How to choose your first race…

This is a piece which I wrote a couple of years ago, I’d been running for about 6 months and wanted to take things a bit further… It seems like a good place to start my blog with.

There comes a time when running on your own or even taking part in your local Parkrun is not quite enough and you feel you are ready for a new challenge. It’s not that you are bored with running on your own, just that you want to push yourself a little more. Perhaps shaving a few seconds (or more) from your pb at Parkrun is not enough or you feel you have plateau-ed at 5km and want a bigger challenge.

You might decide to take part in one of the many 5km Race for Life events, there will almost definitely be one nearby and as people with a wide range of abilities take part it would be a good place to get your first experience of a race. After all, your Parkrun experience means you are confident at that distance and with so many people taking part it would be a safe challenge- that may sound paradoxical but you know what I mean.

You may want something different from a Race for Life, may be you don’t fancy having to get sponsors and raise money (perhaps like me you don’t really want anyone to know that you are considering taking part in a race). In this case you need to think carefully about which races might be good for your first foray into “serious” running.

What criteria do you need to consider as you look at the race listings? First step is to think about the distance. It seems a good idea to stick with 5km, which you know you can do. The next consideration is when you want to race, both which days are possible and how far ahead do you want to plan. Then you think about location. If, like me, you can’t rely on a partner to provide transport, it might be sensible to find a race reasonably close to home. Last but not least is the terrain; surely it would be a good idea to take part in a race on similar terrain to your usual routes or, perhaps better still, choose somewhere which is flat?

Usually I consider myself a fairly sensible person, I was quite happy running on my own. I had done a couple of Parkruns but found being clapped and cheered on as I reached the finish last or very nearly last rather embarrassing…were they just cheering because once I had finished they could pack up and go home? (I now know that is not the case, but it truly was how I felt). I was running 3-6km twice or three times a week (timing my Saturday morning runs to avoid the local Parkrun) but considering myself as a ‘person who runs’ rather than a runner and feeling a little dissatisfied with that status.

Did I carefully study the race listings, thinking about all those criteria? Did I follow my own advice? Did I heck! I entered a race at a distance I had never run, several hours drive from home on hilly terrain despite the fact that I hate running up hills. In short, on a whim, without thinking sensibly about what I was doing, I entered White Star Running’s Sydling Hill 10k -it turned out to be 11k but that’s another story.

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