Whether you’re new to running or you’ve been running for several years, everyone can relate to that first race you settle on. There’s lots to consider. Trail or road? Maybe a mixture of both? Distance? Location? Do I get a medal? Am I ready?
My first race was the Arundel 10k in West Sussex, a rather stunning trail route that winds around the grounds of Arundel Castle and drops down a valley, only for you to tear back up the hills again. I can still remember the pre-race nerves (I still get them at every event without fail), I recall the other runners completing their final kit checks and stretching calmly as if they were about to go shopping. It was summer and I had already regretted the short sleeve running top to go with my shorts. Most of the professional runners were in vests. It was already warm. At least I had my trusty Inov_8 trail shoes. I remember the countdown as I walked towards the starting line like a condemned person. Had I prepared enough? Was I crazy jumping straight into a trail route and not a flat road? I tried to push all these worries out of my head as we started. I took my time. Dozens of runners tore past me but I didn’t care. I stuck in my earphones, cranked up the tunes on my favourite playlist and began to enjoy myself. I found the more I tuned into where my feet were going and focusing on my breathing, I began to settle into the run on the first technical uphill section. I began to overtake people. People who had breezed past me at ease. People who were now walking and struggling with the hills. I found all my trail running training kick in. All those runs I had practically cried in frustration and swore blind I had made no progress. The sun bore down and although I was sweating like you wouldn’t believe, I was in my element. At the top of the Southdowns I got my first big reward of the race, a stunning view down the valley. It was breathtaking and I forgot about how my feet were hurting.
I can’t remember my finish time but I recall not caring as I felt so proud to be crossing the finish line and being handed my first medal. It was the start of an addiction. The feeling you get when you complete your first run is incredible. I went home researching what I’d sign up for next. Whatever you decide, just enjoy it. First decide on your distance and type. If you’re not ready to do a trail route, try a road race. I personally only enter road races no more than 10 miles long because I miss the trails too much and I find things start to ache, whereas on the trails I can run for much longer. But that’s just my preference. Either way when you sign up for that race and begin your training you will be at the starting line with plenty of others also just beginning their own journies. They may seem calm and reserved but just maybe inside there’s a new runner waiting just like I was. In some ways I still am. Every race I enter is a new and exciting part of my running journal. Give it a go and share your experiences with others.