Race Day Superstitions and Running Rituals: What Every Runner Needs to Know

Recently my running group and I were at a race along a “newbie runner” and I mean newbie in all sense of the word.  Not only was this his very first race but he also hadn’t been schooled on the unwritten rules of running and racing. 

As we sat in the car prepping for the start, he whipped out the race shirt, held it up and asked if he should wear it to which we all exclaimed “NO” very loudly and probably a little dramatically.  We went on to inform him that it is BAD LUCK to wear the race shirt until after you’ve already finished the race. 

Why? I don’t know exactly but it’s a running superstition that every runner knows.  In fact, you can pretty much pick the newbie runners out of the crowd when you see them wearing the shirt for the race they’re about to run.  

Either that or they’re just not superstitious but most runners I know believe that superstitions are real and even follow rituals to help bring them luck on race day.  If, like my friend, you’re new to the running game, you might not know some other unwritten rules that might seem silly but might just bring you good luck come race day.

Race Day Superstitions and Running Rituals: What Every Runner Needs to Know

1. Eat the same pre-race meal every time.

A lot of runners eat the same thing (meal, beer, wine, breakfast – whatever) the night before and morning of the race without fail.  Not only is it smart to not switch up your diet, some find that this ritual helps them prepare mentally and brings them luck on race day. 

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2. Layout your flat runner the night before.

Same goes for routine with your race day clothes.  Many runners lay out their attire as a “flat runner” which includes everything from their socks, shoes, underwear (or lack there of), shirt, bra, watch and accessories.  The order which many runners get dressed also matters – right foot first with socks and shoes can make or break race performance.  

3. Never wear race shirt on race day. 

As I mentioned previously, not only do you avoid wearing the race shirt until after you’ve finished the race for superstitious reasons, you should also not wear anything new on race day.  Of course the latter tip is more practical but also falls into the superstitious category for some.

5. Wear something lucky.

Speaking of wearing something old, adding something lucky to your race day attire is also common.  Maybe it’s a lucky pair of socks or sports bra that you’ve PR’d in before.  Or maybe it’s something more sentimental like a piece of jewelry or motivational wrist wrap to help push you through.  Many people think that luck has nothing to do with it but given that running is mostly mental, it can help push you in the moments when the going gets tough. 

6. Bib numbers matter.

When it comes to bib numbers, numerology matters for a lot of runners. Some associate odd bad luck and  even with good.  Others have to have a prime number while for some, the order of the numbers make a difference.  Though it might not sound rational, positive association with bib numbers is real.  For me, there are a few numbers that I consider “lucky” and if they happen to pop up on my race bib, I feel extra motivated to make that race count.

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7. Don’t touch the medal until you’ve earned it.

Another unwritten rule of racing is not to touch the race medal until you’ve earned it.  Just as brides wouldn’t try on another friend’s ring before the wedding, most runners would shy away from trying on the race medal until they’ve actually crossed the finish lined and earned their shiny new bling.  It’s said to bring bad luck, so why not avoid it?! 

Of course there are more but I’ll stop here at 7 since it is my lucky number and all! 😉 

What race day superstitions and running rituals do you have? 

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About me

Annmarie is a self proclaimed foodie, avid long distance runner and functional fitness coach. A DVRT Master Trainer, HKC Instructor and food allergy sufferer, she writes about strength training for runners as well as shares allergy friendly recipes for busy athletes.   She is also the owner of Strength In Motion Studio, mother of two sassy sisters and wife to a chronically busy chiropractor.   Subscribe by email for updates to get the latest workouts, advice and recipes straight to your inbox!


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