Guest post by Saucony Elite Runner Tina Muir
There are some definite perks to being an elite runner.
There are also some definite downsides; the way we have to push our bodies to their absolute limits, the social events we have to miss out on to go to bed by 9 pm, the 2-3 hours per day we dedicate to our training.
However, on race day, all of that usually becomes worthwhile.
I thought I would share a little insight into what life is like as an elite runner.
A few weeks ago, I raced the Rock ‘N’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon along with a very talented field of elite runners. The winner of the race ran a speedy 1:09, and I was 14th with my 1:13:21. Most races are not usually that stacked unless they are a championship, but it meant for a fun race, and that competition helps to push you in your own race. We all know how much having people around you helps.
So to share with you what the elite experience for that weekend involved, let’s start with the night before.
Knowing we have to get up early the next day, we usually go for dinner around 5 pm. That also means we can avoid the weekend rush. Keeping food bland and what we have already tested is usually the goal for a pre-race meal. Usually, I would eat with a few of the other runners, but on this occasion, one of my best friends lived in Philly, and I chose to eat out with her.
I do not stuff myself so full that I feel sick, but instead eat a regular sized portion of food, and just make sure the rest of the day involves fueling up every few hours. Especially if it is a marathon or half marathon race.
After dinner, I went back to my hotel room, which was provided to me free of charge by the race organizers. We usually have shared rooms, and you do not know your “roommate” until you arrive. Sometimes we arrive 2-3 days before a race, especially for the bigger ones, but in my case, I arrived the day before the race.
I spent a few hours in my room relaxing with my roommate, Alisha Williams (who ended up running 1:10), and we chatted about running, traveling, and of course, food! Anyone who knows me knows I am a foodie, and I LOVE to explore new places to eat.
We both also set out our racing outfit and bag for the morning. It helps you to sleep if you know that everything is ready to go, and you can just relax in the morning. This includes putting your number on your shirt and your chip on your shoes.
On race night, most elites usually turn lights out between 8-9 pm, and other than the occasional fight for the temperature in the room (which Alisha and I both agreed we like it colder), most elites are on a similar schedule.
After a restless night sleep (yes, we have those too!!), I wake up 3 hours before the race to eat my pre-race fuel. This is pretty common, although many elites like to have a coffee first. I am not a big coffee drinker, but I do like to have a tea to get my digestive system working….if you catch my drift!
If I am racing a marathon, my pre-race meal is a bowl of oatmeal with a banana, and then another banana with an hour to go. For this race, I had a bagel with banana as it was only a half marathon, and that was enough fuel. The most important thing is that I have practiced with both of these pre-race meals, and I know they sit well in my stomach.
This race started at 7:30 am, and all the elites and coordinators met in the lobby at 6:15. A bus took all the elites to the starting area, and we were escorted into an elite area where we have a few of our own porta-johns as well as some seats to put our clothes on, and change shoes.
I tend to warm up on my own, but those who come with their training groups will warm up together. Either way, there is usually only a relatively small area for us to warm up, and we just run back and forth. Most elites warm up for about 20 minutes of easy jogging. We then go to the bathroom again (why does it seem like on race day you can never go enough?!), and then we change into our racing shoes and remove some layers of clothes.
For me, my favorite racing shoe is the Saucony Fastwitch, and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a racing shoe that is light, but supportive.
Around 10 minutes before the start, we are escorted to the front of the race, where we can do some strides from the start line out towards the course. The atmosphere is usually pretty tense, but we do wish one another good luck. At the end of the day, we all know the commitment that we have made to be there right now, and there is a degree of respect for that. The tension mostly just comes from nervousness.
With 1-2 minutes to go, they call us back to the line, we remove our final layers of clothes- another perk is that they are collected into a bag and taken back to the elite area for us to collect them after the race. I usually find this time of waiting for the gun to go off is where I end up getting caught in some strange movements and make some funny faces when looking back at the race day photos after the race.
At that point, I am usually focusing on how I want to feel good, and most of all, how I want to enjoy it. Apparently that means I give lots of death stares 😉
Suddenly it is time, and the gun goes off. It is go time! Once we start the race, all runners, no matter what level, are out there together, battling those same demons, and resisting the urge to go out too fast as it feels so easy!
And there you have it, the pre-race experience as an elite.
Not so different to what you thought is it?
We do have some perks, and I am very thankful for those, but most of the worries, the constant bathroom trips, and the nervousness is the same. We are battling those same doubts that every runner has, and we can all risk throwing away our race if we let them get the better of us.
At the end of the day, I try to remind myself that it has to be about enjoying the experience. The result really will take care of itself If you make that the priority, and it will mean that you go into it with a better mindset, one that allows you to perform to the best of your ability.
Hopefully, this glimpse into life as an elite has shown you that we are really not that different. I talk about this a lot on my blog, and I am on a mission to prove that we go through the same ups and downs as everyone else.
Thanks for reading. I wish you all the luck in your next race!