideration the season you’re racing in. Entering an off-road event may seem like a great idea in June, but if it doesn’t take place until November, you may find yourself in a battle just to stay upright rather than to record a good time.
The idea of racing in some shiny new shoes or a new running top seems great, but it’s much more sensible to use kit that’s tried and tested. You don’t want to find out on the day that something rubs, chafes, itches or gives you blisters. Test all kit in training and choose the outfit you like the that makes you feel most comfortable.
Most people get so focused on getting to the finish line that they forget about what will happen next. Make sure you have someone to meet you and that you arrange a fixed point where you can quickly get something to eat and drink. You should also put on some warm or fresh clothes once you’ve completed your event. Plan your journey home well in advance and arrange a lift if you think you’ll be tired once you’re done.