By: James McLean
The temperature is creeping up, the heat of the old black top tracks is starting to melt a few shoe bottoms, this only means one thing: championship season. In a year where there are many setbacks due to COVID-19, one thing remains abundantly clear: the mental pre-race rituals are in full effect.
Often people talk about how running is an equally physical and mental sport, and this is no truer of a statement than the five minutes before a race. The number of head scratching pre-race mojo boosting that people do to get ready for the big moment is astounding.
I could certainly pour over the unending list of ways people get their head in the game, but for the sake of time and click bait, I have curated a Power Ranking of the Top Ten most often and most unnecessary pre-race rituals.
1. Karaoke Stretch
I’m sure a sports physiologist would tell me I’m wrong, but I feel like this stretch is more of a dance than a real thing that matters for peak performance. I have also seen so many variations of this that I’m surprised people to get out some chalk and make a hopscotch game in lane 9.
This carries more weight than others (pun), but the lines at bathrooms 20 mins before a meet is staggering. I had to tie my spikes on the starting line once because the Bathroom line was longer than the track itself. And it is not that I don’t think people need to pee, but my god do we over hydrate.
3. Peeing on the course
If you remove the obvious, just seeing someone pee in public is always a real shocker, but to see dozens of people doing so in places like golf courses, public parks, the literal streets of a major city, it is shocking that there not more misdemeanors given out at the starting line.
4. Sunglasses even though it’s Overcast.
I went to a high school where idiots (me) would always wear sunglasses. And by all times, I mean like from the moment we step onto the bus, to the moment we are in the shower at the end of the day. I would be lying if I did not consider wearing them inside an indoor track meet.
5. Pump-up song
Hey, music is the reason for life, and I have no issue with it being a ritual, but there is something to be said about the incredible excuses people come up with post-race where “I mean, my phone died” has anything to do with the second lap of an 800 being 10 seconds slower than the first.
6. Team song chant
Highschool cross country squads, you know who you are. The number of renditions of “Livin’ On a Prayer” that I’ve heard not by Jon Bon Jovi is astonishing. Does this work? I can’t express the level of embarrassment of a Braveheart-style pump up song being led by the conference team that places 12th out of 12 teams.
Sweatbands are worn by two kinds of runners: 16-year-old’s with buzz cuts, and Sophomore’s in college with 18 month long hair. I’ve checked the records and that is a 100% accurate statement.
8. Half-assed “science-based” drink
I’m not talking Gatorade or something that Nick Symmonds is trying to shovel down my throat, I’m talking those weird deep-Reddit style drinks that help with lactic acid where you’re basically just drinking baking soda. I had a runner friend literally foam at the mouth and burp through an entire 1500 hoping his concoction would make his legs less heavy. Turns out he may have had rabies.
9. Slapping Thighs
You may think, “what is the Harrier talking about?” But the amount of middle-distance people that you see just slapping and pounding their thighs like they are a premium tenderloin and not a part of their body is amazingly high.
10 .Butterfly Stretch
This is not a stretch; this is just sitting down.