Everyone has their own pre-race rituals. Some people tie their left shoe before their right or crumple their race bib before pinning it on their shirt. I don’t believe that any of these superstitions will help me run a good marathon. I completed the Boston Marathon a few weeks ago, so I thought I would share some of my own pre-race rituals in the hopes they might be useful for others who are currently training or thinking about training for an upcoming marathon.

1. Train Smart

Training smart means not making any significant changes leading up to the race. I need to maintain my normal training regiment as best as possible. I have a bad habit of doing stupid things like volunteering at track meets or re-shingling my parent’s roof the day before a race. Take my word for it, BE SMART and stay consistent with your training.

2. Visualize

In a course like the Manitoba Marathon, it is really easy for me to visualize. I know every loop of that course like it’s the back of my hand because I train on it all year and have been racing the full, half or relay on that course almost every year since I was 12 years old.  When I am preparing for a race in an unknown city, like Boston, I like to take a close look at course  maps, pictures and videos online beforehand. This enables me to think and prepare mentally for the tricky parts of the race.

3. Recover

Recovery goes hand in hand with training smart. At some points in my training, I run myself into the ground. But when a race is only a few weeks away, this is the time to REALLY take care of my body. I need to take days off, even when I feel great. I need to stretch, even when I have no time. I need to go and get massages, even when I have no money. If I train too hard, this is the time that I can do some serious damage. One important step in recovery I never forget is sleep. I try to sleep as much as possible and usually shoot for between 8-10 hours each night.

4. Eat and Drink Mindfully

Normally with nutrition, I have the mindset that I will burn off anything that I put into my body. But, leading up to a race, every bite has a purpose. That doesn’t mean that I cut out all junk, but it means more planning and making good choices. I have carbs before running and the proper ratio of carbs to protein afterwards. Chocolate milk has the perfect ratio! I try to stay extremely hydrated at all times and practice my runs with water, electrolytes and gels so that I can stay fuelled during a race.

There you have it: train smart, visualize, recover, fuel and hydrate. This is my secret recipe for running a marathon. And I am happy to say that after a grueling 26.2 miles, I completed the Boston Marathon. The conditions were brutal, but I was the fastest Manitoba woman to complete the marathon with a new personal best of 3:03:13. I can say with certainty that this would not have been possible without my pre-race rituals.