Top 10 tips for your first 10km race

You have put in the training and now it’s time to reap the rewards with a 10km race

Mary Jennings: ‘Don’t compare yourself with other runners. You are running your own race. Your target is to reach your goal, not theirs. Photograph: Eric Luke

Mary Jennings: ‘Don’t compare yourself with other runners. You are running your own race. Your target is to reach your goal, not theirs. Photograph: Eric Luke


Your first 10km race is a big deal. It is important that you enjoy it, and appreciate what an achievement it is. Here are my top 10 tips for preparing for your first 10km run.

1. Be prepared: pack the night before Make a list of everything you need to bring, and set out everything you need the night before the race. Avoid any last-minute panics by being prepared, so you don’t have to think on race morning.
Here is a quick list of essentials: running shoes; socks; sports bra; underwear; watch; sun cream; change of clothes for afterwards; €20 for emergencies; mobile phone; inhaler (if required); hairclips; iPod (charged); hat (optional); water bottle; extra throwaway layer (for warm-up); black sack (as a throwaway rainproof for warm-up); race number and safety pins, or registration confirmation letter; race chip (if you got it by post); and blister plasters (just in case).

2. Dress for the occasion Wear whatever clothes you would normally wear when running. Don’t try anything new on the day, or you might suffer from chaffing, blisters, and so on. If the weather is cool, I recommend you bring an old jumper or fleece that you can wear and throw away at the start line. Also, if it is raining, bring a large black sack that you can wear over your body to avoid getting soaked. Once again, remove it just at the start.

3. Arrive early Give yourself plenty of time to prepare for the race. I recommend you arrive an hour before the start time. This gives you plenty of time to collect your race number, have toilet stops, do warm-ups and soak up the atmosphere. The last thing you want is to tire yourself out racing to the start line.

4. Plan your food and d
rink Have your normal breakfast at least two hours before the race. Most are run in the morning. Eat lightly on the morning of the race. You won’t be hungry when running, I promise. In the two days before your race, avoid alcohol, drink plenty of water and eat good healthy food. For a 10km, if you are well hydrated in the days leading up to the race, you should not need to drink lots of water on race morning. If you drink too close to the race, you will spend the warm-up time queuing for smelly portaloos. Avoid drinking and eating in the hour before the race starts.Good raceday breakfasts are porridge, or cereal with milk, or toast with a banana. Avoid too much caffeine on race morning too, as it may have you running to the toilet. Bring a bottle of water with you to the race, just in case. You can always drink it afterwards. 

5. Don’t panic There will always be people who are faster or stronger than you, or who look more athletic than you. Don’t compare yourself with them. You are running your own race. Your target is to reach your goal, not theirs. You have no idea how long they have been running. Take deep breaths, relax, enjoy the start-line atmosphere and keep calm. You are well prepared.

6. Pace yourself With all the excitement at the start line, many people get carried away with pace and start running too fast. If you start too fast, you will struggle towards the end. Learn to pace yourself from the start. It’s better to be overtaking people towards the end than to watch everyone running past you.If you start towards the back of the group, you are more likely to pace yourself from the start.

7. Bring some cheerleaders Having friends or family along the route can be a great motivator. Not only will they be able to mind your bags when you are running, but an encouraging cheer along the route will keep you smiling, positive and focused. Let your cheerleaders know what a big deal this race is for you, and be sure to give them a wave and smile as you run past them with your head held high.

8. Keep positive There may be times during the race when you feel like walking, quitting or crying. Try to remember all the effort you have put in to be here, and how easy it would be not to do this race. Picture yourself finishing the race strong and how you will feel when you cross the finish line. Slow down if you need to, catch your breath, refocus and remember what an achievement it will be to complete it. You can only do your best. Keep focused on your race.

9. Finish with a smile and a sprint As soon as you are about 200m from the finish line, put on your biggest smile, fix your posture, feel strong and keep your eye on the finish. Feel yourself being drawn towards that finish line. Picture yourself being as strong as you can and enjoy the cheers and clapping as you make your way up the finishing stretch. You will get a second wind, no matter how tough you have found the race.

10. Capture the moment: take a photo, write a diary, remember the day Congratulations:you did it. Now don’t forget what a big deal it is, and how you felt on the day. Ideally, write down everything about the day and store it away as a motivating read for your next race. In years to come, you will look back on that race with fond memories. If you can’t face writing your story, at least take a photo to help you remember the achievement. You have only one first 10km race, so make it one to remember.

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