Ready, set, run your first race!

Thinking about setting a running goal or entering your first race this spring? There’s no better event to target your goal than the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend.

Canada’s largest running weekend takes place this year on May 28 and 29 – which means you can welcome spring by getting out and getting fit, and then bookend all that training with a celebratory and celebrated run through some of the National Capital Region’s most scenic areas, just as summer starts rolling into the city.

Signing up for a race in advance of Race Weekend is a great way to help make running goals a reality.  

“Committing to a race definitely keeps you motivated, especially through the colder months,” says Phil Marsh, longtime runner, and Regional Manager of Running Room Canada.

For first-time runners, another key to success is: Don’t take on too much, too soon. As with everything, the key to a successful and lasting running career is to go at the right pace.

According to Marsh, most first-time racers should target a conversation pace – one that lets you comfortably chat with your running buddy – during both training and racing.

“If you finish the race feeling like you could have done more, you’ll probably come back for another race,” says Marsh. “If you don’t finish because you went too hard or you didn’t enjoy it, or you finish but feel awful or you pull a muscle, you’re going to look at running and decide it’s too hard to race again.”

Pick a group, stick with a group

Of course, there’s more to training than just striding for a conversational running pace.

You can find plenty of sources online that offer advice for first-time racers. But one of the best ways to make sure you’re going about it the right way – and staying accountable – is to join a recognized running group that follows a gradual training program.

From a physiological perspective, a sensible training plan will help you minimize the risk of injury. And there’s also the psychological side to consider.

“Training with a group helps get you out there,” says Marsh. “We’re getting warmer weather right now, but on those mornings when it’s minus 20 or minus 30 and you’re not keen on getting out there, if you’ve got a couple of buddies already on their way to meet you at 8am, you put your running stuff on and you go to meet them.”

One tried and true route that thousands of runners have taken to meet their running goals is to sign up for a training program with the Running Room. Their programs start up mid-March, offering an ideal 10-week lead-up to Race Weekend.

There is also Run Ottawa and other local running groups, that can help you prepare for your first race while getting to know other running enthusiasts of all speeds.

Whichever group you join, the key is that you get out there and do it.

“Race Weekend is an incredible event,” says Marsh. “It gives you the chance to step onto the same course as some of the fastest runners in the world and to appreciate what they’re doing, and the crowds and the excitement. But it also lets you feel like you’re part of that bigger picture and the bigger running community without all the pressure (of being an elite runner).”

The Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend has become Canada’s biggest weekend running event for good reason: it welcomes every type and level of runner, from those doing their first 5K to Canadian Olympians. Everyone is welcome and cheered along with equal enthusiasm.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be posting other articles about how to train and get ready for your first race, so you feel comfortable and confident on race day. Let’s go!