What do you do with all those medals and t-shirts you get? Do they matter anymore?
Some people do races for those things… So why do you race ?
I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t race for the swag. Like most runners, I have finisher’s medals that hold a very special place in my heart. Having run well over 100 marathons and ultra marathons, and countless half marathons, I have quite a nice collection of medals. We’ve moved so many times over the years that I’ve lost track of some of the medals, and a lot are still boxed up, but I do display many of them in my office.
I’m way beyond the point of having fancy medal display racks, so instead, I hang them up with pushpins—I know… I know… it’s ‘sacrilegious’ to poke a hole in a Boston Marathon ribbon! Nevertheless, it’s inexpensive, and it allows me to enjoy seeing as many of my medals as I have room for.
Among all the finisher’s medals I’ve acquired, there are a few that I consider very precious. These include: my first marathon (the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, and even better… I qualified for Boston at this race too!), my first sub-3-hour marathon (in Toronto the following year), my first Boston Marathon medal, my Comrades Ultra Marathon medal from the 89km race in South Africa, my three finisher’s medals from my Triple Toronto Waterfront Marathon last year, and the best one of all… the special medal I received at an awards ceremony for entering the “Platinum Club” for having run the Toronto Waterfront Marathon ten times. Toronto is my hometown, and Alan Brookes and everyone at the Canada Running Series are like my family.
Every time I have a race, I can’t sleep the night before? Why is that? Do you have that experience as well?
That’s a fantastic question, and it’s one that I’m sure every athlete struggles with leading up to a race. There has been much written on the importance of being adequately rested prior to racing, and the consensus coming out of sports science studies is that it’s your sleep two nights before the race that is most important.
Generally speaking, we can operate on less sleep the night before a race because we can draw on a lot of our nervous energy and adrenaline during the race. That being said, if it’s an ultra marathon that you’re competing in, chances are you will be somewhat sleep-deprived during the race itself, so it’s critical that you get as much sleep as possible the night before your event.
Here are few strategies I use to lessen some of the anxiety around bedtime before a race:
- If you’re anything like me, you’re probably stressed out about sleeping in and missing your event, so the best thing you can do to put your mind at ease is to set multiple alarms. When I’m racing locally, I set my alarm clock, my wife’s alarm clock, and the alarm on my phone… and when I’m at a destination race, I add in a wake-up call from the front desk too! I know it sounds a little nutty, but I can at least eliminate one more thing racing around my mind as I’m trying to fall asleep.
- In order to go to sleep feeling relaxed and all prepared for the race the next day, I always lay out my complete race kit the night before: and this includes pinning the race bib on my singlet, ensuring the timing chip is in place, sorting out my nutrition and gels, and gathering my throwaway clothes (if necessary). Based on all of the ‘flat runner’ pics posted on social media the night before the race, I can assume that most runners already do this!
- A lot of anxiety comes from ‘facing the unknown’… If you haven’t run the race before, I suggest you pick up a course map from the expo, and spend 30 minutes or so familiarizing yourself with the course elevation changes and with the placements of the water stations along the course. If it’s a local course, I always make sure to have run the complete course (sometimes in sections) prior to race day. Whenever I’m at a destination race, I like to run the last 5km of the course during my shakeout run the day before race day.
- But I would have to say my most important night-before-the-race advice would be to have an earlier diner. First, by eating a little earlier than you are accustomed to, you will kick-start your digestion so that you won’t be trying to go to bed with an ‘active’ tummy—This will also increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to get your pre-race ‘evacuation’ done without stressing about that the morning of the race! Moreover, if you’re at a destination race, this will ensure that you’re back in your hotel room and chilling out nice an early.
Send your advice and questions to JP firstname.lastname@example.org. Want more tips, tricks and practical advice from JP Bedard? Check out his previous posts with questions from elite and everyday athletes.