premiere competition

Your first competition

Once you've tasted the joy of running, you'll soon be tempted to participate in your first competition. It might be a 10k race or trail running, cross-country, a half marathon, or even a marathon! Your goals will vary depending on your endurance and plans. Maybe you want to be one of the first to cross the finish line, or maybe you're simply in it for the joy of participating in your first race with other competitors

Here you'll find all the information you need to be in great shape for your first competition. Start by considering your goals in light of your physical abilities and training time.


Goal: Performance

The main goal of most runners is to win a competitive race. 

Winning is the pinnacle of success for an athlete. To do so, you need to attain an excellent level of endurance and progress. Follow a specific, well-planned training programme for a period of several weeks.

Take a look at the Kalenji training plans we have prepared for you. These are an ideal match for both men and women who already have reached a certain level of training.


Goal: Finish the competition in good shape

Your only goal is to finish your first competition in the best possible shape. To do so, plan a regular training plan that gradually increases in difficulty:

- run twice a week or three times every 15 days for 30 to 35 minutes at your own pace. Within a few weeks, you will easily be able to participate in a 5k or 10k race.

If you are just starting out, it may be difficult to maintain a training programme for several weeks. However, your Kalenji coach is here to help with some time-tested advice. Follow our guide to successfully overcome challenges and achieve your goals: 

Train regularly for a full season.

Your training season should basically be as follows:

- In the winter (from November to the end of February), focus on increasing your endurance. Run for long periods (for an hour to an hour and a half) at a moderate pace on a comfortable surface.

- After this period, go to a track to test your maximum aerobic speed (MAS). By calculating your MAS, you will be able to modify the intensity of your running sessions in order to make progress. There are several ways to conduct this test.


Follow the most important rule of training: Don't train too much!

Training well does not mean training too much! Quality is always more important than quantity when running.

Do not suddenly increase the frequency of your sessions or the distances you run. Two sessions a week will help you maintain a solid level of endurance, while three sessions a week will allow you to make progress. From one year to the next, you should increase the amount you train by about 15 to 20% on average.

In order for your body to be able to handle an increase in the amount and intensity of your training, make sure to set aside recovery periods throughout the season and to maintain a healthy lifestyle all year long.


Maintaining motivation and confidence in order to achieve your goals

Motivation is the key to success. It comes from staying focused on a clear goal. Positive visualisation is an excellent technique for maintaining motivation and especially for building confidence. This technique consists of imagining that you have already achieved your goal. Never doubt that you will succeed!


But how does it work?

- Relax as much as you can. Relaxation favours positive images.

- Set realistic, attainable goals.

- Take one small step at a time! When you are training, set small goals.

- Clearly lay out your goals (for example, I want to finish my run within 3 hours).


To run well, eat well

Food is essential for success. Change your dietary habits based on the intensity of your training programme. A good diet will help your avoid a number of unpleasant physical situations. Your diet should be high in carbohydrates, proteins, B vitamins, iron, lipids and antioxidants.

- Carbohydrates: whether they are simple or complex, carbohydrates are the fuel your muscles burn. They are necessary for metabolising energy and work to increase muscular capacity. Always consume enough carbohydrates before, during and after exercise. Carbohydrates are stored in your liver and muscles and are converted into glycogen.

Sources: Jam, honey, fruit jellies, brown rice,wholemeal pasta and bread, etc.

- Protein: Proteins play a vital role in your body, helping it to renew cells and muscles. Furthermore, proteins synthesise a variety of substances such as haemoglobin, hormones and enzymes.

Sources: meat, fish, ham, seafood, eggs, etc.

- B vitamins: These play an important role in utilising nutrients and cell matter in the body. 

They are found in large quantities in brewer's yeast, dairy products, grains, vegetables and fish.

- Iron: This micronutrient is essential for the respiratory and muscle systems to work properly. It helps transport oxygen to your cells and plays an especially important role in binding oxygen in tissues. Foods containing vitamin C (such as citrus fruits) help your body synthesise iron. 

- Antioxidants: for runners, most physical injuries stem from a loss of free radicals, which is compounded by physical exercise. Fruits, vegetables, grains and shellfish are high in antioxidants.

- Essential fatty acids (lipids) are very important for runners or endurance athletes. They are packed with calories and help keep your cells functioning smoothly. They help reduce the risk of bruising and vascular rupture.


All of these nutrients should be consumed during four meals which are spread out well over the course of the day. By eating at regularly-spaced intervals, you guarantee that your body will have enough energy throughout the day.

- At breakfast: Breakfast is very important both during training and on the big day. It should be light and easy to digest. As long as you eat it sufficiently in advance of your departure, you will finish digesting it before you set out. (Example of a well-balanced breakfast: pot of tea, breakfast cereal, dairy products, a slice of ham, wholemeal bread, butter, jam, fresh fruit, or fruit juice.)

- At lunch and dinner:   Meat, fish, eggs or jam, vegetables and starches, raw vegetables, cheese. 

- For snack: Cereal bars, fruit jellies, dairy products, fruit, fruit compote, etc.


Drink before, during and after exercise

Like every sporting activity, you need to drink enough liquids on a regular basis to stay hydrated while running. Regardless of your level, you should drink water or energy drinks before, during and after exercise. Keep your body hydrated by regularly drinking small sips of liquid. You should never feel thirsty. Always drink before this sensation sets in.


Cold, rain, and heat: Selecting the right gear!

In every kind of weather conditions, it is important to select the right running gear to protect your body.

- It's cold: while warming up or waiting to head out, wear a light windbreaker over a long-sleeved t-shirt. This will be easy to remove at the beginning of your run. While you're waiting for the starting gun, it's a good idea to stay warm by stretching or jogging in place. If it's very cold, wear gloves and a hat.

- It's raining: in light rain, a breathable, waterproof windbreaker should be sufficient. If it's raining heavily during the whole run, keep your muscles protected with running tights and a breathable top. Make sure to stay away from cotton: wearing cotton is like wearing a sponge!

- It's hot or very hot: When running in hot weather, an important warning is in order: wear a cap (preferably light-coloured), sunglasses and a ventilated, light t-shirt made of breathable material. We recommend using a water-bottle carrier so you can drink regularly throughout your run and stay hydrated. Before you head out, put sunscreen on your face, ears, the back of your neck, and arms. If it's very hot, spray water on your head during the run and after you finish to keep your body temperature down.


Important: Always modify your goals in light of the challenges caused by the weather. Very hot or cold weather can seriously hamper your performance. If it's impossible to turn out a top performance, your goal should be to finish your run in the best possible shape.


Essential steps:

Your Kalenji team has prepared a list of essential steps to be calm and prepared for your first race.

1. Essential steps before the big day

The following steps will help keep you from getting stressed out for no reason on the day of your race:

- Pick up your race number and a medical certificate a few days before the competition.

- Check the forecast for the day of the race so that you can pick out the best gear for the weather conditions.

- If it's cold, if possible, ask a close friend or relative to pick up your belongings at the staging area. This will make it easy for you to get them at the finish. In this case, get a poncho to cover up before the race starts. 

- Prepare to travel to the race by checking the competition website in order to find the 3 most important areas:

- Arrival area

- Departure area

- Parking area 

Remember to print out information about the race, including the starting time, route and other organisational information. 


2. Essential steps for the evening before the race

- The night before the race, prepare your bag with all of your running gear. This should include shoes, socks, plasters, your clothing (including club gear if you are a member of a running association), windbreaker, cap, water bottle belt, sweatband, and hat and gloves in winter. Don't forget to pack shower gear and a change of clothes.

- If you were able to pick up your race number in advance, pin it on with four safety pins. Bring along a few extra pins in your bag.

- Remember to bring what you need to stay hydrated (water, energy drinks, cereal bars, etc.) before, during and after the race.

- Bring some plasters to protect your feet or nipples (for men), which can be quite sensitive to chafing. Depending on how sensitive you are, your chest might chafe, which can be very painful. By bringing along this gear, you will be sure to have a pleasant run.

- Confirm that your friend can pick up your belongings at the starting line and bring you your warmer clothes and change of clothes at the finishing line.

- For a few days before the race, make starchy foods (pasta, rice, potatoes, etc.) the centre of your 3 main meals.

- Remember your poncho to stay covered before the race. 

- Don't forget to bring along a wristband or similar accessory to carry your car keys. Every little detail counts!


3. Essential steps on the day of the race

- Last meal before the run: stock up on energy reserves 3 hours before the race starts. Have a light, easy-to-digest meal high in complex carbohydrates and low in lipids. Instead of this meal, you can substitute an energy cake.

- Arrive at least one hour before the race starts so that you have time to change into your running gear, pick up your race number, and meet the friend who will pick up your belongings at the starting line and bring you your change of clothes after the race.

- If you are not a member of a sports association: don't forget to bring along a copy of a medical certificate, which you will have to show when picking up your race number.

- If you are a member of a sports association: carry your membership card with you.

- Warm up for at least 20 minutes before the race. 

- In cold weather, use warming lotion to warm up faster.

- Quickly put on warm clothing so you don't get cold at the starting line.

- Make sure to stay well-hydrated.

- Do some stretches. 

- Carry tissues or toilet tissue to avoid unpleasant situations. For example, these can be caused by your stomach panicking during the race or pre-race stress.

- Do not run with new running shoes or clothes. You need some time to get used to your equipment. Running shoes are more comfortable after they are broken in, and fabrics are more pleasant to wear after they have been washed

- This will help you avoid unpleasant surprises.

- Pin on your race number with 4 safety pins.

- Clip your chip and plastic strap on your shoes. (These will be provided by the race organisers).

- 2 plasters to put on your nipples to prevent chafing (safety pins for your race number)

- A sponge if you want to use it at the sponge stations. 

- Your bag to drop off your dry clothes with a friend.

- When you finish the race, quickly put on warm clothing to prevent your body from getting cold. 

- Do some stretching half an hour after the race. Make sure to set aside enough recovery time to do the stretching you need for a good recovery.


After working hard, always plan for recovery

After working hard, always plan for recovery

After physical activity, it is important to make sure to take some time to recover.

Here are three key pieces of advice:

- When you cross the finish line: Depending on your degree of exertion, you should jog or walk for a few minutes to decrease the concentration of lactic acid in your muscles and slow down your heart rate. Drink an energy drink to get hydrated and make up for the carbohydrates you have lost. We recommend drinking 1.5 litres of water or carbonated water within 3 hours after finishing the race.

- The week after the race: rest and avoid training. During this period of time, your body will work to heal the muscular microlesions stemming from the intensity of your race. 

- Afterwards, gradually take up your training again, starting with slow jogs at a moderate pace.

Don't forget to stretch

- Before the competition, do some warm-up exercises and stretches to loosen up your muscles and prepare them for the upcoming run. 

- After your race, it is important to stretch in order to "calm down" your muscles and joints (in your arms, legs and back). The goal of these exercises is to:

 - eliminate lactic acid in your muscles;

 - prevent aches and cramps;

 - decrease the sense of heaviness in your legs; and

 - avoid the risk of injuries.


Have a great race!