How to look like a rookie at your first race

Those of us that have been running awhile, can spot it in a minute. The person that stands out in the crowd. All decked out in the matchy-matchy outfit, brand new shoes, compression socks (that match of course) numerous GPS devices on your arm which may include a heart monitor, fuel belt complete with the water bottles. (Some people even match these to their outfits!) Colored shoelaces, matching hat, the list goes on and on..

(But hey, its ok to look nice and wear sweet gear, just don’t go overboard! If you are on a racing team, and have specific colors, that’s one thing. Basically don’t make a spectacle of yourself, but be comfortable.) 

My point for mentioning all of this?

Do you NEED all this stuff to run? Especially for your first 5K race?

I say no!  What you need are just the basics. As time goes by, and you become a more conditioned runner, you will decide for yourself, what you truly can’t live without on a run.  You’ve been training for that first race. You started out at just a plod, then it became a jog, then soon you felt like you were actually running.  (Not leaving out the run/walkers, I consider those to be runners also!) You are all excited about that first 5K race and want to do some serious shopping.  I say, hold on!….


The major thing that you have to have before you do ANY running is the proper footwear and I can’t stress that enough! Do not be tempted to buy shoes on sale because of the price or the color. Pick a day when you can find your nearest running store, and go get fitted. When I say  ‘running store’ I don’t mean your local big box sporting goods store or a shoe store at the mall. If you want to get the correct shoe that fits your foot and your natural stride, you go somewhere that will watch you walk barefoot and will film you running on a treadmill. They will give you some options for shoes that would fit your natural gait and stride, and then will let you go run around the block in them. For Mainers, Fleet feet sports in Brunswick or Portland is a good bet.


For shorts, don’t be wearing basketball shorts that go down to your knees. That’s a sure fire way to stand out like a rookie. Running shorts come in 2″ to 7″, with most people of average build preferring the 3-5″ range inseam. I wear a 5″, but because my legs are heavy, and my shorts ride up, I wear Under Armour compression shorts underneath and then I have no issues with riding or skin chafing. Besides, mens basketball shorts are heavy.. and that’s the last thing you want slapping against your legs when they are full of sweat while you are out running.


You can go to a sports store or anywhere that sells running items, and get a good drywicking shirt. All of the running brands make them. Try it on and make sure it’s not too tight on your skin, or it may chafe. Don’t wear today’s race shirt for the race! Now I know a bunch of people do that, but I just shake my head at them, and think ‘rookie”.


Hats are ok, if you prefer one. Some people wear trucker hats, some beanies, a lot of people, mostly women, find wicking headbands. Having sweat run into your eyes is not a fun experience. Especially if you wear contact lenses.


A few helpful hints:

  •  If it’s your first race, stick to the outside lane, and hang back a bit. Let the faster runners go ahead of you. They are more into chasing a PR (personal record) than you need to be.
  • If you need to walk, do step to the outside and let people pass. Don’t stop dead in the middle of the road and have people stopping short behind you. It is like slamming on your brakes in the middle of the highway just because you feel like stopping.
  • When you approach the water stop, don’t stop at the first water cup you see and then drink. Many are coming behind you and it’s a major PIA to have to go around you. Again, many people dont stop completely, but only slow down, if they are trying to PR. It’s best to go towards the end of the water line, grab a cup and step to the side. Be courteous and put your cup in the trash if you aren’t in a big hurry. It takes the volunteers a long time to pick up after us.


There are many, many more do’s and don’ts of running. Feel free to add yours in the comments!


The more we share with each other, the more we learn!

Note: this post was not meant to be rude or demeaning to beginner runners. It’s just me laughing at myself, as I did some of these things and then was told about them later on. Then, I was embarrassed!


One response to “How to look like a rookie at your first race”

  1. Mark B says:

    I also wear a visor… Sunglasses to block the glare EXCEPT on single-track trails..Keep you tunes down.. I don’t need to listen to your “music”.