Keeping That Running Resolution

by : Jeremy Johnson

Is your new year's resolution to get in shape? Have you decided to become a runner? Is your enthusiasm lagging already? One thing that might give you the boost you need is a little competition. Getting out early one Saturday in the cool air and completing a race with several hundred people doing the same thing you are could give you the motivation you need to keep going.

You can find local upcoming races by searching the internet, keeping an eye on your local paper, or checking with the rec center in your area. Registration is generally done through a local sports store, the rec center, or online. The race will cost anywhere from $15 and up (bigger events that require more planning, special equipment, or are complex in nature like a triathlon can cost $75 or more). Your fee generally covers a t-shirt, an aid station (water and gatorade along the way) and snacks at the finish line. Keep in mind, the more you pay, the better the shirt and the grub, so it's a trade off.

Wondering if you can go the distance in a race? A 5K (3.1 miles) is usually the shortest road race out there, but occasionally you can find a fun run of a mile or so. If you are a new runner and don't think you can run the whole 3.1 miles, don't worry--there will be plenty of people out there walking part of the way or the whole way.

If you have a month or so before your race, it's a good idea to find a training program to follow which will improve your fitness and give you the confidence to go the distance. You can find training regimens for your fitness level online (search "5K training plan") or through your gym or rec center. Don't try to win the race your first time. Training too hard will burn you out mentally and could very likely lead to an injury. Take it easy in preparing for and running your first race; it will be more enjoyable, and you will be more likely to stick with your program.

The week before the race should be easier in terms of mileage and intensity. If you have been following a regimen, you will find that week quite easy compared with some you did in the late middle of your training. This is to rest your body and get it ready for the rigors of a race.

A day or two before the race, make sure you are getting enough sleep and enough water to prepare your body. You may find it's hard to sleep the night before the race, but don't worry about that; it's the night before the night before the race that is really important to your race day performance.

The morning of the race, eat something light and quick (a banana or a piece of toast), and have a small glass of juice. Don't drink too much water within two hours of race time, but in that last half hour before the race, drink all you want.

Make sure to wear plenty of layers; keep warm before the race and warm up by walking or jogging a few hundred yards. You may want to lighten your load before the gun goes off though, because you don't want to have extra layers causing you to sweat and lose precious moisture during the race.

Once the gun does go off, take off slowly. There will be plenty of runners who take off to be at the front of the pack, but, as a first time runner, you will want to hold back and remember 3 miles is plenty of distance to catch everyone you are going to catch. Take it easy, and enjoy the experience. if you're really going to stick with this running thing, there will be plenty of time to work up to winning races.

Finally, remember that no matter what place you come in, just finishing your first road race is a great accomplishment. Be proud of yourself! Wear your t-shirt whenever you want, and use this experience as a great motivational tool for all those runs you'll be doing without the gun, the crowds, or the aid stations along the way!