Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

AdChoices
Alicja Barahona (Courtesy of Maia LePage)
Alicja Barahona (Courtesy of Maia LePage)

How to prepare for race day: Elite runners share their tips Add to ...

Runners may train for months before a big race, but it's often the 24 hours before the starter's pistol goes off that are the most crucial. We asked five race-day veterans how they get ready.

MEGAN BROWN

Ms. Brown, a 26-year-old elite runner based in Toronto, won the half-marathon at the Canadian Half Marathon Championships in Montreal earlier this month. She typically races in 20 competitions each year.

ROUTINE: The day before the race is always the longest day ever. I always sleep in the day before and then go for a 20-minute run just to shake the cobwebs out of my legs. Then I'll put my bag together and organize all my race things. The morning of a race, I might do a 10-minute jog and then have some toast with almond butter, a banana and cup of coffee for breakfast. An hour before the race, I'll stretch and go for a light jog.

MANTRA: This is what I've trained to do.

BIGGEST MISTAKE: At a half-marathon in 2009, I made the mistake of eating far too closely to the race. The combination of nerves and eating far too closely to the race meant I had some major gastrointestinal distress.

MATT LOISELLE

Mr. Loiselle, a 26-year-old from Windsor, Ont., has been running professionally since 2008. He's now training to make the Canadian Olympic marathon team.

ROUTINE: If I've never run the course before, I might run it the day before to get a feel for what it's like. The night before, I'll eat a pasta dinner and try to get to bed early. Then, I'll try to get up three hours before the race so that I can eat and digest breakfast, which is usually a bagel with peanut butter and a cup of coffee. About 45 minutes before the race I'll go for an easy 20-minute jog and then stretch for 10 to 15 minutes.

MANTRA: I don't have a mantra. I'll listen to some music - maybe some Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd - to get in the zone.

BIGGEST MISTAKE: Getting too jacked up or over-thinking things. I used to listen to heavy rock music before a race and be so psyched up that I would go out too hard. You can't win a race in the first kilometre, but you can definitely lose it.

ANDREW SMITH

This 31-year-old elite runner from Toronto has been running professionally since 2003. He typically participates in about 10 to 12 events each year.

ROUTINE: The night before a race I try to finish dinner by 7 p.m. to maximize digestion time. On the morning of a marathon, I try to be up three hours before the race. I'll have a cup of coffee first thing and eat a sports bar two hours before start time. I'm just looking to get a couple hundred calories in. My warm-up is very short, just five to 10 minutes of very easy jogging and a couple of light sprints. Then I'll stretch for a few minutes.

MANTRA: I don't have a mantra, but the night before a race I'll visualize myself in the race and the pace I'm going to be running.

BIGGEST MISTAKE: Not resting enough in the days leading up to an event. At one marathon in 2010 where I didn't run well, I might have been up walking around too much the day before.

ALICJA BARAHONA

A Polish-born ultra-marathon runner who lives in New York, Ms. Barahona, 57, completed a 370-kilometre solo trek through the Canadian Arctic earlier this month, running from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk and back, in support of the Inuvik Homeless Shelter.

ROUTINE: I don't have a set routine. I try to go to bed early, although I can never sleep because I'm nervous about the run. On the morning of a race, I get up at 4 a.m. and have scrambled eggs for breakfast. I'll also make peanut butter sandwiches to take with me on the run. I don't stretch. I just go and do it. It's such a long run that stretching really doesn't matter.

MANTRA: I don't have a mantra. I know I can finish. It's just a matter of time. Most of the time I'm thinking, "When is the end of this run?"

BIGGEST MISTAKE: During a run in Alaska in 2005 I got a salmonella infection because I had eaten eggs sunny side up, which I never order. I had to pull out of the race.

JAMIE ARMSTRONG

The 34-year-old running coach in Vancouver typically races eight to 12 events a year. The owner of Method Personal Training, Mr. Armstrong says sticking to a pre-race routine is the key to success.

ROUTINE: The day before an event I go for a 15- to 20-minute run, focusing on my form and staying loose. Then I'll do light stretching for another 15 to 20 minutes. I'll have a big lunch so that everything is digested the next morning. On race day, I'll get up three hours before the event. Half an hour after I get up I'll have a breakfast of oatmeal, fruit and coffee. Once I'm at the start area I'll do a slow jog for 10 to 15 minutes and do a few leg swings to warm up my muscles. Your pre-race routine should be very structured.

MANTRA: I don't have a mantra. I just try and stay as calm as possible.

BIGGEST MISTAKE: I had a race in Africa in 2007 in which I wore the wrong pair of shoes for the terrain. I had racing flats and got blisters all over my feet.

These interviews have been condensed and edited.

Report Typo/Error

Follow on Twitter: @Dave_McGinn

Next story

loading

In the know

The Globe Recommends

loading

Most popular videos »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular