Runners’ Rituals

Tennis ace Serena Williams insists on taking her shower sandals to the tennis court, bouncing the tennis ball 5 times before the first serve, and twice before the second serve. Olympic gold medallist swimmer Stephanie Rice goes through the same routine every time that she takes the starting block: 8 arm swings, 4 goggle presses and 4 cap touches. In 1979, marathon great Bill Rogers wore a snoopy hat on all his training runs for the Boston marathon. He then decided to compete in this ‘lucky snoopy hat’, winning the race and breaking the American record in the process.

Tying my shoes in a certain way.
Tying my shoes in a certain way.

Many runners wear lucky socks, tie their shoes in a certain way, or have the same breakfast before each race. I like to lay my race outfit out on my bed the night before race day:


I also like to fill up all the water bottles in my water belt, and lay out my gels, in the order that I am going to eat them (always different flavours) the first two go in my left leg pocket, and the second two go into the front pocket of my water belt. After that, I lay out my breakfast, so that it is ready to eat in the morning. Is this pre-race ritual, or is this just  getting organized?

One thing that I do like to do the day before a race is paint my nails. Usually pink, to match my top.


I have also noticed that every time I have run a PB, i have been wearing a new running top. Old top, no PB. This is a superstition… developed in hindsight. But I’m sure it will become a ritual, next time I want to run a PB…

I also spend quite a while pinning on my race number. I prefer to do it in front of the mirror. It cannot be uneven. It must be perfectly centred, both sides level.

Some might argue that our running rituals start long before race day, back when we sign up for the race. Like the Saturday night ritual of setting the 5am alarm for Sunday morning’s long run.

Experts say that these pre-race rituals and superstitions actually make us run faster. They focus our attention so that we are ready to race, and help with our mental preparation. And in the endurance game, the mental preparation is half the battle. Rituals may also trigger muscle responses that help relax our form. They help keep the pre-race jitters away, and keep us relaxed.

Before running an endurance event like a marathon, you need to be not just physically prepared, but mentally ready too. Rituals offer a powerful  improvement in performance by boosting our confidence. So if you need to wear your lucky shorts to feel on top of your game, do it. Even if they are 10 years old.

Do you have any pre-race rituals?

4 thoughts on “Runners’ Rituals

  1. Clif Bar and hour before the race. Never wear my running shoes on race day until right before lining up time. And I always get up two hours prior to leaving the house so that coffee has time to work its magic.

  2. I know exactly what you mean since I have OCD. The bib MUST be even AND right in the middle. Some of it is just good organisational work but it have a few rituals won’t hurt. It’s a nice way of getting into the racing mindset. ^_^

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