Running Rituals

Garmy’s and visors and ponytails, oh my!

Runners come in all different stripes – some are fiercely competitive, some are “soul runners” (a la Kat), some do it for fitness, some for the social aspect, some for the time with themselves. But one thing almost all runners have in common are our running rituals. We have a tendency to get pretty specific in what we have figured out works for us and that hard-earned knowledge is not bandied about lightly. Over time, these actions become our own running rituals and many of us are anal enough that we get out of sorts if our habits are messed with.  Like most things, there is a spectrum on which we fall, with some of us taking our rituals, ahem, more seriously that others. Sure, some people (read: Lil Sis) would say we have jumped straight from the ritual spectrum to the OCD one, but I say “mere semantics!”, lol.  As a platinum member of the ritual set, I am always fascinated with other runner’s (and really, any athlete’s) collection of behaviors that make them feel at ease. So today I will share some of mine and then open up the discussion to hear about yours!

1. Food – I always eat bowl of pasta with red sauce, broccoli and a protein (chx, soy or turkey) the night before a race, a cinnamon-raisin bagel with honey the morning of a long race (10 miles or longer) and a giant bowl of cereal after a long run. I never eat a GU all at once (and in a race, I will only eat GU brand. Other gels are fine for training, but for races, it has to be GU).  Before a long training run I will always eat, in addition to a piece of toast or english muffin, exactly 3 teeny bowls of dry cereal, no more, no less.

2. Clothing – I always double knot my laces. If I am running and have to carry my car key, I always tie it to my left shoe, never my right. I always fold down the waistband of my running shorts. I always lay my outfit out the night before a race. And if you see a runner wearing a visor in December, that would be me. Unless I need a knit hat, it is visor central in these parts – never a bare head (this only happens if I forget it, never by choice), never a ball cap.

3. Gear – Though I have tried, I have never enjoyed running with hydration packs, handhelds, etc. , so I always stash bottles on my course the night before.  I hate running without Garmy and hardly ever do it, even for runs I don’t care about distance or pace and he only lives on my right wrist. I always tie my hairband three time for my ponytail.

4. Odds and Ends – I always take a shower before a big race, even though this is arguably the most pointless time to cleanse body parts that will be sweating profusely in a matter of an hour or so. I always have some sort of good luck charm with me on a big day and it changes by race (for my first marathon I pinned a monarch picture to my shorts since I had seen so many while training). I have to be half dead before I will skip a run, I just hate that feeling, even when it is the smart decision (my track record – I’ve run with pneumonia, mono and appendicitis before each was diagnosed – feeling horrible was not enough to stop me. Yup, dumb). I will never run less than I set out to do – even it is just .1 mile under, I cannot do less than I said I would. Lil Sis, Scott, Carrie, Melissa T. and countless others have run an extra loop, an extra block, an extra anything just to satisfy this need.

I am fully aware that I am little wacky, but I honestly don’t care. I embrace the quirks that make me the runner I am and know from talking to others I am not alone. Many of these things sound silly when reading, but lots of them have come from experience (I tie my hair 3x because 2x is too loose, 4x gives me a headache). So while it may sound like a laundry list of kookiness, to me it is actually the result of 20+ miles of running experience and what works for me. At least, that is what the voices in my head tell me.

So ‘fess up and make me feel less crazy – what are your running rituals?

PS I know technically a lot of these things don’t fit the traditional definition of “ritual” and that you might be reading the list with the same reaction that I listened to the Alanis Morissette song “Ironic” in that you are yelling at your computer “but those aren’t rituals!” much as I used to yell at the radio “but all those spoons are not ironic!”. But just go with me on this one – isn’t the image that a “ritual” conjures up much more compelling than, say,  “things I have to do when I run or I get grouchy”? Yeah, that’s what I thought too.

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2 responses to “Running Rituals

  1. Bel

    OK, so I’ll go bullet-style on this one too. Even though I’m new to this, I’ve started to fall into some patterns already and I’m not surprised – I’m kind of a control freak! So here goes, and I’m sure more will come!

    1. I remember being told as a kid that athletes “carb up” on pasta the night before a game or whatever it is that they’re doing. So I too usually have pasta the night before I run with some chicken & broccoli. I don’t know much about running nutrition yet and haven’t played around too much with it since I don’t really seem to be struggling too much with it (unless I just don’t eat enough).

    2. Since I have spent the night at my mom’s house the night before all of my races, my morning routine has been able to be the same. I don’t know what will happen when I do a race where I’m not staying at her house! But the morning of my first run my mom lent me a travel coffee mug so I could get in that extra cup in the car before the race. It’s not just any coffee mug, it’s one that my sister made for my mom on one of her birthdays and it has collages of our family on it. It was extremely sentimental for that first race since it was on my Dad’s birthday, he was on that mug, it was like I was taking him with me, yada, yada. This weekend I almost flipped out because I couldn’t find the lid to it and thought I’d have to leave it behind. I was already stressed for other things, but the thought of not having that mug made me panic a little bit. So I’ve borrowed it every race morning thus far, and I have a feeling I might borrow it from her ahead of time if I have a race where I’m not staying at her house.

    3. I have to wear something of my sister’s when I run. Either clothes that she passed down to me or a necklace that she made me. I try not to wear the necklace while I’m training because it’s made of rope and sweating makes it gross and stinky. But I feel like it’s a good-luck charm on race day so I’ve made sure I always have it with me.

    4. I have to, have to, have to have water on me when I run. I have a hand-held right now but only because I feel that a camelback would be ridiculous for a 5K. If I didn’t look like a tool, I’d probably wear one though because I drink I lot. And I ran out of water one time during a workout at home and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. So stupid, and I know that one’s all in my head because there’s no way I need to drink that much!

    And lastly, I have ALWAYS thought that about the Alanis song! Rain on your wedding day is not ironic, it just sucks!

    • i love these!! esp the family-related ones 🙂 BTW, watching you become a runner is seriously a lovely experience. i agree with lizzie’s FB comment that it might be time to change your blog intro cause you are DEF a runner!!

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