A blog by runners. For runners.

5 pre-race habits


Over the years, my pre-race rituals have changed considerably. I remember running my first 5K in 2003 and trying to get it all just right in the week(s) before the race. I paged through old issues of running magazines picking up tips and tricks. I searched online and read forums to learn more about tapering and nutrition, sleep habits, and hydration.

These days? I feel like an old pro, and a lot about my pre-race routine has changed and relaxed considerably. Still, there are a few habits that I’ve held onto after all these years, and I’m confident they do help.

I see many of my buddies running races every single week. Their daily/weekly mileage doesn’t waver much either. Now, I don’t do many races, so when I do choose to lace up at the line – I take the week or two before very seriously with regard to resting my body. I even ignore my training plan the weekend before a race if it tells me to run long. I run mostly half marathons, so I recognize that “tapering” can have a very different meaning between races that are 5K to the marathon and longer. Regardless, I maintain that it’s worthwhile to rest up and rejuvenate so I can do my best come race day.

It’s just not smart to load up like a camel the morning of a race. All that water sloshing around in the stomach can be uncomfortable and lead to many pitstops. And if you’re not careful, too much water at one time can even lead to electrolyte imbalance. So, I take my overall hydration seriously the week before a race, making sure I get at very minimum my 64 ounces of water each day. That way, I’m not behind on race morning and a single glass can suffice before the gun goes off.

I avoid late-night commitments the week before a race, especially in the two nights leading up to an event. I experimented in my mid-20s with ignoring this cardinal rule and did OK. As I got close to my 30s, I noticed a huge difference – maybe not with my race times, but with how I felt during the event. While restless sleep the night before a race might not matter so much when it comes to performance, the night before that is when you should try to snooze best.

Resisting change
I’ve ignored the suggestion to keep everything – shoes, clothing, sports supplements, etc. – the same during training and in the race itself. Whether it was because I forgot my usual mainstays or not, I’ve learned the hard way that changing things up the day of a race can be bad news. I wore a brand new pair of shoes for the Boilermaker 15K a few years ago because I had foolishly forgotten mine at home. I finished with tons of bloody, painful blisters on my feet.

There are lots of early start races that inevitably throw my stomach for a loop. I usually eat breakfast at 8 a.m., so switching that up to 5 a.m. has occasionally left me feeling ill. Regardless, I have learned – again, the hard way – skipping food before a race is never a good idea. Sure, in the beginning things might feel fine, but by the middle of the race, there’s just nothing left in the tank. The end? Oh, boy. My pre-race breakfast is usually just some peanut butter on a spoon spread on a slice of whole wheat toast and a squirt of honey.

If you’re a veteran racer, what parts of your pre-race rituals have changed or stayed the same throughout the years?

Written by Ashley Marcin.