Running is even more fun when you have a goal in mind. Here’s everything you need to know to make your first race an awesome experience.

Ready, set, run!

Sure, we’re all aware of the perks of running: less stress, better heart health, an easier time slipping into your jeans. But even the most disciplined woman can find herself requiring extra motivation. “Once you’ve succeeded at a challenge, you need new ways to test your limits,” says Janet Hamilton, founder of RunningStrong.com.

That’s one reason so many women are discovering the joy of racing. In fact, last year, 60 percent of half-marathon finishers across the U.S. were women. Want to toe the line? We asked running coaches and race directors to weigh in on the most common questions about competing so you know exactly what to expect.

What if I have to stop midrace?

Last November, the top marathoner in the United States, Meb Keflezighi, winner of the 2014 Boston Marathon and the 2009 New York City Marathon, stopped at the 18th mile on the New York City race course and walked. That’s right: Even elite athletes need to take a break sometimes—it’s absolutely fine if you have to, as well.

What if I have to go to the bathroom?

Fear not: You’ll find porta-potties at the staging area before the race and typically along the course. How many there are, however, depends on the distance. Check the map on the race website beforehand to pinpoint exact locations.

What if I’m last?

If you’ve been running regularly, it’s unlikely that you’ll be the final person on the course. Many race organizers assign someone the task of “bringing up the rear,” meaning she will wait to  ensure all other runners clear the course before she crosses the finish line. (That’s a relief, right?)

(To be continued…)

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