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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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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Reply June 14, 2017

oooh Ive never seen/heard the DONT TOUCH THE MEDAL UNTIL YOUVE EARNED IT.
Is it wrong I kindasorta like that one? :-)

Reply June 14, 2017

These are great! I've never heard of the medal touching either... duly noted!

Amy Powell
Reply June 14, 2017

I had no idea about the race shirt superstition, good to know! I can totally see not touching the medal before you've earned it, just like you don't touch your cards until they've all been dealt. Fun post!!!

Reply June 14, 2017

I love the "never wear race shirt on race day". I always have my race shirt picked (or more planned out) for weeks in advance. It's so funny how superstitious runners are, but I definitely agree with all of these, especially number one. You never wanna switch up your diet because.... belly issues haha.

Reply June 14, 2017

3 comments -- 1) you are just soooo gorgeous, 2) that mug LMAO exclamation point 3) lucky items, I NEVER race without my lucky ladybug earrings

Kimberly Hatting
Reply June 14, 2017

I had never heard of not trying on the race medal before the race LOL I have a friend who has been running for a couple of years, so he's relatively "new" to racing but has been an athlete all of his life. AT the first race we did together, he was wearing the (cotton) event shirt. A bunch of us teased him about it...so now he wears the event shirt to EVERY race just to mock us.

Susie @ Suzlyfe
Reply June 14, 2017

I never wear the race day shirt until after I've earned it, either!

Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner
Reply June 14, 2017

Super cute! I had not heard the one about the bib numbers! Thanks for the linkup
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Kimberly G
Reply June 14, 2017

I have a few of the same superstitions, especially not touching the race medal until I've earned it!

Laura @ This Runner's Recipes
Reply June 14, 2017

I am a big believer in the routine of pre-race meals! There's plenty of time for fun food after the race.

Reply June 14, 2017

I haven't really thought about this before, but you're so right! There are certain things you just learn not to do.

Janelle @ Run With No Regrets
Reply June 14, 2017

I'm big on not wearing the race shirt, but I never heard about the meaning of your bib number or not touching the medal!

One thing I like to do is get a race selfie at the starting line for each of my races. I won't say it's a superstition, but...
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Reply June 14, 2017

I totally ate the same thing, sometimes even before long runs ;) Why mess with it if it works, right?
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Jenn @ Runs with Sole
Reply June 14, 2017

I try not to even look at the race shirt until after the race!!

Nicole @ Fitful Focus
Reply June 14, 2017

I wore the race shirt on race day once. I have no idea why I did it, but I did. It was my worst race ever. I also had a fever that day, but I blame the shirt! haha

Ange // Cowgirl Runs
Reply June 14, 2017

I'm not overly superstitious but never EVER wear the race shirt on race day. EVER.
I also always eat the same food, not to jinx it, but because I don't want anything untoward to happen while I'm running.

Reply June 14, 2017

LOVE this! I've never thought about my bib numbers, even though I definitely consider certain numbers to be lucky for me. I'll pay attention to that on my next bib. ;) Also, LOVE your mug lol. I saw that somewhere on IG the other day and thought it was perfect!

Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home
Reply June 15, 2017

Yes to all of the above, except the bib numbers have never given me much to think about. But yes especially to the meal. And the meal the night before has to be pizza. With a side of wine.

Christina Bauer
Reply June 15, 2017

I have never heard of these as superstitions! As practical advice, most are valid. But the rest is just silly :)

Mary Beth Jackson
Reply June 20, 2017

LOL! Love them! It drives me crazy when runners wear the race shirt, crazy! I have never thought of the bib #- I'm going to try to stay away from that one!

Abby @BackatSquareZero
Reply June 20, 2017

I am 100% with the race shirt one!

Tracy D.
Reply June 20, 2017

Oh no! I almost always will wear a race shirt the day of the race. No bad luck so far though.
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