Race Day Rituals

June 1, 2023

Race Day Rituals

Do you have any race day rituals??

Race day can be a time of heightened anxiety with imposter syndrome emerging and psychosomatic symptoms developing, all of which can potentially lead to a negative mindset before you even reach the start line!!

So, today we are going to chat about how having Race Day Rituals in place may help minimise any angst and help maintain confidence as YOU step up to the start line. We:

    1. Discuss why Race Day Rituals are Valuable and what these rituals may include
    2. Give hints and tips on putting rituals in place

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Race Day Rituals


Aileen and Karen share their Race Day Rituals including:


  • The day before the race Aileen lays out everything she will need for day. For example; clothes, food and drinks
  • On the morning of the race Aileen gets up early and goes downstairs to have ‘me time’ before everyone else gets up. She has tea, breakfast then a shower…in that order!!
  • Aileen listens to the SAME music before every race. She finds it motivating and energising before the gun fires!!


  • On the morning of race day Karen eats breakfast as soon as she wakens. It is ALWAYS the same breakfast of overnight oats soaked in yogurt with a little more yogurt added in the morning accompanied by a glass of water
  • Karen ALWAYS has a shower before a race BUT not before a training run!!
  • Karen has “race attire – outfits she wears on race day ONLY!


Considering WHY rituals may be a valuable tool for a runner on race day.

It is thought that rituals may help a runner (or any athlete) on race day because rituals help establish a sense of purpose and control at a time when a runner may feel out of control.

Rituals are highly individual and can appear quirky to other people but are rational to the individual.   For the individual, they may believe that if they fail to do the ritual properly, all sorts of disastrous outcomes may follow BUT, if the ritual is completed correctly, ‘a deep need for certainty and predictability is being satisfied’. BUT, there is often no LOGICAL connection between the behaviours themselves and the desired outcome, making the ritual seem silly.

So, the value of having a race day ritual(s) is that it could help to bring some control and focus and calm to a potentially chaotic and negative mindset, which could impact on confidence in running ability at the start line.


Highlighting some Rituals carried out by professional athletes including:

  • A female distance runner who straightens her hair at the start line just before the gun fires
  • Another athlete who lies in child pose before leaving his house/hotel on race day
  • Another who meticulously folds a jumper before putting it into his race pack!!

REMEMBER….a ritual could take the form of a Mantra. Focussing on a positive phrase or word could help:

  • Prevent imposter syndrome invading your thoughts
  • Build confidence on the start line
  • Prevent comparison to other runners
  • ‘Keep you going’ during the race


Giving some TIPS on sleep rituals before race day. Some to consider include:

  • Eating your last meal at least 2hrs before bed time. For example; around 7pm-7.30pm to ensure you are not overfull at bedtime
  • Complete ALL tasks by 8pm including; work, household, and financial tasks
  • Power Off the phone, PC, tablet and TV at 8pm to get rid of all unwanted distractions and blue light
  • Prepare your bedroom for sleep so that when you’re ready to go to bed there are no distractions. For example; tidying the room
  • Wind down and relax for an hour before bed. For example; Play some soothing music, have a bath, read a novel, chat with family
  • Consider introducing a short meditation or yoga session


Outlining some Food Rituals to consider including:

  • Introduce food rituals the night before the race
  • For dinner the night before choose a meal you know you will enjoy, but also one that is high in carbohydrate AND Protein
  • Choose foods you have tried and tested during training so you know they will be supportive to your running performance
  • Aim to eat your evening meal at around 7pm
  • Eat slowly and mindfully



Here is an ACTION POINT to help you workout what ritual may support YOU on race day:

Reflect on what triggers feelings of anxiety/nervousness on race day for you. Then, consider what you could put in place CONSISTENTLY prior to a race to help alleviate these feelings

For example; If digestive distress is a fear and one that makes you anxious on race day, choose a breakfast that you have practiced with FREQUENTLY in training that has not led to any issues. At all future races (and in training), eat the same breakfast and remember to eat mindfully.

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The suggestions we make during this episode are for guidance and advice only, and are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you have any concerns regarding your health, please contact your healthcare professional for advice as soon as possible.

Remember we are available to support you if required contact us at hello@ runnershealthhub.com

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