This post is in response to the daily prompt: Time After Time – Traditions: we’ve all got ‘em. They might be family dinners on special occasions, or having a particular kind of cake on your birthday, or popcorn at the movies, or meeting your friend for a 5k run in the park, rain or shine, every Sunday morning. What are your favorite traditions, large and small? What is it about your traditions that keep them going strong for you?
Tradition is important to every runner, especially come race day. From how we tie are shoes to the way we pin our number, we all have traditions that we observe and follow. It is how we get ourselves to the starting line for each race. I have several that over time have become my pre-race ritual that I still follow to this day. My traditions start the night before with my gear. Like most runners I lay out my gear the night before, but that is were it begins to differ. I start from the ground up, first my shoes, always untied, followed by my warm up jacket, then a pair of shorts and a t-shirt folded and laid on top. Finally, on top of the pile are my race singlet and shorts. Off to one side of this pile is a pair of warm-up pants, a hoodie, and my flip-flops to throw on in the morning to go find breakfast and on the other side of the pile is my racing shoes. After waking up the next morning and having breakfast (dry cereal, toast, some fruit, juice, and water), I go back to my room to change and pack. Then it is headphones in and out to the team bus about 15 minutes early for my next tradition.
I always am the first to the team bus, but not because I want to get on and sit down. I drop my gear in my seat and head back outside to do static stretching until the team is ready to leave, making me the last one on the bus. I enjoy letting the cool morning air fill my lungs and just letting my mind wander for a few moments before I begin to focus it on the day ahead. I go through all my static stretches once, twice, maybe even three time, or until my coach hollers for me to get on the bus. As we ride, the headphones are still in my ears, still blasting music, trying to put me in the right mood to race.
The biggest tradition/pre-race ritual I have is when I warm up. It is always warm up miles (1.5 -3 depending on how I feel), followed by movement drills, followed by another mile at a faster pace, next I change into my racing shoes, and lastly I start doing my strides to get the muscles fired up. Hopefully, I timed this all perfectly so that when I’m done with my last stride, we will be getting called to the starting line. It may sound simple, but its the same order every time, the same drills in the same order every time, the same number of strides every time. Oh, and the t-shirt will not come off until I get called to the starting line. (Shout out to my high school coach for that one).
As I look back, I think what kept these pre-race traditions going for me was that they never failed me. Time after time, they would put my mind and body in the right place to race and give it my best effort. Some of my college teammates would call what I do the stuff coach requires before a race, but after doing week in and week out it became habit, and shortly after a tradition. One that you do even if it is dictated. Even after college, I still find that they work, which makes them all the more important to me.
So, there, that is how I get to the starting line before a race, my pre-race traditions and rituals. If you think this is crazy, one of my teammate in college would complain if they didn’t sit in the exact same seat every bus ride.