With Run Melbourne coming up this weekend, I thought it might be timely to share a few tips for first-time-fun-runners. I ran my first fun run almost exactly one year ago, and I remember being really nervous the couple of days leading up to it. What do I do on the day? Where do I go? What should I wear? How do I pin my number on? I’d never done anything like it in my life, and, while I was very excited, I was also apprehensive about being a complete newbie.
11-and-a-half months on, and I feel like an old hand (almost!). So here are my five top tips for your very first fun run ever!
Photo by HarshLight
1. Don’t run the day before
You want to be running on fresh muscles, not tired ones. So take a day or two off running before the big day. The effects of training don’t kick in for a couple of weeks (I’m sure I read that somewhere!), so anything you do in the few days before the run isn’t going to help anyway.
2. Arrive early
Make sure you’ve got plenty of time to find a park, catch public transport, walk, or get there however you’re going to get there! You don’t want to be in a rush or a panic, so allow more time than you normally would, especially if it’s a big event. I’d aim to arrive around half an hour before the start, to have time to get yourself oriented, pick up race numbers and timing tags (if they haven’t already been sent out), have a last sip or two of water, and stand in line for the toilets. If you do need to go to the loo (or if you think you might), be sure to leave plenty of time, as the queues can get loooong. If you want to, have a little jog around to warm up a bit, but if it’s your first event there’s no need to warm up before the start if you don’t feel like it.
Regarding race numbers: if you’re picking these up at the start they should provide safety pins to attach these to your shirt, but if your number has been sent to you in the mail you can pin it on before you leave home. It just needs to go on the front of your shirt so it’s visible from the front. Some people pin it on their chests, I prefer to place it under the bust line, over my stomach area.
Edit: If you’re doing a big run, such as Run Melbourne, City to Surf, etc – I would recommend arriving more like 45 minutes or even an hour early, if you need to cloak a bag or pick anything up. Those crowds can be huge!
Photo by Bill Hails
3. Start at the back
There’ll be a bunch of people jostling at the start line to be at the front. Leave them to it, and place yourself near the back of the pack, just in front of the people with prams. This way you’ll get to enjoy a nice leisurely start, without being involved with any sort of stampede or feeling like you’re in the way of anyone. Your official time for the race will start when you cross the start line and finish when you cross the finish line – that’s what the timing tags are for. So there’s no need to be over the line as soon as the gun goes off. In fact, I much prefer being near the back and then gradually being able to pass people and move my way through the field. There’s more room, and much less pressure.
Which brings me to my next point…
4. Go slowly (at first)
The temptation with a race is to go all-out from the get-go. After all, you’re supposed to be racing, right? Well, yes and no! Generally (at least when you’re still a beginner runner) it’s best to start a bit slower than you think you need to, and then gradually speed up through the race. You want to finish strongly, giving it all you’ve got in the last kilometer or two, but in order to do that you can’t completely exhaust yourself in the first kilometer! I would recommend consciously holding yourself back for the first kilometer in a 5K and the first 2km in a 10K, and then allowing yourself to relax into a comfortably solid pace for the next couple of kilometers. Once you’ve passed the half-way mark, you can start to push the speed a bit, and see if you can give it an extra boost in the last few hundred meters to fly through the finishing chute.
5. Keep left
Since all runners run at different speeds, people will be passing each other during the race. It keeps things nice and simple if folk generally stick to the “keep left unless overtaking” rule (well, in Australia anyway!). It’s courteous to other runners, and generally keeps the flow going smoothly.
Photo by mikebaird
Above all (and my secret bonus tip number 6) – HAVE FUN! Fun runs are exactly that – fun! If it’s your first time, you will be setting your first Personal Best (PB), and benchmarking yourself with a time to beat next time. Enjoy the atmosphere of the race, enjoy running with a whole bunch of other humans, and enjoy the euphoria of the finish line. Hope you have a great time, and please let me know how your first race went!
So there you go – my top five tips for newbie runners in their first fun run! Let me know if you’ve got others to add, too – I’d love to know what they are.