Whether you’re an amateur runner looking to get fit, an average Joe trying to shed a few pounds, or a passionate competitor jumping from one race to the next, there’s nothing like crossing a finish line to get the blood flowing and feel in control. Whether you’re walking, jogging, running or sprinting your way down the home stretch, the process of entering, training and completing a race is a sure fire way to up the motivation, change your lifestyle, and feel great about yourself.
Over the course of my life, I’ve participated in a handful of 5Ks, 10Ks and two half marathons, and every time it’s the same thing. I sign up in an effort to increase my desire to hit the road and end up panicking in the days leading up to the race. Thankfully, I always manage to finish the race, but the butterflies never seem to fully disappear. In fact, the first time I took part in a race, I threw-up as I made my way down the final stretch. It was like the parting of the Red Sea, only it was the parting of a crowd trying to avoid the onslaught of last night’s dinner as my stomach tried to deal with the adrenaline pumping it’s way through my bloodstream.
So, why do I bother signing up for races? Besides being great motivation and a way to stagger personal goals throughout the year, most races are a lot of fun and provide an atmosphere that only proves to further inspire. Each race has it’s own feel and is an experience in and of itself. For example: In 2008, I took part in the “Human Race”, a race organized by Nike that took part in countries all over the world. It was an incredible feeling knowing that people around the world were running the same distance, on the same day,for the same cause. In Munch, I took part in a half-marathon where I ran my way through the English Garden only to be welcomed with non-alcoholic beer at the finish line! Who knew? Every time you run a race, you are exposed to a culture of people dedicated to something; from improving themselves, to raising money for charity, the vibe on race day is one the breeds possibility, enthusiasm, optimism and hope.
All this being said, signing up for your first race can be intimidating. The first thing you need to know is that you’re not alone. Not every runner is a pro (myself included) and most have signed up for the same reason as you – to have fun, and get fit. So, first things first, shed the nerves and just sign up. Then, start training! Take to the great outdoors, or find a running mate. Make training a time to socialize with friends, bond with nature, or bounce along to your favourite tunes! When I moved to Munich in 2009, I was a big fan of treadmills with a hate on for road running. It took a lot of convincing by a very good of mine to get me out of the gym and onto the trails. Almost instantaneously, it was like a switch went on and I realized what I’d been missing! Forget running on the spot in an overheated, claustrophobic fitness studio, I started to look forward to meeting up three times a week, conquering different trails and catching up on gossip, running close to an hour at a time in preparation for a half marathon come the fall. It was like having coffee with a friend and burning calories at the same time! Since then, I refuse, when possible, to run indoors (Canada’s winter months an exception of course).
Now that you’ve got a training routine down pat, you’re all ready for race day! Of course, no matter how hard we train, or how prepared we try to be, a lot falls into the hands of race organizers and supporters! Encourage your family, friends, or significant other to sign up with you, or extend a high-five as you cross the finish line. It makes a huge difference to see a friendly face waiting for you as your breathing becomes more staggered, your legs begin to shake and the insides of your belly churn like butter. Still unsure as to whether you should sign up for your first race?
Here are 4 more things to look forward to on race-day:
* Swag (T-shirts, free samples, and couples make-up your Race-Kit. Pick it up a few days before you run and enjoy top quality – the days of 100% cotton are long over – T-shirts long after.)
* Food (Post-race goodies await! From chocolate milk and protein shakes to bananas and pretzels, each race is accompanied by a delicious assortment of food for every runner to enjoy.)
* Entertainment (Leave the ipod at home and breathe in the sights and sounds along the race course. From live music to crowds lining the streets cheering you on, there is never a dull moment when you’re counting kilometers, stopping for water, or encouraging a fellow competitor.)
* Community (After you’ve run, take a minute to breathe it all in. How often do you see a crowd so committed to doing something good for themselves and the community at large? Every time I run, I’m bewildered by humanity’s ability to create such a positive environment in a common effort to reach a shared goal.)
The final reason to join in the fun (and the run?) There’s no better feeling than kicking
off your weekend (or Sunday) having accomplished a personal goal and doing something good for yourself. Most runs start pretty early in the morning, so be prepared for an early wake-up and an afternoon spent walking (and maybe stretching) with your head held high!