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Race FAQ
Here are some common questions about running your first race, answered by Webmaster Mary, who has run more races than she can count. If your question is not answered here, you can send her an email. The general assumption here is that you will be a mid to back of the packer, and won't be planning to lead the pack in your first race.
Are races open to the public?
Yes. Most races are open to the public. Any race listed on our site should be open to the public. You don't need any special membership, just a little money.
How do I find a race?
That's what we are here for. Check out our Race Menu page to help you find a race. Search by state, city, county, race type, etc.
How far is a 5k?
3.1 miles.
How long is a marathon?
ALL MARATHONS ARE 26.2 MILES. Please do not call any other race a marathon.
Are you a little touchy about that 'how long is a marathon' question?
Runners are often asked 'How long was that marathon you ran?' Each time, it gets harder and harder not to roll our eyes when we answer.
Are you being a bit of a running snob?
Yes, maybe a little.
How long is a half marathon?
13.1 miles.
How do I sign up to run a race?
Most races have a printable registration form, or online registration, or both. Registering early usually saves a few bucks over registering the day of the event. Some events do not have race day registration, so be sure to check their website for those details.
How much does it cost?
Expect to pay about $10 to $30 for a 5K. The longer the race, the more expensive it will be. Expect to pay $30 to $180 for a marathon.
How do I know if I am ready?
If you can jog for 30 minutes, you can run a 5K. Even if you can't quite do that, you can still do it.
What if I cannot run the whole thing?
No problem. Lot's of folks will alternate running/walking, some will walk the whole thing.
Will I be last?
Probably not. Statistically, your odds of being last are the same as being first. Find a race that has plenty of other people, and you'll be fine.
Will I get lost?
Very unlikely. Pick a race that has plenty of people, and just follow the people in front of you. For your first race, pick one that is popular, and not one that only expects about 35 people.
How do I know a race will have 'plenty of people'?
When your are browsing the list of races on our site, look for the Results symbol. Click on that, you get a listing of previous years' results. Check how many people ran it last year. 100 or more is good for your first 5K. That will be plenty of people to keep you company.
I am afraid that I don't look like a runner
Runners come in all shapes and sizes. You'll be fine.
What do I do before the race?
Arrive about 30 minutes to an hour before the start.

If you have pre-registered, you'll need to pick up your packet. This might just be a bib number, or it could be a whole goodie bag with a t-shirt, and other freebies.

If you are registering the day of the race, fill out the form, and pay, and you'll get your packet.

If the race is chip timed, you'll need to get your chip and attached it to your self according to the directions. This might be something that attaches to your shoe, or something around your ankle, or attaches to your shirt.

Attach the bib number to the front of your body somewhere.

Go potty. Runners love to go potty before races. The lines for the potties will be long.

Put the race shirt in your car. Do not wear it for the race.
Should I wear the race shirt during the race?
But others are wearing theirs.
Nothing screams 'newbie' like wearing the race shirt for the race.
When can I wear the shirt?
You can wear it after you've gone home and had your shower. You can wear it to your next race. Just don't wear it for the race that it is for. Please.
Why does the bib number need to go on the front?
It needs to be visible as you approach the finish line, so they know you are officially registered in the race. It also is helpful to race officials on the course. Many times, there are multiple events, and the color of the bib indicates which event you are in. Officials can look at your bib, and direct you on the course. If you are signed up for a 5K, you don't want to be directed to the marathon course.
How does race scoring work?
For info on how race scoring works, click here.
What do I do at the start?
When you see everyone heading to the start line, follow them.

Runners are supposed to line up according to how they think they will finish - fast runners in the front, slow runners in the back, walkers behind the runners. This prevents congestion on the course. You want to be amongst runners who will be running the same pace as you. You don't want to be passed by swarms of folks, and you don't want to be dodging and weaving around people slower than you.

There will generally be some pre-race announcements, followed by the National Anthem.
What do I do during the race?
The race will start either by gun, air horn, or someone yelling go. Just follow the folks in front of you, and you'll be fine.

If you need to stop, walk, tie a shoe, adjust something, pull over to the side. You don't want to cause a bottle-neck, or a sudden stop for the people behind you.
Can I use my iPod?
Some races allow iPods, some don't. For your first race, I would highly recommend NOT using an iPod. Even if you can still hear everything around you, folks around you are less likely to talk to you and cheer for you if you are wearing an iPod. You will also need to know what race officials are saying, along the course, and at the finish.
What does it mean when they say they are calling out splits?
Split times are often given at mile markers. This allows runners to know how fast they are going. They will be calling out how the time from the start. This will be the amount of time it took you to get to that mile mark. You can figure your pace by dividing the time by the number of miles. So, if you are at the 2 mile mark, and you hear them call out 'Ninteen Thirty' then you are averaging 9 minutes and 45 seconds per mile.
What do I do at the finish?
The finish line should be pretty obvious. There should be race officials directing you where to go. Just follow their instructions.

If the race uses tear-tags, the bottom portion of your bib will need to be torn off and handed to an official at the end of the finish chute.

If the race uses chip timing, your chip may need to be collected. Some chips are disposable, others are re-used. Just follow the instructions of the race officials. If the chips need to be collected, there will be people helping to remove them from your shoe or ankle.
What happens after the finish?
You may feel nauseous when you finish, that's common. Walk for a bit, then have some water, and maybe a light snack. There is generally a place for runners with food, water and sports drink. Food choices often include bagels, bananas, oranges, cookies, chips. Every race is different. Some have more, some less. Eating a light snack will help you feel better and recover faster.
Can my kids have some of the snacks too?
The post-race food is generally meant for people who paid to be in the event. Please be respectful of that, and those finishing after you who also want to get a bite to eat.
How do I find out how I did?
Results are usually posted as they are available. They will list all finishers, and their time and their rank. It will generally also list how they ranked in their gender and age group.
What are age groups?
Age groups are usually 5 or 10 year divisions, by gender. So, Female 35 to 39.
What is the awards ceremony about?
Awards are generally given to the overall male and female winner. Awards are often given to masters (over 40), and sometimes grand masters (over 50) awards also.

Age group awards are also very common - top three in each age group is routine.
Do I need to stay for the awards ceremony?
It nice to stick around and see who won, but it's not required. If you are getting award, and you are not able to stick around, race directors are generally accomodating, and will give you your award early. But if you are getting an award, and can stick around, I would definitely recommend it.
What's a bandit?
A bandit is someone running a race who didn't registered. Please don't do this. If you do, please don't cross the finish, or take any aid from aid stations or post-race goodies. Those are for the folks who are officially registered.