Do you need help on how to win or survive your first foray into competitive Coast running?
Here are five tips for those youthful couch potatoes and surprisingly buff seniors among you who have witnessed 5K runners cruising serenely across the Biloxi Bay Bridge and along the Ocean Springs beach road and asked, “Why not me, too?”
1. Attire: Find shoes with strong arch support, consider a sleeveless shirt in August, ear muffs in winter and invest in new headphones to avoid the shame of hearing someone quip, “I dig the old-school headphones, man.”
2. Music: This is priority No. 1. You’ll need something to distract you from the pain — er, I mean the fun — and playing the right tunes should suffice. “(I feel like) 22” sets the perfect mood, and “More Bounce to the Ounce” offers an ideal beat while perhaps also serving as a tragicomic metaphor for your experience.
3. Nutrition: Don’t heavily load carbs right before the race. Try a slice of wheat toast with honey and a banana with plenty of water about an hour before the race. Some sleep and a healthy meal the night before helps. Hint: Light beers don’t offer sufficient carbs to warrant the dyspnea the next day and red wine tannins will make you pay all race long, although early- morning Communion may be a worthwhile precaution. Otherwise, down an Advil after your morning snack and keep your old friend arthritis at bay.
4. Inspiration: Find the smokers in the pre-race crowd and start off following one of them. Trust me. You’ll not want to slink home after losing to them. But be prepared for seeing the women pushing strollers packed with multiple toddlers and men charging hard in wheelchairs whizzing by you. Overcome this by reveling in the joy of leaving in your dust some teenagers who bit off more than they could chew.
5. Pace: A slow jog is your friend until kicking it into gear to pass the octogenarian just ahead of you as the finish line comes into view. You’re not going to outrun any of the Gulf Coast Running Club veterans by speeding out of the starting gate, and walking may bring you the distinction of having crowned your first race by finishing in last place.
Take the kindly offered cup of water halfway through the race and hurry by the cemeteries and funeral homes cruelly positioned along the course to keep your spirits up.
And most important, don’t launch your racing career with a marathon, half-marathon or 10K. No need to make the nice doctors running beside you forfeit their chance at winning by stopping to resuscitate you on the roadway.
OK, forewarned is forearmed, so get off the couch, recall the glory days of your youth, believe you still look good in shorts and a tank top and bring home that medal, trophy or ceramic bowl. Then take it, get it engraved with your name, put it on your mantel and retire.
Jim Fraiser lives in Pass Christian and is a freelance contributor to the Sun Herald. He took up running as a senior and has regretted it ever since, but hasn’t found the gumption to quit.