by John Stanton
If you’re intimidated by the idea of entering a race, don’t be. Race weekends are designed to offer something for everyone: runners and walkers, young and old, beginner and experienced, elite and back-of-the-pack.
Registering for a race will boost your motivation and provide you with a tangible, time-sensitive goal. Your training runs will have a renewed sense of purpose. Racing improves your form and helps you learn to run more efficiently in an uncomfortable zone. Think of it as speed work in disguise!
Racing is also a social experience, as runners cheer each other on and celebrate personal bests. Many friendships develop during and after a race as runners reflect on their shared experiences. The energy of the crowd and the adrenaline of the moment will help you run faster, and you won’t even realize it. Racing improves your self-esteem, since crossing the finish line brings well-deserved feelings of pride and accomplishment.
Many races have a community-building or fundraising component. Consider seeking out an event that supports a charitable organization or initiative that is important to you. You may also choose to run in honour of someone affected by the cause, which can make the race more personal and meaningful.
If you’re a racing rookie wondering which distance is right for you, here is an overview:
A 5K race (3.1 miles) is a great entry-level race for novice runners, or for seasoned runners returning to racing after a cold winter of training. Often, 5K races have fun themes and a spirited atmosphere. For this distance, post-race recovery should only take a few days.
A 10K (6.2 miles) is a more challenging distance with a higher level of intensity. It requires some serious training, so prepare properly by following a structured training program. You will also need some easy days of tapering prior to the race.
A half marathon (21.1K or 13.1 miles) is a great distance: you get the same t-shirt and finisher’s medal as the marathon, but you’ll recover twice as fast afterwards. Again, this type of distance requires a long-term training plan that increases gradually. I recommend that runners follow the “10-and-1” system (run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute) during half marathon training.
For some runners, completing a full marathon (42.2K or 26.2 miles) is a “bucket list” item. Obviously, an event of this magnitude is something you must work up to. If you have successfully completed races in the shorter distances described above and are ready for more, training for a marathon
might be the next step.
To help you prepare for your chosen event, Running Room offers in-store and online training programs at all distances. An enthusiastic instructor will guide you through the process, and you’ll complete group runs with others who are dedicating themselves to a similar goal. For more information, visit our Training Programs page.
John Stanton is the President and Founder of the Running Room. He is the author of 10 books about running, walking and family fitness.