A while back I did an Intro to Running post where I wanted to blog about things that might help new runners or prospective runners in case anyone was randomly searching blogs for any sort of running advice, or to help any of my trusty readers in case they had questions/concerns of their own. I don't consider myself an expert in running but I am a bit of an expert in the I-went-from-nothing-to-running category as I, well, went from nothing to running.
I've run in several races but there was a time when I was searching for a race to participate in and had no idea how to go about finding races or registering or training for them.
Actually, running a race can seem both daunting and exciting at the same time. On the one hand, being in a race setting is exciting. There are all sorts of people out at races, some trying to win, some trying to place near the top, some out there trying to set a personal record and still others just there to add another race name to their list and pick up another t-shirt.
On the other hand, it's daunting because it's a competition. It's about as real as it gets in running. Yeah, you can run for health reasons and run for fun and all that but when you have a race, you are trying to finish the distance and presumably beat or get close to a certain time.
If you are new to running or have never run a race before, it can be overwhelming. The best advice I can give is to take it slowly and don't rush into anything. If you are new to running and have made it a goal to run a marathon, great, but I'd suggest a few races before then, maybe a 10K at least or a half-marathon. Build slowly to it. If you want to start off with a 5K like I did, that's great too. Same principle applies: build slowly to it.
You want to pick a race that's far enough away that you can train for it. Even if you run 10-15 miles a week or more, scheduling a 5K from one week to the next might not be a great idea. When I first had the desire to run a race, it was early May 2008 and I wanted to run one quickly. But the soonest race that was within range of me was not until the first weekend of June. It worked out well because I had about four weeks to really train for it, to visualize what the race might seem like, try and run the distance a few times, maybe get in some work like core exercises, weights, that might help you gain strength.
If you aren't into running or can or have only run 1-2 miles at a time, you probably need some time to build up to the distance. Something that may help in that regard would be doing some cardio work. Build up your endurance by running but also by doing work on the elliptical. Maybe throw in a swimming or bike session every now and then. If you can't run more than two miles at a time and you sign up for a 10K, you might not make it to race day. You might just skip the race all together. You might even burn yourself out before you ever give yourself a chance to really enjoy running.
If you are up for running longer distances and want to start with a longer race, a 10K would be the best option. I like 10Ks probably the most since that is a good distance. It's not a super-long run like a half or full marathon but it's longer than the 5K, so it challenges you a bit differently than the 5K. I'm not a fast guy and I prefer to challenge myself with longer distances rather than trying to beat a certain time.
Every race, though, has challenges, whether it's a 5K or a 42K (marathon), so whatever race you choose as your first, be proud of it. Take pride in your race and dedicate yourself to running it and enjoying it and you will do fine.
Some links that might be handy:
The Other Mag (Runner's World) has lots of good resources all over their site but particularly here. There are tips on how to train for and run 5Ks, 10Ks, and all race distances.
Also, Active.com is one of the best resources out there in terms of being able to find races.