Do I need to wear special shoes?

A good pair of running shoes is essential, but don’t feel compelled to shell out $200 for ones designed specifically for racing. “You can find some great $85 shoes on sale at your local running shop,” says Kelly Bither, coach of the Runner Chick Training Club in Tigard, Oregon.

Should I carry water?

If you’re running for under an hour, leave your bottle at home. The water is just added weight to tote. Plus, most races have fluid stations at regular intervals on the course. On the other hand, if you think you’re going to be in the back of the pack, “it’s not a bad idea to carry extra water on a hot day,” says Stephanie Atwood, coach for the Go Wow Team in the San Francisco Bay Area. “It’s possible for aid stations to run low for the later runners.”

What if I get lost?

Not to worry, says Bither: The course will be marked with cones, tape and chalk, and there will most likely be race officials wherever you need to make a turn.

Just how sore will I be the day after?

As a rule of thumb, the longer the distance, the greater the achiness. “You are challenging your body,” explains Atwood. “But as long as you’re consistent in your training and stay hydrated—during the race and in the days leading up to it—your muscles should be OK the next day.”

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