Katie Scott explains how your race day rituals don’t have to be neglected
The vast array of fitness events and challenges across the country these days is pure brilliance, whether you enjoy hurtling across an obstacle course, pedalling over mini mountains or sprinting through closed town centres. Literally any sport or niche you want to try can be available at your fingertips because of the world wide web – there really has never been a better time to try something new.
Another aspect of this of course is branching out. Although it’s only natural that you initially look at events in your local area, once you’ve tackled them once or twice, you’re bound to want to whet your appetite with something new, a different challenge, something unexpected. With this in mind, this year I veered away from London for my main running event, instead tackling the Maidenhead Half Marathon, which involved an hour long drive on the M25. My husband Dan and I booked in to stay at a four star hotel the night before the race, the hotel being a handy 15 minute walk from the start line – we deemed this easier than leaving our Romford based flat at the crack of dawn and then having to stress about parking, traffic, etc. Plus, let’s be honest, any excuse for a cheeky spa day. What this meant however was that I’d have to prepare for the 13.1 mile event without my home comforts and my usual regime. Sticking to tried and tested routines is essential with race prep and kit so for me, mirroring my usual habits in my new, not so usual environment, was super important. Here’s how I did it.
Resting the body
The day before an event, I always have an exercise free day to ensure my body is as fresh as possible come the morning. Heading to a four star hotel for a spa day definitely had this box well and truly ticked, so I had no need to worry here.
Dinner and carb loading
The hotel really was the lap of luxury, and although we enjoyed a delicious three course meal in the restaurant, it was also the most miniscule meal I have ever seen and eaten in my entire existence. Starters were over in a mere two bites, dinner maybe took four at a maximum while dessert disappeared almost instantly. Knowing my own appetite and bamboozled by the teeny tiny portions, I had Dan drive me to the nearest Tesco, where I bought a tomato and feta cheese pasta pot, a mini pot of chocolate brownie Ben and Jerry’s and a packet of Malteasers. Ok, so the chocolate related items were just because I had the fancies, however I knew I needed the starchy, complex carbs contained within the pasta to help ensure I was fully fuelled the next day. I wasn’t going to not eat further and leave it to chance. I may sound greedy here, but if you guys actually saw the size of this ‘meal’ come snack size dinner, then you would totally understand. Have Google maps ready in case of food emergencies for supermarket locations.
An early night is important for every night of the week, let alone a race night. Snuggled up in the complete marshmallow of a bed by 9pm (we made sure to have an early dinner, and it didn’t take long to eat), I was ready to doze off. The only problem encountered here was that Dan was obviously still wide awake, and as a night owl, wanted to watch a bit more TV before hitting the sack. At home, he would just stay in the lounge while I tucked myself up in the bedroom, so on this occasion we had the awkward balancing act of getting the room lighting and TV volume right so that I could attempt to drift to the land of nod easily while Dan could still enjoy Britain’s Got Talent.
Definitely the most important meal of the day come race day, I was fully prepared with my usual race day breakfast. I usually have chocolate porridge with banana accompanied by a cup of tea for my event day start, so what I had done is buy two instant posts of porridge – I opted for the Morningflake ones, as they come in a Nutella variety, so you have the plain instant porridge which you just pour boiling water in to and then leave for a couple of minutes to create the porridge and then this comes with a sachet of Nutella which I could splodge in. I got two tubs of porridge and split a large banana between them both. I made sure to request a tea tray to be sent to the room the night before, so that I had a kettle already in the room. The only slight issue I had is that I am used to eating breakfast incredibly early on race day since I normally commute to the event afterwards, so it has plenty of time to go down. Since I was this time on the doorstep of the event, I don’t think I left quite enough time for my porridge to fully go down comfortably, although I wouldn’t say this massively hampered me in any way.
What about the plus points?
There are also advantages to staying away when taking on an event of this kind. Firstly, I was able to get more sleep as I could stay in bed later in the morning – more sleep is always good. Secondly, since the event was in a town centre, I had an abundance of refuelling options for after the race. Due to my knackered state, I confess I staggered to the nearest Wetherspoons and downed three gin and tonics and scoffed a cheese and ham toastie, picking up a McFlurry on the walk back to the hotel. It wasn’t pretty, but it damn tasty and exactly what my beaten body was crying out for. Since we were in no rush to get home, we could take our time, which was also nice because my walking pace rivalled a snail’s at this point, as I had exerted every inch of effort in gaining my PB during the race (one hour, 35 minutes since you’re asking). The best plus point though, was the fact we had booked full body massages for 2pm in the afternoon, comfortably after my expected finish time so we could enjoy our leisurely lunch and get back to the hotel in plenty of time. The massage felt like complete bliss and was such a great way to finish the run. We ended up leaving the hotel around 4pm ish in a bid to avoid any traffic – being able to dictate our leaving time was handy, with sitting in the car more relaxing that having to stand on the tube.
In general, I would recommend the Maidenhead Half Marathon – let me know if you have a go!