With earbuds in place and cross-training sneakers laced, more than 30,000 participants will converge onto Richmond's Monument Avenue April 9 for the annual Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10K, a racing tradition unlike any other. The question is: Will you be one of them?
Whether it's in the Olympics that happen once every four years or the thousands of marathons that are held around the country annually, there's something inspirational about a race. Being the largest race in Virginia, the 6.2-mile journey is open to everyone, regardless of skill level. However, for many, it has the potential to be their first step in a long line of races, advancing on to a half-marathon, and perhaps eventually a full-on 26.2-miler.
As with anything, though, getting into running as a pastime requires the right mindset and expectations. If the Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10K will be your first road race, and you foresee it being the start of a beautiful friendship between you and your running shoes – here are a few pointers to keep in mind so your first race doesn't wind up being your last:
Don't get ahead of yourself
High expectations can be motivating, but at the same time, they can also set you up for disappointment if you let them run wild. If this road race is one of your firsts, keep your hopes in check by listening to your body. If you overexert yourself, the unpleasant experience could make you dread your next run. In short, when you feel winded, slow down your pace. It takes the body awhile to get accustomed to new routines.
Purchase a reliable pair of running shoes
Like a master chef or a contemporary artist, tools are crucial to one's craft. The same goes for running. The constant pounding of the ground takes a toll on the knees and legs, especially for someone who is in the beginning stages. Before buying a pair of running shoes, talk with your friends to see what brand they use. Also, you may want to seek out a retailer that specializes in fitting runners with the right sneaker. This helps determine how your feet naturally land when they hit the ground, which running regulars refer to as pronation.
Get motivated through music
Some prefer the rhythm of their breathing and pitter-patter of their feet as they hit the street, but if you're like most people, music is a key part of running that can make it more enjoyable. In fact, according to a poll done by electronics company SOL Republic, nearly 66% of people will cut their workouts short if they forget to bring their earbuds with them on a jog or to the gym. Whatever genre you prefer, develop a playlist to add some extra pep to your step.
It's supposed to be hard
As the old saying goes, "If it was easy, everyone would do it." This certainly applies to running – not to mention exercise in general. However, giving the heart a workout is what the body needs to build muscle, and grow even stronger through rest and recovery. Some runs will be easier than others, and some will be harder. If you go running with this mindset, it will help guide you to the finish line when you feel like you've hit a wall.
If you're looking for some more motivation and tips, check out our Monument 10K team. They've been training for the race and have the most up-to-date progress reports and advice.