Pre-race Rituals

No magic pre-race 4-leaf clover salad for me.

Recently I heard someone mention pre-race rituals. I got to thinking about them. At first I did not think I had any pre-race rituals. After all I am not superstitious. I do not cross myself or even pray at the starting line. I do not have anything lucky that I must wear such as a special pair of underwear, a hat, gloves, or socks. I do not carry a rabbit’s foot, four leaf clover or anything like that. When it is race time I do not think about trying to do anything to make me race better.

Then I realized that a ritual is something you do on a routine basis.  Most of my rituals are done well in advance of race day. Pre-race does not necessarily mean immediately before the race or even at the starting line. It simply means before the race. And there are several things that I do prior to a race.

#1. I make sure that my shoes do not have more than 250 miles on them. I have no scientific evidence to support this. I was just told this by my running coach years ago and since I have not had any issues with my feet I continue to do this.

#2. I train at least twice in the clothes I am going to race in. I have found out through experience that clothes that work for a 5K may not work for a marathon. I do not want any surprises on race day so I do not run in anything brand new right out of the package. I also put my race clothes out before my last training run. Then I wash them and put them immediately into my luggage. That way I do not forget anything. I have heard many stories about people forgetting to pack shoes, socks, and even shorts. Discovering this in the wee hours of the morning is not a good thing.

#3. I run an easy three miler the day before the race. Again, I have nothing scientific to base this on other than my body. I run much better when I do an easy run (on or near the course if possible). In my mind this prepares me since I am able to experience the terrain, temperature, and ambiance.

#4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I do this early and often. Figure out what works for you. I try ot guzzle 80 ounces of water a day. I do taper back a bit the day before the race so that I am not running to the bathroom all night.

I do not make voodoo dolls of my competition. Image via wikipedia

#5. I do not eat anything that I would not normally eat. For me this is not the time to try new cuisine. I save that for AFTER the race. And yes, if I feel like it I do have a glass of wine or a beer hours before going to bed. I have not gone to bed drunk and would not recommend that to anyone.

#6. I put my race bib on my race belt at least the night before. Why? Because nerves will get the best of me and I may not be able to find my bib or race belt the morning of the race. Yes, my life is just that crazy.

#7. Get plenty of rest. You must do this well before the race because nerves can get the best of you. You may not get good sleep the night before the race.

#8. Arrive a the start early. I hate to be late. Arriving early allows me to mingle with other runners, get in line for the bathroom early and avoid lines, and it keeps me from being late.

#9. Trust my training. During one run, the pacer was using the Galloway run/walk method. And yes, I have been beaten many times by people using that method. However,  I did not train that way and did not want to try it out during the race. Another time I completely blew it. I was doing the Iron Girl triathlon. When I got in the lake to swim, I panicked and ended doing the back stroke. I had not trained using the back stroke and not exactly sure why I did it. Let’s just say it was a painful event.

#10. Mentally prepare myself to enjoy the race. The hard work is done. The race is the celebration.

So I do have pre-race rituals. They are not mystical or magic. They are just things I do to ensure I have the best race possible.

How about you? What are your pre-race rituals?

I eat miles for breakfast, or occasionally for a snack later in the day. Self proclaimed 50+ and fabulous poster child, US Army vet, college professor, avid runner, yoga enthusiast, guest columnist, and I've used Olay since I was 17 so they should use me in at least one of their ads!

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  1. One thing I have done, especially when I was going for a PR (those days are gone, I fear) is to print out my training log, and even circle and highlight the ones where I really kicked ass. I look it over up to the last moments in the morning. Always helps to remind me that I got plenty of Hay in the barn ready to burn and fuel my run. And I like to make the sign of the cross, like the good catholic child I am, right before I step over the starting matt. In general, making piece with the old gods and the new is a good idea before harrowing Hell

  2. I don’t want to feel as if I’ve just run a race before I even get to the starting line.
    So … For events other than Big City Marathons, I arrive plenty early, grab my packet, then hang out in the quiet comfort of my car – finishing race prep and quieting my thoughts. Hit the port-o-johns again, usually before the lines, and head out for a warm-up run (which sometimes takes me to a nearby gas station with actual flush toilets and running water!). Then, it’s back to the car for final prep and reflection.

    My other ritual is wearing the same race socks.
    They are not lucky socks or fancy socks – they are low-stress socks.
    They are known good (non-holey) socks that are light gray, and so distinguish themselves from the bulk of my running socks which are black. This also guarantees that I have one left sock and one right sock – critical, because they are Injinjis. 😉

  3. I lay all my clothes out the night before. My brain is way too distracted/wound up to figure out the outfit du jour in the morning. I wore a pair of tattoed style arm warmers for the first time at a race only because they arrived from Amazon the day before and I couldn’t wait to wear them! At 34 races and counting I seem to have an accidental ritual: sleeping for only a couple of hours the night before. Too much nervous energy!