Race Etiquette

Every runner has had an awkward “First Race” experience. Here are some tips to make your entrance into the race scene a smooth one.


Every beginner’s first race is a special moment. There will be other running highs as you continue in the sport, but do your best to enjoy your first 5-K as much as you can.

You may feel out of place the first time you appear at a 5-K race. This is natural. It happens whenever we do something new and don’t understand the rules.

Rest assured that every other runner participating in the event has had a “First Race” experience. They didn’t know what to expect the first time they walked into a gym full of runners, but they learned fast. Here are a few tips:

OBTAIN AN ENTRY BLANK: Contact the race organizers to obtain a copy. Send a stamped-self-addressed return envelope. Read the entry blank carefully. It will contain important information about the time of the race, where registration is held and (hopefully) directions on how to get there. The more you know, the more comfortable you’ll feel at your first race.

ENTER EARLY: This is partly for motivational reasons. By mailing in your entry, you make a commitment to run that race. That’s very important if you’re a beginner. Your entering early simplifies registration both for you and race organizers, plus the entry fee often is less. Some races will acknowledge your entry; others will not.

PLAN WHAT TO BRING: Most runners like to plan what outfit to wear, including shoes. Lay your gear out the night before, so you don’t forget anything, especially not your race number. Plan for all kinds of weather. Most runners come dressed to run, but you might want to bring some extra clothes for post-race activities.

PIN YOUR NUMBER ON THE FRONT: In track meets, athletes often wear numbers on their backs; in road races, they wear numbers on the front. Bring a couple of extra safety pins to make sure you can secure your number on all four corners.

ARRIVE EARLY: Since this is your first race, you might as well enjoy the total experience and not feel rushed. Arrive at least 30-60 minutes before the scheduled race start. Allow time to pick up your number, warm up and visit the toilet. (The earlier you arrive, the shorter the lines you’ll encounter.) Watch what other runners do, and do the same. When everybody starts moving toward the starting line, that’s your cue too.

START IN BACK: Don’t make the mistake of starting near the front, otherwise you’ll spend the first mile watching everybody run past you. Start toward the back. People are cheerier in the middle of the pack, since their goal is usually only to finish, not run fast. You may lose some time crossing the starting line, particularly in big races, but time isn’t important to you in your first race–or shouldn’t be.

PACE YOURSELF: One reason for starting in back is to avoid running the first mile too fast, either because of enthusiasm or because faster runners pull you along. Once you cross the starting line, settle into your normal training pace–or run even slower. You’ll enjoy your first race more if you run comfortably and see what’s happening. Save personal records (known as PR’s, by the way) for later races.

Source: Runner’s World Magazine

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