Tips for your First Running Race

Race Season is here! This is pretty basic but if you are doing or thinking about doing your first race you may find something useful

.Ottawa 10K


Almost all races have pre-registration and the easiest way to register is on-line. Although there is often a processing fee for on-line registration.  If you are not comfortable with registering on-line there is usually somewhere you can register in person but be prepared to pay by cash or cheque if you plan to pay in person.

Although you can usually register for a race at the race or at the race-kit pick up here are a few good reasons why you should pre-register:

  1. Most races charge less for pre-registration.
  2. It is much easier for the organizers if they know in advance how many people to expect.
  3. Some races have limits on the number or entrants. If the race fills up before you register you are out of luck!
  4. T-shirts and other extras are often not available for late race entries.
  5.  Once you have registered you are committed to the race!

 Race Kit Pick-Up Q&A

Can I get someone else to pick up my race kit?

Although many races say you have to have a receipt or ID to pick up your race kit, picking up race kits for other people is common practise. If you have the full name, race distance and shirt size of each person you are picking up a kit for it is very unlikely you will have a problem. The exception to this rule is the really big races like the New York City or Boston Marathon where you have to present photo ID to pick up your race kit. As of 2014 you have to pick up your own race kit at the Boston Marathon.

The Ottawa Race Weekend does require you to have race numbers for each runner you are picking up kits for (there is a list on the wall so you can look them up) and they may make you sign for each kit you pick up which is not your own.

What is in a race kit?

It depends on the race but generally a kit will include your race number, your t-shirt (if the race has them), last minute instructions and any other giveaways which are included for the race. Your race kit may also include a timing chip. If it does, don’t lose it! Your chip is the one thing you really need on race day.


Can I just pick-up my race kit at the race?

Some times you can and sometimes you can’t. Check with the race organizers. If you care about getting a shirt or getting the right size it’s worth the trip to get your race kit before race day. Personally I prefer to have my race kit the day before so I don’t have to worry about it on race day.


 The #1 rule about preparing for a race is: Don’t try anything new race day or the night before.

DON’T eat anything you don’t normally eat.

DON’T race in the new shirt or shorts you bought at the expo.

DON’T take your first Rumba lesson (or whatever).

 What should I do to get ready the day before?

Get organized! Make sure everything you will need is packed and ready to go. This will include:

  1. The gear you plan to run in.
  2. Extra warm dry clothes for after the race. Once you stop running you will get cold quickly.
  3. Your race number. This should be pinned to the front of the top layer of clothing you plan to run the race in. Pin down all the corners so it does not fall off. You can also buy a race belt and put it on that. My preference as I hate making holes in my run clothes and it makes it easy to change your mind about how many layers you need at the last minute.
  4. Your timing chip, if one was included in the race kit. This should be attached to your shoe with the longest point pointing down. Most race kits include instructions about how chips should be attached. IMG_2154
  5. Many races now use bibs with the chip attached to the bib. In this case there will be a foam piece  on the back of the bib the chip is under it don’t take it off! If this is the case it is important to make sure you have your bib attached correctly.IMG_2152
  6. Most races will have a space on the back where you can fill out emergency information it is important to do that!
  7. A bottle of water and maybe a post race snack.
  8. Some ID just in case.

What should I eat before the race?

Eat what you would normally eat before you run. If you are a coffee drinker and you normally have a cup with in the morning there is no reason why you can’t have one on race day too.

Don’t eat anything really heavy too close to race time. You will regret it and it will not help you to run.

Race Day 101

 Most races start on time and hundreds of nervous runners=long lines for limited bathrooms so make sure you arrive with time to spare.


Most races these days are chip timed so if you did not get a chip with your race kit you may need to pick one up race day. If Sportstats is timing (they usually are) there will be a table or a tent somewhere (generally at the start). You show them your race number and they give you your chip. IF THE RACE IS CHIP TIMED AND YOU DO NOT HAVE A CHIP YOU WILL NOT GET A TIME.

If you plan to run hard and fast make sure you warm up and do some stretching before the race starts.

At some point before the race you will be encouraged by the race organizers to go to the start line. When you get there you should place yourself where you belong. If you do not plan to win the race or place in the top 25 you should not be standing at the front on the start line. If you do faster runners will run over you ( I am generally a nice person but I would run over you too). Slower runners start at the back and faster runners start further up, you will have time to catch up.

You may want to bring an extra layer or two that you don’t care about to the start. You should try and keep warm before the race starts but you should take off enough layers so you are a little cold before you start running (you will warm up). Gloves and hats are good because you can take them off as you run if you need to. I have also been known to start a race with a garbage bag on over my running clothes which I rip off once I warm up.

Although you want to stay warm before the race you should feel a little underdressed when you first start running. You will warm up soon enough. If it is hot wear a hat to help with the sun.

How much to drink and when to drink it? This is currently a topic of much conversation in the running world. This is what I think (others may disagree). Being well hydrated the day and morning before the race is a good idea but don’t go nuts. I stop drinking 30 minutes before a race because I find anything I drink that close to the start just goes right through me. During the race I drink when I am thirsty (this is a hotly contested issue, as some people will tell you that if you wait until you are thirsty it’s too late).

I would not bother to carry water in a race, that’s what water stops are for. One exception to that would be the 5k at Ottawa Race Weekend. There is a water stop but it can be VERY congested. You should be able to do the race without water but if it’s really hot and you really think you will need it you may want to carry water.

If it is really hot you may want to pour water over your head at the water stations. Staying wet will help you to stay cool. Before you pour check and make sure you have water not Gatorade! Gatorade is sticky and it stings when you get it in your eyes ( I speak from experience here).

Don’t start too fast. The best racing strategy is to have a negative split (chill for the first half and then pick it up in the second half).

If you are taking walking breaks do them along the side and in single file so you do not block the path of other runners.

Most importantly….Have FUN! And be proud because you did it!


Published by judyapiel

Runner, triathlete and coach. Owner of RunK2J, Community Events at Bushtukah. Always looking for a new travel adventure.

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