29 November 2021

The competitive edge

April 25, 2008

You know you ought to be putting on your trainers and heading out the door for a run, but it’s raining/you’re hungry/you’re tired/you can’t be bothered. What you need is a something to work towards, what you need is a race.

get-competitive.pngBefore you start looking for the exit signs, entering a race isn’t as scary as it sounds. It doesn’t have to be a ‘race’, in fact the key is to take it at your own pace, be that a run, a jog or a walk. It’s the taking part that counts.

Why you should enter

When it’s dark and cold outside the last thing you feel like doing is pulling on your trainers and heading for a run, but it’s equally as hard in mid-summer when everyone else is gathered outside the pub after work. In fact if you’re looking for excuses, I’m sure you’ll find a million reasons to keep you from running.

However if you want a sure-fire excuse-beater, put your money where your mouth is and pay to run a race; if you know you’ve got to be able to run 10 kilometers by a set date, those excuses will seem far less important. If you can rope in a friend, all the better, but if not, no fear, there are plenty of running clubs around the country. They’re a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and get lots of helpful tips and advice. Contact your local council for more information on clubs in your area.

If you need an extra incentive, go one step further and sign up to a charity event. Once you’ve found a charity close to your heart and you’ve raised some sponsorship you’ll have some added motivation to make sure you keep training!

How to go about it

So you’ve decided you’d like to enter a race, but how do you find one that is right for you? Start by thinking what distance you’d like to cover and if you have a charity you’d like to support, then contact it. You may well find it will have its own organized races and runs.

If you’re fairly new to running it’s a good idea to ease into it with a 5K. Cancer Research’s Race For Life programme holds 5K races to raise money for the charity around the country. The events are laid back, you can run or walk and the atmosphere is very friendly and inclusive.

If you’ve been running for a while and you think you are ready for it, 10K races are your next option. The best way to get information on these, as well as half and full marathons, is to check the sports sections of your local paper, check out the ads in sports shops and look through Sportsister’s What’s On listings. Places for the big races like the Flora London Marathon are like gold dust. If you’ve got your heart set on running one of these your best bet is to go through a specific charity.


What to expect on the day

Whatever distance you’ve entered, you’ll probably have butterflies in your stomach come race day. Breathe deeply, tell yourself you’ve trained for this and that you can do it. It’s mind over matter now.

The day before is the time to sort out directions, enquire about parking or public transport and lay out your race clothes, trainers, race number, safety pins to attach your number with, and race chip, if one is provided. Make sure to pack plenty of warm layers, there can be lots of standing around both before and after a race, a bottle of water, and any snacks you think you will need. A banana is always a good option, as the natural sugars and fibre it contains will provide an instant and sustained energy boost.

If it’s a morning run, you need to eat your breakfast at least three hours before race time. Something with a mix of protein and carbohydrates is ideal, like porridge with nuts and seeds sprinkled on top, or poached eggs on toast. Make sure to drink plenty of liquids too, your pee should be pale yellow in colour, any darker signals dehydration, which will affect your performance.

Aim to arrive at the event in good time. You don’t want to be rushed, you want to be able to get your bearings, locate the start and finish, pick up your race t-shirt (if one is provided), warm up and, if there’s a baggage tent, check your bags in. One word of warning with the baggage tent is that it can take a good 30-40 minutes to retrieve your bag after the race. Sheer volume of people can cause quite a queue, so if you’ve got friends or family coming to support you or your car is parked nearby it can be a good option to leave everything with them or in your boot.

Before the start of the race you’ll probably need to visit the toilet – all that hydrating can put pressure on your bladder! Again the queues will be long, so make sure you get in line well before the start time or, even better, see if you can nip off to a café or service station nearby and avoid them altogether.

You will find pretty much everyone at these events from the organizers, to the course marshals and the other competitors are very friendly and happy to help. If you’re unsure about anything just ask. Remember to pace yourself and go out there and enjoy it!

Alex Hazell, Sportsister
The Sports Magazine For Women

Take a look at Sportsister’s 5km training plan. New to running? A complete beginner? Follow this and you will be running in your first 5KM race in just ten weeks time.

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