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Racing itinery

March 5, 2010

Taking a distance race seriously is a little more than just getting to the start line, pegging it to the end as fast as you can and wiping the sweat off your brow at the end. When I was younger and doing quite a lot of track and field events, I’m pretty sure that’s how I used to treat the 400m and 800m. But when you move into the big league of distances, preparation becomes something of a ritual.

On Sunday I’m running the Bath Half Marathon, raising money for The Stroke Association (you can still donate here). It’s an important race because it’s a precursor to the main event, the Paris Marathon, which will be the pinnacle of my fund raising and the event I have been preparing for over the last three months. Psychologically, it’s important that the race goes well. Getting over a bad race is sometimes tough, but getting over a bad race by running the most challenging distance of your life? Perhaps not the most auspicious start to a 26.2-mile slog.

So, besides training, pre-race preparation is essential. Runners begin to take on obsessive compulsive characteristics in how they prepare for a race. Take my growing Bath Half Marathon pile, for instance:

  • Train tickets for the day
  • Four safety pins (pinned together to avoid losing one)
  • Race number and chip timer
  • The Stroke Association running vest
  • Race programme with details of start time and the location of the runners’ village ear marked
  • Fully-charged Garmin
  • Stop watch, just in case, and possibly for use in addition to Garmin
  • Various layers of clothes for whatever the weather

The night before I’ll be eating out in Oxford. We’ve been to the place a few times (it’s really nice), and I’m already fancying one of the bianca pizzas (no tomato sauce – surprisingly good). Call it traditional carb loading, if you will.

In addition to this, I already know that I will be having a bowl of porridge with sultanas and strawberry jam for breakfast, alongside a mocha of coffee. This seems to be my running breakfast of choice, although it’s causing me some concerns about the easy availability of porridge in Paris…

It’s not quite a routine; it’s not quite a ritual. However, planning and preparing to this level of detail helps me to feel in control of the situation when I’m plainly anything but. The train might be late. The weather might be dreadful. Any number of things might affect my race. But so long as I’ve got my well-packed bag and my Readybrek glow, I’m ready to run. Wish me luck!

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