Maybe you recently started running and want to try your hand at a 5K road race. Or perhaps you’ve been dabbling in half marathons for a few years and want to make the jump to a full marathon. Motivation to run a race comes in many forms, and it can be tempting to click “register” on every race site you come across. But before you get click-happy, take a step back and ask yourself these six questions that can help determine whether or not you should sign up.
1. Is the timing right?
Can you commit to the training—both the intensity and the time commitment—without adding too much stress to your life or your body? If you have 10 weddings to attend between now and your race—most taking place on weekends when you’d need to do your time-consuming long runs—the timing might not be right. But fear not: There’s always another race you can put on the calendar. (And races aren’t the only running moments worth celebrating. Here are 18 more.)
2. How far have I run in relation to the distance I want to race?
If you just ran a 5K and now have your heart set on completing a marathon, we totally get you and we’ve been there. But making the jump from 3.1 miles straight to 26.2 may not be wise without ample training time. That’s not to say you can’t do it—you totally can! But it’s important to allow your body plenty of time for base-building, so you’re not jumping from three miles to 20, which will put you at risk for injury.
3. How is my body feeling right now?
Do you have any aches and pains that should be addressed? Before you embark on any type of training program or fitness regimen, make sure your body is in good shape. That doesn’t mean you need to be able to bust out 13.1 miles off the bat, but it does mean your knees, hips, feet, back, and various muscles, bones, and joints should all be in good condition. If you’re training for an endurance race, in particular—say a marathon or half marathon—you’re going to put your body through some serious stress. Make sure you feel good now so you don’t have to worry about injuries flaring further during training or on race day. Consider seeking out a physical therapist, sports medicine doctor, or even a certified running coach before you start training to assess your gait and give you the thumbs up to start training.
4. Is now a good time financially to commit to a race?
In theory, running is cheap. You need shoes and a sports bra and not much else, right? Well, maybe not. Some race fees are costly, you’ll probably go through more than one pair of shoes throughout the course of training, and you want to have a stash of “in case of emergency cash” for if you get injured and need to see a sports doc. If you’re planning to travel for your goal race, you’ll also need to factor in travel and lodging costs. Training for a race shouldn’t make you go broke, but if you’re already planning to shell out loads of cash for all those bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and weddings on your calendar, maybe consider waiting until after wedding season to do a destination race. (Consider expenses one of the many things that may surprise you about your first race.)
5. Do I have the daily time to dedicate to training?
First, consider the time it takes to go for your runs each week (including, depending on the distance you’re training for, a long run on the weekend). But that’s not all. You should also factor in time for oh-so-important recovery and cross-training. If your work schedule is flexible or you don’t have many trips planned between now and race day, go for it! But if you’re an accountant, an April 14 race may not be your best bet. Be ambitious, but stay realistic. (If you don’t have time to train for a full marathon, consider going for the half instead.)
6. Why do I want to run this race?
What’s your motivating factor, and is it something that’ll continue to motivate you even on days you don’t want to run or don’t necessarily have time to run? Are you running because everyone else is doing it? Are you doing it to raise money for charity? Are you running with a weight-loss goal in mind? Whatever your inspiration, make sure it’s there, and that it’s worthy of your time and energy.