How to Enter Your First Race

The world of running races is an exciting and inspiring environment, open to people of all ages and fitness levels. If you’ve decided to participate in your first running race, congratulations! I’d like to provide you with some guidance to ease your nerves and provide a mini-guide through the rules and essential information you need to know before stepping onto the starting line.

Choosing the Race

The first step in participating in a running race is to choose the right event for you. Running races are available in various distances, from short 5-kilometer (5K) races to marathons (42.195 kilometers), but you can also find timed races (such as 6 hours or 24 hours, even on a circuit). If you’re new to running, you may want to start with a shorter distance to gain experience. Get an idea of the races available in your area and choose the one that best suits your goals. Remember that in Italy, there is an age limit for participating in races, especially long ones (e.g., 20 years for the Rome Marathon), or a previous race on a similar distance may be required (usually for participating in very challenging ultra-distance races, e.g., LUT120, but let’s not complicate things right now). A good starting point to find a race is certainly registering with an athletics club, but even before that, you can use the word of mouth of the century: social media. From Instagram to Facebook, passing through various WhatsApp or Telegram channels, with a simple search, you can find dozens of races in your area. Lastly, this space where, from time to time, some races will be presented and explained.

Registration and Sign-Up

Once you’ve chosen the race, you’ll need to register. Most races offer the option to register online through the event’s website. Make sure to do this well in advance, as many races have a limited number of available spots, and registration fees may increase as the event date approaches. Ensure that you are affiliated with the correct federation for the event. In general, for a road race, you need either the RunCard or membership in a FIDAL association (you can register online for the first case, and for the second, you just need to inquire). For trail races, what has been mentioned for road races can often suffice, but in some cases, a UISP association membership is accepted.

Medical Certificate

My advice is always to undergo, even if you’re not racing, the medical test for the sports medical certificate for track and field. In practically all competitive races, especially long-distance ones, it is required, in addition to being necessary for obtaining the RunCard or affiliating with a sports association. Often, it is advisable to have it with you when picking up your race bib (along with your RunCard or association membership card). Make sure to check the specific requirements of the race you intend to participate in and consult your doctor if necessary (for some races abroad, a specific certificate or declaration may be required, e.g., UTMB).

Race Kit

Most races provide a race kit that includes the race number and timing chip, an event t-shirt, and other promotional items. Pick up your race kit the day before or on the morning of the event, following the instructions provided by the organization.

Clothing and Equipment

Choose clothing suitable for the season and weather conditions on the race day. Make sure you have comfortable and broken-in running shoes to prevent blisters and discomfort during the race. Bring everything you might need during the race, such as food, water, and monitoring devices (if you have them). Remember a fundamental rule, especially for road races: while running, you will sweat and perceive a temperature approximately 10°C higher, so dress accordingly. Remember that rain or wind can alter this perception, so keep it in mind and start by checking the weather forecast. In the mountains, remember that weather conditions, especially at high altitudes, can change suddenly, and I recommend always carrying a raincoat with you, those few grams won’t spoil your performance.

Arrive on Time

Arrive at the race with plenty of time. Traffic and parking can take longer than expected. All your fellow adventurers will arrive at the same time, after all. Also, you’ll need time for race bib pick-up, warm-up, and entering the starting grid. My advice is to leave having taken care of any necessary business beforehand and after a warm-up that could be inversely proportional to the race distance: in a 100-mile race, you’ll have time to warm up in the first moments of the race… and in the following hours!

Race Rules

It’s essential to know the specific rules of the race you’re participating in. For example, some races prohibit the use of headphones (e.g., on the track, while generally allowed on the road), while others may require that the race number is clearly visible on the front of your clothing. Respect these rules to avoid disqualifications or penalties, and always start with the minimum required equipment.


Your safety is a priority. Listen to your body during the race and pay attention to signs of fatigue or discomfort. If you feel unwell, seek medical help immediately. Make sure to drink enough water during the race to avoid dehydration, especially when it’s hot, but remember that even in the mountains and in the cold, you can become dehydrated just as easily. Always carry a charged mobile phone with you, and if possible, in mountain races, use an application to check if you’re on the race course if needed (some smartwatches have this function built in).


Finally, remember that participating in a running race should be fun above all else. Don’t worry too much about performance or times. Enjoy the atmosphere, interact with other participants, and savor the experience.

Participating in your first running race can be an exciting and rewarding experience. By following these rules and essential information, you’ll be well-prepared for the big day. Happy running!