What to Expect at your FIRST RACE!

Congratulations! You’ve trained, signed up, and now it’s race week! If it’s your first ever official race, here are few things you can expect leading up to crossing the start and finish line:

Photo by  billy lee  on  Unsplash

Photo by billy lee on Unsplash

Packet Pickup

In order to have an official recorded time, you’ll need a race bib and timing chip. The bib is the paper with the big number on it that you will attach to your shirt on the day of the race. Most race bibs have a small timing chip on the back that will activate when you cross the start line and record your finish time at the end of the race. You will get your bib (and your t-shirt/goodies, if your race includes them) at packet pickup. Most races will send out an email the week of the race to inform you of your bib number. Once you get to the packet pickup location, you will need your bib number and sometimes an ID to get your bib from the race volunteer. Be sure to get four safety pins to affix your bib to your shirt the day of the race!

Start Line

Depending on the length of your race, you may be assigned to a starting corral. These corrals have been designed to keep the flow of the start line organized, with faster runners in the first corrals and slower runners/walkers in the last corrals. If you are not assigned to a corral, a general rule to follow at the start line is to move towards the back if you know you are a slower runner/walker to allow the faster runners to get out ahead of you.

Finding a pace

The start of a race is generally the most congested portion. Be cautious of the runners around you and alert to those passing you. After the first half mile or so, things will be less chaotic as each runner settles into his or her pace.

Along the Route

Enjoy the scenery, high five the spectators, laugh at the signs, enjoy any live music you hear, and wave at the neighbors who have come out to see the crazy people out running for fun.

Take advantage of the water stops, especially if you have not brought your own water. And please say “thank you” to the volunteers! They help the race run smoothly and make sure the race route gets back to it’s clean and normal condition after the race.

Finish Line

You did it! Walk through the designated area and get your medal and foil blanket (which are generally only given at longer races, but they are great because you will get cold) snacks, drinks, etc. This is a perfect time for pictures and celebrating with anyone who came to watch you cross the finish line.

Don’t forget to stretch and hydrate! It may be the last thing you want to do after celebrating a big race but you will need to take care of you body just like you do after any training run.


What advice would you give to a runner preparing for her first race?


Sarah is a cradle Catholic, certified athletic trainer, and proud Purdue alum. During her time at Purdue, she ran her first 5k with a friend and got hooked on running. She currently lives near Louisville and enjoys the variety of road races in the Kentuckiana area, her favorite being the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon (hello, free bourbon!). When she isn’t busy covering high school games or training for her next race, she teaches the confirmation class at her church and adds new adventures to her to-do list.