Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Race Day Traditions and Superstitions

There's no such thing as lucky hats. If the Eagles or the Orioles win every time I wear the same hat to a game, it's just a coincidence. (And that never happens, anyway.) If I always felt smarter, more confident, and luckier on final exam day in college when I was wearing a certain hat, and then aced the test, again, just coincidence.

Of course, that doesn't mean I'm going to stop believing in the power of my favorite talisman.

(I won this at the York Fair in 1992. It usually brings me luck,
but does not a darn thing for the team.)

I'm not extremely superstitious when it comes to running, though I have a few habits that probably are a little more than traditions:

1. Race day attire -- I never wear the race shirt on race day. Not because it's bad luck, but because that would prevent me from wearing my lucky red singlet. It's become my favorite of all the running shirts I own because its the most comfortable and least chafing, and along the way that seemed to cross the line into "lucky". Hence, I've worn it every long run since August while I've been training for this marathon and I wore it both times I ran the Philly Half. Seems like it would be tempting the fates to not wear it this time, no? I wore a different shirt for Broad Street, since it was 80 degrees I wanted to wear a lighter color and I wore a white shirt (and green shorts) for Shamrock so as to not be the guy running the St. Patrick's Day marathon in a red shirt. I don't have lucky running shorts -- that's just silly. If I wear the same gray and blue Brooks shorts on every long run, it's just because they're the newest and most comfortable.

2. Timepieces -- Every time I wear my Garmin in a long race, I end up wanting to throw it in a river, lake, or ocean. While that sample size is somewhat small, I definitely feel like my watch has some positive mojo in it that the Garmin lacks. I opted for my watch over Garmin during the last Philly Half, and I attribute the better-than-expected PR I set there to choosing the watch over the GPS. Since the lack of satellite reception in downtown Philadelphia would cause Garmin to infuriate me, anyway, wearing the watch is an easy choice. Plus, there's no denying that it's cool.

3. Expowear -- I usually spend more time thinking about what to wear to the expo than what to wear on race day, and I don't think I'm the only one that does this. It's always interesting to see the different race shirts runners wear to the expo. I'm not sure if it's a status symbol contest or if most people are just trying to show that they're not n00bs, but a friend summed up perfectly how I think of it, "You want to show that this isn't your first rodeo."

It's an easy choice to wear my Shamrock Marathon shirt to the Philly Expo, and as an added bonus it matches my lucky hat perfectly. I would probably be crossing the line between projecting myself as a savvy veteran and being a tool if I wear my Shamrock finisher's hat, too. (Right?)

4. Carb-loading -- I know carb-loading is (or should be) a little more complicated than "eat a bunch of pasta the night before the race", but I still prefer pasta the night before. Also, one pre-race beer with dinner to take the edge off a little bit and help me sleep well. Not five, not three, one. That's very important. After the race, par-tay.

5. D-tags -- Not many races have d-tags (disposable timing chip tags that attach to shoes) anymore, as b-tags (disposable timing chip tags that attach to the back of race bibs) have become more prevalent, but I always used to leave the d-tag on my running shoes until I had to take it off for the next race. My last pair of Supernova Glides, which never got recycled as casual-wear sneakers because they're ugly, and instead survive as my biking/lifting shoes, still have the d-tag from the 2010 Jingle Bell Run.

Well, that's about it for me...except for making a burnt offering of Sports Beans to the marathon gods in the hotel lobby on race morning, of course. "Eff you, Jobu. I do it myself."


  1. I do a traditional pre-race beer.

    It has not ever dawned on me to think about what to wear to a race expo. But my husband says he's going to wear his bright green brand new New Balance running shoes so that he can be "in with the crowd." He also says that runners have a distinct look to them- like we're all waiting for the mother ship or something and he's constantly pointing out the non-runners and how "normal" they look at race expos.

    I still don't know what to wear to this marathon. Marathon Maniacs singlet, I guess... Maybe I'll drag my kids to Road Runners tonight or tomorrow to shop...

  2. LOL -- people are going to have shoe envy!

    If I may give a bit of advice that I learned the hard way on my first 20-miler and hence some of the only advice I feel really qualified to give, I suggest not wearing anything that you haven't worn on a long run. :-)

    I don't trust the long-term forecasts that much, but right now it looks like temps in the 40s and 50s, I probably won't even bother with long sleeves.