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From Poop to Pronating: 5 Tips for Running Your First 5K… that no one else will tell you [Plus: Giveaway!]

Posted Oct 18 2012 2:11am

Runner’s tummy is generally the first thing I tell people to consider when they’re thinking about signing up for their first race. Oh sure it’s not the sexiest part about running (that award goes to thigh-high compression socks) but whether or not you’re prone to it can have rather explosive implications for the rest of your running career. Which of course makes it my favorite thing to talk about! Forget training plans or shoe fittings, you gotta focus on the important things first. Like whether or not your intestines will become enraged and go all Alien on you at the finish line. For those of you uninitiated, everyone’s bowels react differently to running and for some lucky folks it loosens them way up. Like trample-the-line-to-the-honeybucket loose. And the best part about runner’s tummy is that you don’t know if you’re part of this elite group until it actually happens to you! “Surprised by Bodily Fluids” would be an awesome running memoir. I would totally read that.

Fortunately (or unfortunately?) for me, racing has the opposite effect on my digestive tract. The combination of pre-race jitters and my natural anal retentiveness means that I’m stopped up for a good three days every time I race. (Also weird: the constipating effect only occurs when I do a race. An everyday run around the neighborhood doesn’t effect my poop schedule one bit.) It’s uncomfortable but I can’t complain seeing as the majority of my race buddies’ pre-race routine involves popping an Immodium at the start line. Poor Gym Buddy Allison was chained to her toilet for 18 straight hours after one 20-mile run.

But pooping aside – which I really just tell people about to give them one more thing to stress over since there isn’t much you can do about it except avoid eating a lot fiber pre-race and maybe pack some anti-diarrhea drugs in your pocket – I have lots of other fun tips for people running their first race! Me being me, I didn’t realize I was such a fountain of bizarre knowledge until my already-discussed-genetic-mutant-friend asked me for advice on running his first marathon (which he hadn’t trained for, hadn’t run farther than 12 miles, and yet still finished just shy of qualifying for Boston. Sigh.). Not that the Internet needs more running advice and certainly not from me, the girl who puked her way through a 10-miler because she OD’d on caffeine pills, but while lots of people will tell you about tempo runs and hill sprints I’ll give you the real scoop. About things like poop. I’m a pooper scooper!

See, there comes a day in (almost) every runner’s life where they think “You know what would be fun? Shelling out $75 in race fees to do something I could do for free but with the added bonus of getting elbowed in the face and dropping ice-cold Powerade on my shoes! All that and I get a free t-shirt emblazoned with corporate logos!” So to help you run your first (or 100th) race, here are my best tips… that no one else will tell you.

1. Check out the race swag first. Sure you could march down to the local sporting goods store and buy a gorgeous technical running jacket in any size, style and color you like but it’s way more fun to pay twice as much in race fees so you can get a cheap hoodie with the race name all over it. Because that and the finisher’s medal are your proof that you actually did the deed. (Little known fact: most races hand out the sweatshirts at the packet pickup before race day so technically you could wear the shirt without ever having run the race. Not that I’m advocating that.) So my primary factor in choosing a race is which one has the sweetest swag bag. The race only lasts a half hour (or whatever) but fashion is forever!

2. Be careful where you pin your race bib. That number will identify you as you cross the finish line (or if you have a heart attack on the course and are non-responsive to paramedics) so make sure it’s in a visible spot. Chest, lower abdomen, front quad and back are all popular options. But you have to make sure it’s not in the way of swinging arms, pumping legs or a ponytail that will get snagged on the safety pins. (Side note: I had one friend on Facebook comment about the Olympics “We have the technology to time races to the hundredth of a second, replay finish lines in HD and yet we’re still using safety pins to attach numbers?!” My answer: Didn’t Ryan Lochte already come up with the solution? Golden grilles for all!) This is especially tricky if you’re a girl running in just a sports bra and tiny track shorts. You gotta stick that thing somewhere. Maybe consider a cape?

3. Bring cash. I know, between keys, your iPod and your anti-diarrhea pills you’re running out of pocket space (especially since running short pockets are like 1″ x 1″) but grab a handful of ones and shove them down your bra or something. (When’s the last time someone told you to do that? This is why you need me.) Some organizers are better than others but races are generally more expensive than you think they are going to be. Parking, bag checks, food, beverages in funny shaped bottles, souvenirs, finish line photos… it’s like Disneyland but for sweaty older people.

4. Don’t wear anything new. Start with your shoes:  Ideally they will be shoes you’ve run in plenty (but not too much) so your feet will be used to them. And this does not necessarily mean the ones that match your cute new running outfit. And speaking of new running outfits, races are generally not the time to put on anything you have to take the tags off first. Whether it’s thicker socks or a shirt that hasn’t been tested for chafing, it’s the little things that can bring you down.

5. Run. Before you do the race. You should have a training plan. Whether you are someone who has never run a step in your life or you’re a recreational jogger who is just now branching out into racing, running a race is going to be different than what you know and preparation will help you be confident, avoid injury and possibly even clue you in to whether or not you’ll have some extra jet propulsion of the butt variety on the race course.

It’s that last tip people get all hung up on. (I know, right?!) “How far am I supposed to run?” “How many times per week?” “How quickly can I increase my mileage?” “What’s a tempo run?” “What if I run 15-minute miles? Can I still call it running?” I honestly don’t know. I’ve run enough races to tell you that there are as many training plans as there are people and also that I’ve managed to do it the wrong way every single time. So instead of taking dubious advice from me, I offer you up to the experts. (FREE experts, no less!)

LifeTime Fitness is partnering with gyms all over the country to kick off 2013 with an awesome event called Commitment Day. While it would have been majorly awesome if it was an event to help you get your significant other with the cold feet off the fence or even get you involuntarily admitted to a mental ward, Commitment Day is actually a 5K race on January 1, 2013 to encourage people to commit to making healthy changes in the new year. Sign up at and when you register for the race ($34 for LifeTime members, $39 for others, kids under 18 are free) you can also sign up for a FREE for everyone 8-week 5K training class. If you register by Nov 1, 2012, then you can sign up at at for the closest class to you. You don’t have to be a LifeTime member to take advantage of the free class.

The classes meet twice a week and are conducted by certified run coaches. In addition to basic running training, they will also be covering goal setting, safety & etiquette, training progressions & phases, strength & core training, gear demos, heart rate training and assessments, stretching, nutrition, injury prevention, running form and race preparation. When you do the race you’ll also get a bunch of freebies including a health journal and a (decently cute) technical tee. All that for $39 bucks is a pretty sweet deal! AND, because I want to be on my own infomercial, LifeTime loves me (and you) so much they’ve given me a code for all of you guys for $5 off so you can all register at the “member” price! Just type CORP0598 at checkout. So for GFE’ers it’s 29$ for members, 34$ for non.

In addition, I have 5 free race entries to giveaway! You can run with me in Minneapolis (Mall of America, baby! I can guarantee you there will be tutus involved!) or at whichever race location is closest to you. Just leave me a comment on this post and the random generator will have a love-fest next week.

So – what’s your best tip for a first-time racer that someone either told you or that you’ve shared with someone else? Do you get runner’s tummy?

NOTE: I know I do a lot of stuff with LifeTime and in the past some of you have questioned whether I’m just trying to sell you something so here’s the deal: I totally am. But not because I make any money off it. (I don’t make a penny.) Because a) this is an awesome deal for you and b) I think they’re an amazing company, one of the best I’ve ever worked with, and I want to help them get their healthy living message out there.  While I have gotten some freebies from them in the past (mostly trying out new classes, assessments etc) I have never been paid money by them for any purpose, none of my posts are sponsored by them and I’m not told when, if or how to write about them. And yes I realize that freebies constitute payment in kind but this is not a quid-pro-quo agreement nor am I under any contract with them. That may sound like splitting hairs but in the blog world where many people work for sponsorships and many “reviews” are actually paid advertorials, I want you to know that’s not the deal here. I am pimping this simply because I genuinely think it’s an awesome idea. For anyone who’s ever wanted to run a 5k but didn’t know where to start, it doesn’t get any better than this! I also love that LifeTime is donating 100% of the proceeds to charity. If you have any questions about the nature of my partnership with LifeTime, I’m more than happy to answer them!

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