Frequently Asked Questions: Road Races


I have never run in a Road Race. What should I consider in picking my first race?

Once you run in one, you will run in another. Most races are a great way to re-energize your training. It is tough to just train and train without a goal in site. So first, before we answer your question, we want to encourage you to follow through - make the plunge and enter a race.

There are basically seven things to consider:

Distance - your first race should probably be a 5K. This distance is long enough to let you get into a rhythm and long enough so that you will get feedback as to where you are in your training. Having said this, don't get stuck on one distance. As your training progresses, we encourage you to enter a 10K on down the road. This distance is one of the most popular.

Size of Race - Pick a race that is large enough that you will have fun. Most road races take on a personality. Talk with other runners, they know which ones are fun. Also, you will find that the larger races have more spectators which, regardless of your temperment, can improve your performance. Having said this, if you pick a race too large, and too social, you may get frustrated that there are so many runners/walkers that you cannot get into a decent pace for a mile or so. So, find a happy medium.

Cost - depending on the race, the cause it supports (many races benefit a group or cause like fighting cancer or diabetes) and other factors, you can expect to pay between $5 and $25. If you pay over $15, you will typically get a T-shirt, which is a nice little perk. If you pay only $5, basically that race is exactly that. a road race - you should not expect much more than people to start the race, make sure the course is secure/safe and your time is recoded.

Location - pick one that is easy to get to. Having said that, at some point if you hook up with a group, it can be fun to travel to various cities with friends, spend the night and run through the city. It can be a great way to experience a little of what that city has to offer. Richmond , Williamsburg , Ocean City , Philadelphia , Pittsburgh (the Great Race), Atlanta (the Peachtree Road Race on July 4 th ) are all great cities and they host great races.

Time of Year - for your first race, try to pick a race that is not in a time of year when it will either be too hot or too cold. you will enjoy it more.

Race Course - There are some races (like the Cobb Classic) that are billed as very difficult. "enter if you dare." Needless to say, take it on. when you are ready, but again, for your first race, pick one that has an over-all relatively flat or even down hill. The Shamrock 5K in Baltimore is a perfect example of a race of this nature.

Amenities - Lastly, most race organizers will tell you what they offer runners on the entry form. Try to discern if the race is well organized and supported: will there be bathrooms at the start/finish, does the finish put you back close to the start - and if not, do the organizers assist runners in getting back to the start area (where your car is most likely parked), are there door prizes, some people pick the race based on how cool the T-shirt is.

It is a little self-serving to say so, but here goes - our own Labor Day Rogue Race is a good first Road Race for the beginner. It is 5K, offers a little bit of a challenge, provides all the amenities is during a great time of year temperature-wise and is close by. put it on your calendar and work towards it.

Are all road races electronically timed with chips? And how do the chips work?

No. But the number of road races utilizing chips to record times is becoming more prevalent.

Typically, the organizers will give you a chip in your race packet with your bib number. There are several types: there is one you simply use your shoe laces to hold it on your shoe; another which uses Velcro to hold it below your calve on your leg.

Regardless of the type, be sure the chip is relatively close to the ground so that the timer pad will register your time. There are typically pads at the start and finish. be sure to cross those pads. At the start of some races, participants will hop up on a sidewalk to get past the mob in front of them. This is fine, provided you cross the electronic pad at the start.

What does someone mean by Packet Pick-up?

Most races provide race participants with a bag of loot. It most likely includes your Race Bib, a few safety pins to pin your bib to your shirt and a few other give-a-ways (a power bar, a coupon for a discount at a local running store, etc.).

Typically, race organizers will allow you to pick up your packet the day before the race or the morning of the race. I prefer to pick my packet up the day before just to avoid the potential pre-race hustle and bustle.

Where do I pin my Bib?

Some of this is preference. You should certainly pin the bib on the front of your shirt so that the timers and photographers (if there are some) can identify you. Some people prefer to run with their shirts tucked in and pin their bib higher on their chest. I typically run with my shirt tail out and pin my bib a little lower so that it does not interfere with my arm movement.

What happens at the finish?

Races vary, but most utilize a chute at the finish. That is to say you cross the finish line and then slow to a trot. You will walk down a finish chute. There may be someone in that chute removing a portion of your bib. In races where electronic chips are used, this is the back-up system for determining how you placed in the race. In races not using an electronic chip, this is the primary way they determine the order of the finishers. moving past other runners while in the chute is not simply bad form and impolite, it may cause a disturbance - you would not like it if someone moved past you.

Is it Okay to walk?

Absolutely, just don't come to a complete stop, or you might get run over. Pull to the side so that other runners can past. Also, if you are going to run with a friend and know that you will probably walk, do not line up near the front at the start. Move towards the back. As you get better and your times drop, you will get frustrated with runners who impede your progress. So, be polite to other participants and expect the same in return.

Can I run with a water Bottle?

Yes, and if the distance and temperature warrant it, you may want to do it - particularly if the race organizers do not provide a water/aid station along the race route.

I have run in several races and always seem to go out too fast. How do I set my pace better?

There are several ways you can try to do this, and none work for everybody. You could line up farther back in the race then you would typically start. Sometimes this will force you to start off slower because of the other runners. This approach may work sometimes, but this may also fire you up. You may find yourself passing people and getting a little adrenalin rush that makes you run even faster. Another approach that can be very effective is identifying somebody in the race you have raced before and know you can beat, or someone you feel you can beat. Start the race a little behind that person, and stay patient, don't pass them early. Pending the length of the race will determine when you might want to take over. Play around with this, and after awhile your body will tell you when it's ready to go.

I have identified a race that I would like to train for. How can ERR help me?

First, we can help you get ready. Come to our training runs and we will do everything we can to make training for your race more enjoyable.

Secondly, we may be able to find a group of our members who are interested in running in the race too. This can also simplify transportation to and from the race.

I run a pretty good bit and my youngest child keeps asking me if they can run with me. I feel guilty when I say not today - and when I say "Yes" my workout suffers. Do you have any suggestions?

Yes, Enter a fun run and let them warm up and warm down with you.

By letting them warm up and warm down with you, it will make this necessary part of your training more enjoyable, it will ensure that you do it (let's face it, it is easy NOT to warm down), and it will let your children participate with you in something you enjoy. Then, pick a fun run, tell them that you have entered it as a family and make it a big deal. They will have a blast. and in a few years. you will have a running partner who has younger legs and will be pushing you to run faster and longer.