Running Rituals: Establish Your Own and Make Them Pay Off

August 09, 2016 Posted By: Bob "Wish" Wischnia

By: The Mizuno Shoe Guy

 

Runners tend to be a ritualistic group. At least, good runners are. Particularly those of us who are dedicated racers.

 

Invariably, experienced runners will follow a similar pre-race ritual to such an extent that they eat virtually the same meal the night before a key race that they’ve eaten time and time again. Then on race morning, they tend follow the same routine they have in the past, right on down to wearing the same shoes and clothes to race in. Some call this boring.

 

I call this smart.

 

It’s only natural to be jittery in the days before an upcoming major race, especially a marathon. You’ve put in months of preparation for this one morning and having a case of the nerves is something every runner goes through.

 

Experienced runners know what to do; beginners don’t. If you’re a newbie who will be doing marathon or half marathon this fall, now is the time to develop your own pre-race rituals that will get you to the starting line prepared and reassured that this particular morning is your day to shine.

 

Assuming you have done the right training and are healthy, a ritualistic set of pre-race preparations will allow you to focus on the race and still accomplish what needs to get done in the last day before the big race. Having a pre-race procedure, will reduce your anxiety because you will have all the bases covered and be ready to do one thing: Race your best.

 

Your pre-race ritual should begin the day before the race. If you ordinarily go for a short run the day before a race, set an easy distance and go for a relaxed run. Go early enough in the day that you’ll have plenty of time to chill out and rest. If you don’t feel like going for a run, go for a short walk to ease the jitters and burn some energy.

 

Final pre-race run. Check.

 

If you haven’t pre-registered for the race, you’re probably out of luck as most of the major races—especially marathons and half marathons—sell out way in advance.

 

But if the race is still open and you haven’t registered, get this out of the way as soon as possible. Don’t leave it until the morning of the race. Most big races don’t have race-day registration so make sure you do it the day before the race—at the very latest.

 

Assuming you have pre-registered, pick up your race materials, T-shirt and number as early as possible, either the day or two days before the race. Also, do it early in the day so you don’t have to wait in long lines and if there are any hassles, you can get them straightened out in plenty of time. Get this out of the way as early as you can.

 

Registration and packet pick up. Check.

 

Since the race is the next day, make sure you eat a healthy lunch with plenty of carbohydrate-rich food and a minimum of fat and grease. If you’re doing a marathon the next day, this is when you begin the carbohydrate-loading process. Lunch should be your primary carb-loading meal. At dinner, you can just top it off with additional carbs. You don’t necessarily have to carbo-load for a half marathon or a shorter race, but it doesn’t hurt.

 

Eat a lunch that you enjoy, is easily digestible and nutritious. Establish a set time to eat (routine again). And don’t forget to begin hydrating.

 

Pre-race lunch. Check.

 

Chill. Now is the time to put your feet up and relax.  Everything has been taken care of and you have time to watch a football game on TV, read a book or take a nap. Now is not the time to play golf, go for a bike ride, visit a museum, do yard work or play soccer with the kids. Make sure you get off your feet.

 

Take a chill pill. Check.

 

Evening news. Make certain you watch the local weather forecast for tomorrow morning’s prediction. This will determine what you wear in the race.

 

After checking the weather forecast, begin to pull everything together you will need for the race in the morning. Also, check to make sure everything is in good shape, especially your shoes. Make sure there’s plenty of cushioning and tread left and that the shoe laces aren’t frayed.

 

Assemble your racing singlet and shorts. Attach your race number to the singlet you’ll wear in the morning. If the forecast is for cold weather in the morning, bring gloves, a hat and if it’s expected to be below freezing, tights. Bring more than you’ll likely need—never less.

 

Also get your sweats together—a jacket and some warm pants or tights to wear before and after the race. It is especially important to change into dry, warm clothes like a hooded sweatshirt immediately after the race. Even if it isn’t particularly cold, you will be depleted after a marathon or half, wet and probably become pretty chilled soon after finishing.

 

It’s also a good idea to grab a towel and a tube of BodyGlide or some lubricant to apply before the race in the areas that chafe. Don’t forget to pack at least two hats—one for the race and one for after when you’ll be chilly. If you plan to wear sunglasses, make sure you have them ready. Also, bring a water bottle with either water or sports drink to top off your hydration tanks.

 

Pack everything in your race bag and then double check to make sure you have your shoes ready and your race number pinned to your shirt as well as the timing mechanism properly attached. (At many major races, the timing chip is attached to the back of the race number.)

 

Race gear. Check.

 

For dinner, you should eat a similar meal you have been having the night before most of your long runs. It should be another dose of carbohydrates with some bread and salad. Don’t try any new foods or restaurant cuisine. Continue hydrating. A beer or glass of wine is OK, but limit yourself to one drink.

 

Dinner. Check.

 

On race morning, get up at least two hours before the start of the race. (Obviously, this will differ, depending on how far you have to drive or travel to the race start.) But first thing after getting up, poke your head outside to check on the weather. If it’s colder or wetter than anticipated, you might need to add some clothes to your race bag.

 

If you ordinarily have a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, go ahead. Eat some toast, a piece of fruit, cereal, oatmeal or maybe an energy bar. Make absolutely certain you have at least one bowel movement before you leave the house. This is critically important.

 

Pre-race food. Check.

 

It’s best to arrive at the race site at least an hour before the starting time.  Remember, traffic is an inevitability at major races. Parking can also be a major issue. Plan accordingly. Give yourself plenty of time so you don’t have to rush and/or get upset with pre-race traffic issues. If possible, get someone who isn’t running to drive and be your pit crew.

 

Pre-race traffic. Check.

 

About 30-40 minutes before the race begins, start your warm up. Get a sense for the starting area (where it is, how wide it is, where the starting corrals are, which direction the race begins) and take a walk around the race site. If you have to, go to the bathroom. Continue hydrating.

 

Slowly begin to jog. Build your speed very gradually. Break into race pace for a minute or two. Do a few quick strides. Stretch gently and then walk for a few minutes to keep your muscles warm.

 

If you’re warm enough, get rid of your sweats at the gear check or give them to your pit crew. Do a final check of the weather and make any necessary adjustments to your clothing. Get rid of what you don’t need and add any clothes you will. If it’s chilly (but not cold), bring an old sweatshirt to the starting area and continue wearing it right up until race time. Then, simply discard it.

 

Final adjustment to clothes. Check.

 

With about 10 minutes to go before the start, do four or five strides of about 100 meters. Accelerate to race pace. Continue moving around. Tune into the pre-race excitement. Acknowledge your fellow competitors and wish them luck.

 

Once the starting-line announcer instructs competitors to line up in the starting grid, do so. (In the biggest races, you will have to get into the starting grid at least 30 minutes early.) Do so. Once in the starting corral, shake out your legs and try to stretch a little. Try to keep your muscles warm and ready by moving around.

 

You’re ready to roll. Check.

 

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