Whether you’re brand new to running or have been lacing up for 10-milers every Saturday morning for years, registering for a race is a fail-safe way to invigorate your miles.
“A race does not necessarily have to be for someone who’s competitive,” says former pro runner Julia Lucas, who’s now the head coach for Nike+ Run Club NYC. “Having the goal of a race in the future helps to focus training and give every day a purpose.”
But running at race pace too soon is the perfect set-up for injury, which is why you should be sure you’re ready—even before kicking off a training plan. To help, Lucas breaks down what to consider before signing up for the most popular race levels, from 5K to 26.2.
Keep reading for tips on making sure you’re ready for race day—no matter how far you’re running.
First off, if it’s your first race, don’t skip the most basic step: a routine physical, Lucas advises. Then, if your health is MD-approved, make sure you’re at least eight weeks out from the race if you want to have a truly productive training plan.
Then, the key thing to evaluate is this: “I would want the athlete to be able to run half the distance without too much intimidation,” Lucas says. “It doesn’t have to be easy, but you should be able to run it in a way that does not inspire dread.”
10K, 15K, Half-Marathon
If you’re looking to move up to something a little more advanced, use the same measure as with the 5K, making sure you can confidently run half the distance of the upcoming race.
At this level, Lucas says it’s also important to consider the training commitment. “I would want an athlete to have time to train three to five days a week—three minimum,” she says.
Running 26.2 miles is no simple task, and it’s at this level that readiness is crucial. “It’s the one race where there’s a hard line,” Lucas says. In addition to meeting all of the criteria for the previously mentioned races, she notes that “an athlete should have completed a half-marathon or similar distance, like a 15K or 20K.” And before you sign up for one, she emphasizes that you should also have at least “six months of running regularly in the bank.” In other words, lace up those sneakers now!
Another thing to consider before working towards crossing a finish line? Your shoes! Find out the most important factor when buying running shoes And if the weather is forcing you indoors, here are five hacks for crushing your next treadmill workout.