Are you ready to run?
Are you ready to think about running?
Are you already running for fun, but want to work towards your first race?

Then PBRR 101 is for you. No hard-and-fast rules; just random reflections from someone who isn’t an elite runner, who doesn’t finish front-of-the-pack, who is not (often) in line for an age-group trophy. It’s still easy for me to remember the early days of running and those first attempts at a 5K race, when walking to the finish was the definition of a win.

Lacing up and letting go of the fear of those first fast(er) steps is the hardest part. It gets better.

  • Running shoes really matter. Not the color or style or brand, but whether they fit your feet correctly. When buying your first pair, get fitted properly at a store that specializes in running/athletic shoes.
  • The rest of your gear matters, too. You can dress in old, ragged shorts and T-shirts, but color and style can make you feel good about your workout and yourself. When you get ready for a race, dress for the entire event. Tights and long sleeves feel good at the start, but after a mile or so, you may wish you could toss the cold-weather gear.
  • Speaking of gear: to compress or not? Compression tights, socks and sleeves are popular, but unless a doctor tells you the extra support is needed, the added compression won’t help your times.
  • The need to feed: eat and drink before a race or workout? This requires some experimentation on your part. Carbo-loading (eating a large, starchy meal the night before a long race or run) works well for some people. For others, it means a long time in the portable potty the next morning. Whether plain water, sports drinks or coffee give you a pre-run boost is another trial and error process. One thing every runner needs is good hydration before, during and after a run. Take water at water stations and carry more with you if dehydration is an issue.
  • Whether it’s a workout or racing, give yourself permission to go as far as you can. It’s not failure if you don’t finish the distance. Any distance you complete is a triumph over the Facebook fiends and YouTube–addicted yahoos among your friends and acquaintances.
  • When you’re ready for your first race, don’t think about the distance or the mile markers. Get a map of the course, if possible. Find landmarks and decide to run from landmark to landmark.
  • Don’t wear a watch for your first race. You’ll get so hung up on minutes per mile or how much faster everyone else is, you won’t enjoy the moment.
  • Learn where your personal balance is:
  1. Know when pain is a small and temporary and when it’s large and loud, telling you to stop.
  2. Know when there are too many or too few workouts in a week.
  3. Know whether you have the dedication to run solo, or you need the push of a workout buddy.
  4. Know when it’s time to switch to another activity, like hiking, cycling or swimming, to enhance your overall exercise experience.
  • Talk to your fellow runners before a race. Learn a little race etiquette, like which side of the road slower runners should be on and where to stand in the starting pack. And be very, very nice to the volunteers. The get to the race site long before you in order to provide a great experience.
  • Bring emergency info with you to a workout or race: a laminated card or ID bracelet with your name, address, emergency contact and medical conditions/allergies.

Patience + Persistence + Practice = Payoff

There’s no getting to the finish without going past the start.

By Nancy Munro, 3/29/2015