Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Where Did You Run Your First Race?
Seven runners share memories of their very first races, from 5Ks all the way up to half marathons.
“My first race was the local Freedom 5K in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. It’s held Fourth of July weekend, and it was 100 degrees outside when I did it! The route of the race was changed at the last minute because the town wouldn’t give the proper permits. There was next to no shade, and I wasn’t quite ready to run 3 miles, especially in the heat. I walked some of it and had volunteers dump water on my head instead of drinking it. But I discovered a love of running and the running community. Finished in 38 minutes. Now I run marathons. I caught the running fever that day.” —Amber Hadigan, Hyde Park, NY
“My first race was The Color Run 5K, with proceeds going to victims of domestic violence. It was held in memory of a former co-worker who had been killed by her husband. I had never been a runner before, but I wanted to do it for that cause. I’ve since run countless 5Ks, a couple 10Ks, a couple halfs and one full marathon, but I will always go back to that annual Color Run. It is a great event for beginners because it’s an untimed run with all levels participating. Everyone is there for the cause and the fun color, so if you are a newbie, there is no need to be intimidated about your speed.” —Paula Mongold, Casper, WY
“My first run was 2009 at the Detroit International Half Marathon! I have run it almost every year since then, two years running the relay. Go big or go home! It was an amazing experience for a beginner—great city, great race and it runs over the bridge into Canada and back through the underground tunnel. Fell in love with the event that day, even though I could barely walk afterward.” —Lisa Hill, Sterling Heights, MI
“I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon in 2015 with my sister. She was moving to Denmark and a RunDisney race was on her California bucket list. I had run in the past and agreed to register with her in June, thinking I would spend the next three months training for the race. I didn’t factor in a full-time work schedule, building a new house and the summer heat in New Mexico. It turns out that running 13.1 miles is really challenging, and training is a must! Any RunDisney race is an awesome choice for beginners because they truly celebrate athletes of all levels. Olympic runners have shared the same course as a grandmother (my mom), who decided to take up running with her daughters and granddaughters! The first-class entertainment along the course, constant cheering and gorgeous finisher medals for all distances from the kids dashes to the full marathon encourage everyone to walk and/or run the distance!” —Noelle Wallace, Albuquerque, NM
“My first race will always be very special in my heart! I had lost 45 pounds on my weight-loss journey when my gym started a running group and encouraged beginners to join. My first-ever race was the United Way Spooktacular River Run 5K in Marysville, Calif., in 2016. I had followed a couch-to-5K program over the course of a month leading up to the event. My finish time was 41:24 and I managed to run the entire race. Now, six months and almost 60 pounds later, I’ve trimmed almost 10 minutes off of that time. This race is great for beginners because there’s a Halloween costume contest after the race!” —Christa Levesque, Olivehurst, CA
“I did a 10K at the Death Valley Marathon and wore my trail runners because I loved them—by mile 3, my feet felt like lead. I had also thrown my back out a week before the race but was so determined not to miss it. It was a great experience in a very unique location. Running is a fun way to travel and see different places, and Death Valley is such a unique destination for a run! This course is below sea level and beautiful. It is a great way to kick off a New Year’s resolution or season as it takes place in early February each year.” —Meghan Dorris, Carson Valley, NV
“I spent my entire life until recently overweight and completely sedentary. Last spring I decided to do something about it, and I joined Weight Watchers. I steadily lost weight and bought a Fitbit, then decided to go for a walk down my gravel road one day to get some extra steps. While I was walking, I decided I might as well jog a little too. I walked 3 miles, with a few bursts of jogging, but not much. I signed up for the Heart of the Summit 5K in Lee’s Summit, Mo., in September 2016 and ran it in 31:00. It’s a good race for beginners because there are entrants of all abilities and speeds. My first half marathon is in a few weeks. I lost 92 pounds and gained a love for running!” —Rachel Cox, Holden, MO