1. Run the right race
Look for an event that's a moderate distance which you can be comfortable with, such as 9-15 kilometers. Look for an event that's well organised and easy to get to, because you may want to participate again in future. If you feel a little intimidated, sign up with a friend for added support and motivation.
2. Do your research
Scan the internet for information about your chosen event, and the distance you intend to cover. Ideally, aim for 8-12 weeks to train and prepare. Event websites often have a training schedule to follow, helpful articles on nutrition, and some even have a time lapse video of the course to let you see what you're in for.
3. Have a training plan
Map out a training schedule for the weeks and months leading up to the race. Each week, try to include:
- a long slow run;
- a shorter race pace run;
- a run that includes interval training;
- a cross training day (cycling, swimming, paddling)
Start out slowly, and build up your training gradually, increasing your speed or distance by about 5-10 percent each week.
4. Be kind to your body
Include rest and recovery days after longer runs or interval training. Wear good quality running shoes to minimise the impact on your joints, and stretch regularly to minimise your chances of injury. Drink plenty of water before during and after your training to prevent dehydration.
5. Focus on quality fuel
Carbohydrates are the priority fuel source for runners, especially slow release low glycaemic index foods such as beans, lentils, whole grains (pasta oats, brown rice, rye bread) and vegetables. Add a little lean protein (lean meat, eggs and low fat dairy products) for muscle repair, and healthy fats (olive oil, avocado and seafood) to provide energy and essential nutrients.
6. Get organised the night before
This is a good time to get all your equipment ready and organised. Lay out your clothes, socks and shoes the night before. Make sure everything you wear is road tested so you will be comfortable, and less likely to get blisters. You could also consider packing a race day bag with a change of clothes, towel, sports drink and a snack.
7. Have a race plan
Plan to arrive early and burn off any nervous energy with a good warm up, including 10 minutes of slow jogging and some stretching of your leg muscles. Begin at a modest speed, and pick up the pace as you feel comfortable. The goal is to have fun and cross the finish line.