You’ve bought your shoes, built up your training and sensibly tapered for your race. But before the starting gun is fired, there’s the all-important matter of the Race Day Rituals. These can seem trivial but their familiarity may help you keep calm and achieve your potential. Every seasoned runner believes that his or her methods are the best and their superstitions mustn’t be trifled with. And well, I’m no different! So here is my Very Serious and Guaranteed To Work Physiotherapist’s Guide to Race Day!
Clothes Laid Out Like a Pro: I’m not a morning person, so everything must be very neatly laid out and ready to go. Always my same trusty pair of ‘magic’ shorts. The shirt needs to be hung up with race number staring back at me- it’s the closest I’ll ever get to a pro-athlete dressing room!
Tip: You don’t want to waste any energy fussing over your gear, so be organised enough to keep calm and get out the door on time. Some ‘ceremony’ in getting ready might also boost your confidence and get the day off to a positive start.
The Official Breakfast: I go with fairly-dry Promite toast with 2 hours to go. Water must be sipped in obsessively small amounts. A well-timed small black coffee closer to the start and maybe part of a Cliff Bar. While non-essential for City2Surf, I like to run with a single energy gel (Chocolate Outrage flavour!) in my pocket- if for no other reason than a placebo-based charge after Heartbreak Hill.
Tip: Everyone is different so experimenting with food and hydration approaches during your training is important. Find out what works best for you and on the day use “Tried and true, and nothing new.” If you’re having trouble, seek personal advice from a Sports Dietician.
Iron Out That Final Niggle: If a muscle group is on my mind leading up to an event (right calf, I’m thinking of you!) then I use a foam roller lightly and briefly to quiet the niggle factor, then I can stop worrying.
Tip: The old lore of having to stretch everything before a run has been largely debunked. (This is a big topic, so ask me about all the research). But if you have a specific area that’s tight, try to bright it into line with light stretching or massage/roller.
Getting In The Zone: I haven’t got a set routine for this, but the goal is to arrive in the perfect headspace. This might involve listening to just the right song, going somewhere quiet or soaking up the crowd atmosphere. I’ll play the race out in my head, picturing where I’m likely to get over-excited or where I’ll have to fight some demons and push-through the pain. Above all, I want to feel happy and ready to enjoy the experience.
Tip: Sports psychologists study “arousal levels” and their effect on race performance. The optimum level of arousal will be generally higher for a short race (ie. get pumped up to run fast) and lower for the start of a marathon (stay composed). Running means different things to us all, so if you can remember why you do this and why you like it then in a sense, you’ve already succeeded. Smile and take your place at the start knowing that a fast time is merely the icing on the cake.