How to choose your first running race

Entering your first ever running race can be overwhelming. Follow our top tips and choose the perfect event to cut your racing teeth on.

How to choose your first running race

New to running and ready to step up your game? If the time has come to take on your first race, you’re in the right place! But with so many events on the running calendar it can be difficult to know where to start. Follow our top tips and choose the perfect event for you.


If you’ve never entered a race before, parkrun is a great place to start. Completely free 5K timed events held every Saturday morning in parks across the country (and the world!) while parkrun is not a traditional running race, it is the ideal way to get the feel of running in a timed environment. As an added bonus, if you go every week it can also help you build on your speed. Visit parkrun for details.

Location is key

Your first race can be scary, exciting, daunting and everything in between, so it’s worth minimising the stress and making it as straightforward as possible. We recommend you book somewhere close to home for your first foray into racing, so find your local 5K or 10K to get you started before graduating to a major event.

Travel time, logistics and finding accommodation can all add to the stress of race day, and while it can also be a huge part of the fun, to ensure your first race goes without a hitch opt for the easy route. Then once you know what to expect, you can start to set your sights further afield!

Go the distance

As tempting as it may be to go in strong and enter a marathon, if you’ve only been running for a matter of months, it pays to ease yourself into racing. Start with a smaller distance running event before progressing to a half marathon and then beyond.

Long distance running is the most rewarding and life-affirming sport in the world, but it can also be hard going on a beginner runner, so take baby steps and work gradually towards the big miles. Doing too much too soon can lead to injury, so ease yourself in. The pay-off will be all the sweeter once you finally get there.

Crowd support

Never underestimate the power of a cheerful crowd lining the race route. If you’re brand new to running then the concept of simply running fast without stopping for walk breaks can be overwhelming, but a good crowd can work wonders for motivation. Choose a race well known for exceptional crowd support and let the cheers pull you across the finish line.

Alternatively, join the cheer squad and see what it's like from the other side! Read our reasons to cheer a race today

Choose your terrain

Trail running is heaven on earth and worth every second, but difficult terrain can be tricky to navigate if you’re a beginner. If you’re unfamiliar with hills or uneven terrain, enter a flat city run to start with. You can eventually graduate to the more complex and rewarding off-road events, but baby steps are best.

Check your pace

Gather as much information as you can about your race of choice and find one with an appropriate pace. For example, if you’re knocking out 10 minute miles, you might want to avoid a wild Scottish fell race until you’re accustomed to the running circuit. It's always good to have a goal in sight, so gradually work towards your intended pace and distance. You could be the next fell running champion in a couple of years!

The price is right

Race prices can vary dramatically depending on various factors, but before you write-off a local race for the price tag, consider your options. If it’s close to home it will save on travel so it will be worth it, and some of the dearer events come with great goody bags and cracking routes. 

A city race might be twice the price, but closing major roads can be expensive. However, viewing it as a unique opportunity to run on traffic-free roads in an amazing location will justify the expenditure. If you're lucky enough to live in the countryside, it's also worth supporting smaller local events as you'll be giving something back to the community.

Check the weather 

You can’t predict the weather, but it’s worth pay attention to the seasons. If you’re fair skinned or unaccustomed to running in hotter climes, entering the Marathon des Sables could put you off running for life - or worse! Choose an event in a season best suited to your needs and if you really must run in the Sahara Desert, gradually work your way towards it – and don’t forget to acclimatise!

Don't forget to train

Irrespective of the distance, it's vital to train for any running event. Ensure you up your mileage and speed gradually to avoid injury. Once you've selected your ideal race, choose one of our FREE training plans!

Have fun! 

Last but not least, don’t forget why you run in the first place. Unless you’re a pro athlete (in which case, stop reading this and get training) then chances are you’re doing this for fun! So opt for a race with a fun twist, such as Run for Champagne and start your love of running with a big smile on your face. You're one of us now, so bide your time and enjoy the ride! It won't be long until your first marathon and we'll be with you every step of the way.

To find the perfect race near you today, head over to our Events hub

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