Less than three weeks after finishing my first race, I’m already looking forward to the next one. I’m running up and down the streets at weird hours, skipping the fourth bratwurst, and working on a more graceful post-race collapse.
KDWB radio host and newspaper hoarder Dave Ryan is hosting his annual 5K/10K at the end of September, and you can bet your balls against a hand sander I’ll be showing up for it. It benefits the Special Olympics; so, if you even suspect you could finish a 5K (like a certain friend of mine), I’d suggest you sign up.
And, so you have one less excuse for not doing so, the rest of this sentence hyperlinks to the homepage. Since we’re on the subject of reference anyway, in case you don’t get the title, Haataja is pronounced “haw-dee-yah.”
If you’ve spoken to me since last month’s Run for Blood, you’d know I crushed my ultra-soft goal despite running it the way they would on Goof Troop. Having said that, am I really the person you want to ask for advice on running your first race? Absolutely! I can’t help you win the race, but my debut’s miscues are fresh on my mind.
I can’t offer much, but I can offer basic tips like …
Loading up on carbs the day before the race is key, I’m told, but there’s a difference between “loading up on carbs” and “knocking down a large mastaccioli from Mama’s and chasing it with two slices of Papa John’s.” Imagine running a race with a five-pound weight strapped to your fupa. That’s essentially what I did at Lake Calhoun last month. Don’t let your normal portions govern your pre-race meal, unless your normal portions are actually normal.
Showing up well before race time is key, to give yourself preparation time. Don’t prepare too hard, though – you won’t feel so prepared if you’re sprinting to the starting line because the race starts in two minutes. Take it from someone who knows: Breathing heavily with your hands on your knees is NOT how you want to start a race.
Are you a veteran long-distance runner looking to win the race? If so, start at the front. That’s where the competitive ones start. Are you NOT a veteran long-distance runner who is NOT a realistic threat to win the race? Don’t start at the front. Starting position is key, because, if you’re mingling with Ironman finishers and marathoners when the horn sounds, you’ll be driven (by something that’s definitely NOT common sense) to keep up with them and that won’t end well. You’ll blow your first wind, spend the first lap trying to hold down vomit, and spend much of the second lap praying you don’t finish last. Somebody is walking this race and pushing a stroller, dammit. You do NOT want to finish last.
Establishment of a pace is key because walking to catch your breath every 15 steps is a fast way to feel sheepish and impotent. If you mess this up early, don’t worry; if you’re anything like me, watching an elderly couple power-walk past you will wake you up instantly.
At checkpoints throughout the race, volunteers are kind enough to hand out water. Water is key, because it’s the greatest thing ever. Ya know what isn’t the greatest thing? Missing your mouth with the cup because you were trying to drink on the go. Your shirt isn’t thirsty. Take a slow step if you have to.
Finally, saving some gas in the tank for the finish line is key because many races hire photographers to snap finishing shots. Those pictures will inevitably wind up online, and you don’t want to be the guy holding his side and dragging his sad sack of a body over the stripe. This was the one thing I go right – I was FLY at the finish line. For about 15 seconds. Before I deflated.
Follow these tips, and you just might trick the field into passing you off as a runner. Don’t follow them, and you’ll have all the tools you need to write a great guide like this one! Meanwhile, your breathless, sweaty remains will tumble onto the street and make a great front-page photo for the next day’s paper.