What to Expect From Your First Race, and Why You Should Do It!!

Maybe you’ve been toying with the idea of signing up for a race for a while now or maybe it’s never entered your world of possibilities. Either way you should try it out! I was actually up late last night chatting with visiting family about racing. He didn’t get it and I was trying to convince him to try. A lot of what holds us back is the unknown so read on and that will be a lot less of an issue.


Last night I actually ended up making a case that for most people training for a 10k would likely end up being a life changing experiences. So read on for what to expect from your first running race then specific things to triathlons. Some are what you would expect others are surprising. I hope this is a pretty comprehensive list. Finally why it might change your life.

Running races

  1. Expect to pay, possibly dearly. Races cost money but are not always charitable the fancier, bigger and nicer the medal the more it costs. Since organizers want a good picture of the number of participants early the cost goes up as time goes on. If you want the best deal register only.
  2. You’ll agree to a pretty crazy waiver. In any case you can’t waive actions that are grossly negligent even if you sign.
  3. You’re going to obsess about your race for a long, long time. That’s expected but thinking about it constantly, that’s normal too.
  4. You’ll feel really guilty if you skip training runs. Don’t sweat skipping one every two weeks but try to get your long run in every week. If you’re skipping more than that try to make it more of a priority.
  5. Race day nerves, especially the first time, might. catch you by surprise.
  6. You might over dress. Even if you don’t mean to chances are you’ll be running a lot harder during your race than in training. Check out this site for what to wear and no matter how slow you are pick ‘race’ because for you it is!
  7. You’ll have a hard time sleeping the night before. That’s okay try to prioritize sleep that entire week so one late night and and early morning won’t matter that much.
  8. Your nerves will be rattled in the morning as if your going to start a new job. Yeah, it’s silly but it happens to everyone. You might not want to eat, feel like you’ve passed the need for coffee and your bladder or bum might be overactive. Just give yourself some extra time.
  9. You’ll be convinced you forgot something or your nerves will actually make it happen. Pack as much as possible the night before and lay everything else out.
  10. You’ll think everyone will be fitter than you but when you pull up and look around you’ll see all body types.
  11. Registering picking up your kit and figuring out where to go and stand will make you feel like a deer in the headlights. Ask someone if you’re stuck and consider picking up your race kit the day before to minimize stress if you can.
  12. Everyone will be really nice and helpful, if you’re by yourself someone you don’t know will probably talk to you.
  13. Chances are even of your not allowed earphones officially, you can probably still wear them. Take your cues from the crowd.
  14. You’ll line up stand in the cold for longer than you think. There might be a speech, recital of rules and course, led warm up session or delays and you’ll be miserable.
  15. A lot of people will pass you right away, it’s hard not to go out too strong and run out of steam later. Don’t worry about it you’ll pass some of them later.
  16. This can go either way, either you’ll gain confidence from having completed a training plan while your running or wish you had. Completing a training plan for your race is a good idea.
  17. You’ll likely go faster than you thought.
  18. No matter how long the race is you’ll feel amazing after, this is due to dopamine. This is how your body says thank you.
  19. The post race bit is kinda underwhelming and anticlimactic. Grab a water bottle and head to the car


Back in the day almost 15 years ago I did pretty intense mountain biking races and I was in it to win it, well sort of. I was competitive but so was everyone else so I never actually won… Then I got hit with a 1/4 scale gas race car, got 7 stitches and signed up for a sprint triathlon on a whim.  You can read all about that in this post. But overall it made me realize that just participating and competing with yourself was more than enough and totally fun!

Triathlon specific stuff

But.. a lot of the running stuff applies too.

  1. Literally everyone has a $5000 bike and a full wetsuit but you really don’t need one to do well.
  2. The chip goes on your ankle, they mark your arm with your number and the bib has to be on the front of what you run in. Plus you’ll get a tag for the seat post of your bike.
  3. Triathletes are super serious. Expect to hear about their tri club, their twice a day training schedules and how they plan to fuel, like a lot.
  4. But they are just as nice and helpful as runners just way more intense.
  5. The bike racks will be crowded and confusing but someone will help you if you’re stuck. Take note of where you’re parked but use a tree or something since the other bike might be gone at transition time.
  6. There are a lot of rules so that pre race-speech can be long. But you should listen carefully. Unlike running races these have to be followed or you’ll be disqualified.
  7. Even though the cardinal rule of the triathlon swim is stay back and avoid the crowd to avoid things like getting kicked on the face and panicking. NO ONE will do this they will all dive in at the same time even the really, really slow ones. You should resist the urge and stay back if it’s your first race even if you’re fast. You can pass once the crowd thins in like 15 seconds.
  8. Transitions seem like they will be stressful before the race but in reality you just get them done. Plus there are a tonne of officials in the transition area who will yell at you if you are about to break a rule.
  9. Expect to hear on your left a lot while your on the bike but its also customary to shout something encouraging as you pass.
  10. You’re legs will feel terrible when you get off the bike to run, we call it bricks. It will pass and you will get your run done.
  11. You won’t be last for all that intensity from others. Just like running races times run the gambit from crazy fast to crazy slow, you’ll probably be somewhere in the middle. (I decided to do my first sprint 6 days before, didn’t train, rode a mountain bike and still didn’t finish last.)
  12. You might not get a medal though, sad face, it’s not tradition in triathlons give medals. If there is an online petition to change this PLEASE let me know!
  13. But the treat table will probably kick ass! Pizza, beer, cookies and chocolate milk are just a few of the standard elements. Dig in you earned it! But if you go for beer make sure you eat too!
  14. Ummm… how do I say this delicately you’re going to talk about that time you did a triathlon a lot and for a long time after. It’s okay we get it, if I see you at a party find me, I’m into rehashing it with you.
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first race back!

How could running a race change your life

So I stayed up late this week trying to explain running races you’re not going to win to Richard’s brother. It turns out he was teasing me, I did not pick up on that at the time and had to be told after the fact. PS sometimes you have to tell me you’re having a laugh at my expense, I think this is an okay+ quality personally. He’s in the military and is supposedly super tough. They can be asked to run 5 and 10 k’s at any time as part of physical training, though I suspect that doesn’t happen a lot more then semi-annually. Anyway… this is the case that I made. A lot of the later stuff applies too even if your a regular but non racing runner.

I would argue that  your average 35 year old can’t run a whole or even half km without stopping. When I started I couldn’t run from lamppost to lamppost. Say this person decided to run and train for a 10k (or even 5K). They would ideally do a 6 week walk to run and a 10 week 10k program. A little googling is really likely to lead them in this direction. That’s 16 weeks of dedicated training or about 4 moths. I think that would have the potential to change most people’s lives for a whole lot of reasons:

  1. It establishes a regular fitness regime
  2. All that running will make you feel amazing.
  3. Your body will change and look so much better. You’ll get stronger.
  4. Your sleep patterns and quality will improve.
  5. Your body will consistently do things you never felt possible.
  6. Your mood will likely improve and this can have positive accents on your relationships.
  7. You’re overall health and energy levels will improve.
  8. Working toward a long term goal and achieving it releases a lot of dopamine and makes you feel amazing and powerful.
  9. Lining up for a big race is exhilarating and exciting and quite nerve wracking the first time. Being afraid and doing something anyway is empowering.
  10. The sense of accomplishment leads you to continuing and continues to improve your life.
  11. Plus now you have an interesting hobby you’re passionate about and that makes you a better person.

Did your first race change your life? How far could you run without stopping when you first started? Have I forgotten any first race experiences?

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