When a runner first decides to take on the challenge there are SO many rules. So many experts, guidelines, recommendations and musts. It can take a long time to settle into your own routine and figure out what works best for you. If you happen to be vegan, throw another couple months onto that timeline.
I was told a lot of things when I first started running. Never try anything new on race day. The morning of a marathon, wake up a few hours early and drink an entire Gatorade or a big glass of water. Hit every single port-a-potty just in case. Eat and drink during your run on a schedule – do not think you can simply drink when you are thirsty or eat when you are hungry. Make Saturday your long run day and get up at ass o’clock to start it. The list goes on. There are a few things I have learned for myself that I think are more appropriate for me.
I try new stuff all the time. I don’t care if it’s race day or not – if I have a cool new thing that I want to try I’m going to bust it out. I probably wouldn’t wear brand new shoes for a half marathon, but you get the point. Runners get to play with lots of really neat toys and gizmos and gear, so if race day is when they get broken in, so be it.
I sleep until the absolute latest I can sleep on race day. I drink enough water and eat enough fruit and vegetables in my everyday life that there is no earthly reason for me to get out of bed and drink something as noxious as Gatorade before a run. That is just crazy talk. Sleep wins.
As a runner, I will venture into restrooms that make your average Joe turn green. I understand that GI problems can be a big deal for runners. That does not mean that I should stand in line at every single available porta-a-potty I see. More crazy talk.
Nutrition and hydration on a long run are super important. Anything longer than three miles in unfamiliar territory and I’ll take a water bottle and a Pro Bar. Or some dates or trail mix, maybe even some hummus and a whole wheat wrap, depending on the situation. However, I will not take a drink whenever my Suunto beeps at me or eat something simply because it’s been some pre-determined amount of time. If I feel thirsty I’ll take a drink and if I feel hungry I’ll eat, simple as that.
Lastly, it is unrealistic to expect all runners to be free to make a certain day of the week their long run day, and even more unrealistic to make it happen as the sun comes up or before. We are all on different schedules with different commitments and responsibilities. Some of us like to sleep. A lot. I always found that when I ran long on Saturday I slept way, way in on Sunday, couldn’t get to sleep Sunday night, and found myself worn out on Monday morning. Add a full time college schedule to the work schedule and I’m too exhausted for my running to ever improve. Once I let myself actually sleep in on Saturday and run long either late Sunday morning or in the afternoon once it warmed up, my whole world became brighter, happier, and just less grumpy all around.
Oh – and I will never be able to blast snot out of nose as I run. Maybe that isn’t a rule exactly, but there are so many people who do that it makes me think there’s a super secret snot rocket class being conducted somewhere. No. Just no.