Pre-race Routines

Professional golfers talk with reverence and almost mystical terms about their pre-shot routines. Having a consistent routine calms the nerves, heightens the mind/body connection, instills confidence, and sets the stage for the perfect shot.

Although neither one of us claims to be mystical, we believe strongly in the ability of a pre-race routine to improve race performance for runners just as much as whispering to the putter helps a golfer sink a high-pressure shot. If you’re preparing to run this Sunday’s Big Sur Half Marathon, you have a chance to put our theory to the test.

Here is a typical pre-race routine that has worked for us and thousands of other runners. It’s not a magic formula, but it is very simple and practical, and will prepare you to run your best when the gun goes off.

We’ll assume that you’ve spent several months doing all the proper training to carry you to the starting line healthy and capable of running a great race – but most of this advice will even help you slackers out there who haven’t prepared at all. So here we go.

Above all else, the most important rule is don’t do anything before or during the race that you have not done before. In other words, don’t try anything new. Don’t let a friend talk you into their special “good luck” dinner of spicy enchiladas. Don’t wear the super-sexy race outfit you bought at last night’s expo to show off your physique. Don’t accept gummy worms or Advil from fellow runner who promises that they’ll make you feel great. When in doubt … Just. Don’t.

But enough of what not to do; here are some things you should do:

The night before: Carbo-load with pasta or potatoes. Drink water with your meal. The combination of carbohydrates and water helps store glycogen in your muscles.

Lay out your race clothes and put your number and chip on so you don’t have to worry about it in the morning. Don’t wear the new race shirt – trust us, it’s bad juju. If you see anyone at the start wearing the race shirt, know that you have one advantage over him or her.

Set two alarms - one that is battery operated - and go to bed early. Try to get a good nights sleep, but don’t worry too much if you toss and turn. It won’t hurt you. While you drift off to sleep, visualize yourself running strong and smooth, having a great race, and finishing with a smile.

Race Morning: “Top off your tank” with a light meal, but not too close to race time. Try to get about 400-600 calories into your stomach before 5AM. The best options are carbs like a bagel, banana or a bit of oatmeal – something that won’t upset your stomach.

Do some light stretching at home and drink a bit of water. Leave home in time to allow for traffic and be comfortably parked by 6 A.M. Drink some coffee on the drive – the caffeine perks you up, and also provides an endurance benefit by helping you maintain your glycogen stores longer.

When you arrive at the start area, immediately go to the porta-john line and use the facilities. Then walk to the race staging area and determine exactly how you access your starting corral and what time you have to be there. Find the sweats/clothing drop area as well.

At 6:35, start a light warm up. For some this is 15 minutes of running and for some it can be 15 minutes of walking and stretching while you are talking to friends. It is important to warm up your body even if you do not have a time goal.

At 6:50 put on your Vaseline or body-glide, drop off your sweats, use the porta-johns for the last time if you need it. Be aware if the lines are long you might have to line up before 6:45 to insure getting to the starting area in time. Have a few last sips of water. At 6:55 if you have a time goal do some quick sprints to prime your muscles for running fast.

Make sure your shoe laces are double knotted. Get in position at the starting line. Do more visualization and think positive thoughts. Keep your legs moving a bit as you wait for the start.

At 7:05 start having the race of you life and enjoy every minute of it.

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