How To Choose Your First Race

How To Choose Your First Race

So you’ve made running part of your routine, you’re starting to see the benefits (both physically and mentally) and you’re enjoying the challenge it gives you.

This might be enough for you.

But if you enjoy running for a reason then you might want to consider entering an event to give you a new challenge.

The idea of running in an organised race can be intimidating if you have never done one before.

If you have only ever seen organised athletics on TV then you will likely have the perception that you need to be fast, of athletic build, and in the “right” attire.

Most running events are for anyone, you don’t need to aspire to win, you don’t need to be decked out entirely in Nike and you can be any shape or size.

Here are some things to look out for when looking for your first event:


For your first event you might want to start close to home. By removing travel, overnight stays, unfamiliar territory etc you are setting yourself up to a great start. The bonuses of running an event within an hour or so of your home are:

  • You can train on the course (if it is publicised), this will give you greater confidence for race day, as you will know what to expect.
  • You can sleep in your own bed, this means you are likely to have a better night’s sleep than if you are staying in a motel.
  • You can eat at home and reduce any likelihood of gastro-intestinal distress on race day.
  • You will know where to park on race morning and know how much time you will need to get there.


The distance of your first run might be dictated by what you know you can already achieve, or you might set yourself a goal to be able to run further.

What distance you choose for your first event is entirely up to you. You might be able to run 3km comfortably and a 5km is a big enough leap for you. You might be able to run 10km and your first organised event is a 5km.

Don’t feel pressured to run a race distance you are not comfortable with.

Race cut-off

Some events have a cut-off time, choose an event that either has no cut-off time advertised, or has a cut-off time that you know you can make.

You don’t want to be stressing during the event as to whether you are going to be allowed to finish it or not.

Previous results

If you are worried about being last, or whether you will be pulled from the course, you can check results from previous years to see what the slowest finish time was. This can work in two ways:

You can start worrying about being last, this worry can lead to a “why am I bothering” attitude and in turn you won’t train or enter the event.

Or it can encourage you to train smarter so you will not be last. (There’s no shame in being last either and for many events this is where the fun is at).

The course

Most events have a course description. Look for words such as undulating, hilly, challenging, as these will give you a clue as to how hard the event might be.

Different people prefer different kinds of course.

Most courses fit into one of these categories:

  • Out and back – where you run to a point, turn around and come back the same way. These courses allow you to see faster runners on their way back and the people behind you once you have turned around.
  • A loop – where you start and finish at the same point but you run in a loop, such as Rotorua Marathon where you run around the lake. You never see the faster runners and you don’t know who is behind you.
  • Point to point – where you start in one place and finish in another. Like a loop course you are all running in the same direction and you don’t see many of the field once you have started.
  • Some events are a composite of these, such as the Auckland Marathon, which is a point to point with an out and back section.

If you have already run a race before please add in the comments below what that race was and what you thought of it.

If you are yet to run in an organised event please comment what you think your first race might be.


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