Last updated: 17-01-2019

T here is a fairly well known saying in the running sphere of “nothing new on race day”.

Although, for some (and I say “some”, hoping there are more out there like me) it goes a little further in saying “nothing new on race day, or on a particularly important training day, or even on anything further than a 5km day”.

I like things done in a certain way – radio and TV volumes should preferably be in even number increments or multiples of 5 (I think that’s a common one), towels should be neatly folded in half and then in half again over the rail, socks must always travel in pairs, car tyres should be straightened when parking and training runs must be finished on a round km or maybe a .5km if I’m too pressed for time to complete an additional 500m.

Bless my wife’s patient soul, she’s learnt to tolerate these completely adorable idiosyncrasies and has even started pre-empting my pre-race jitters and always has everything I need lined up. I think she knows that it’s worth a few minutes of thinking for me (not of me, literally for me) to avoid the potential frantic hysteria in the house which could be caused by a lack of Jelly Jubes.


Because sometimes I’m a reckless maniac”


To list a few of the important aspects required for me to define a race lead up as “acceptable” – I need to run the event’s full distance, split over two runs, two weekends before the race. I stop using the stairs at work in my taper time. I need a 2km leg loosener the day before the race and my pre-race lunch must be a mince bolognaise on whole-wheat pasta with apple juice and a dessert of ready-mix vanilla cupcakes (which can be iced or naked – because sometimes I’m a reckless maniac!). Race day rituals are a whole other blog post in themselves, so I won’t get into that now – I think you get the picture.

By the way, that meal plan is based on my own research of glycemic loads and glycemic indices of different food stuffs, and has absolutely zero scientific backing. It just worked for me once, so obviously, it will always work for me!

In the two weeks leading up to last year’s Cango Marathon, I neatly followed the protocol and everything had fallen into line until the day before the race when I asked my running buddy what his routine was for that afternoon and the next morning. His answer shocked me to the very substance of my being – “I don’t know, I guess I’ll just eat what I crave, pick a pair of socks in the morning and see how I feel”.


“Is it possible to train hard with such flexibility”


I’M SORRY, WHAT?? Not only was I blown away by his shear disregard of the running gods, I was further dumbstruck by this brazen approach carrying him to a comfortable sub-3hr race and a marathon PB by a good 10 minutes. Could it be? Is it possible to train hard with such flexibility, with nonchalant adaptability, with carefree spontaneity? I always assumed every runner has “a thing”. You know, even if it’s little, like a lucky cap or wearing a branded Left sock on your right foot (the horror). But still, everyone has a thing, right? Or is being unpredictable a thing?

I realise that I am at the more extreme end of the superstition spectrum, but I simply can’t wrap my head around the thought of training with only a vague schedule or in whatever clothes are clean and at the top of the pile. I like knowing that eating half of a banana and a mini yoghurt will get me through a 10km and that if you drink coffee directly before running we can’t be friends.

Having said that though, I think that in our age of over-sensitivities I/we need to accept other runners’ differences and embrace their many or non-existent quirks. Because the bottom line is that we’ve all worked hard to get to the start line and we’re all going to work hard to get to the finish line, regardless of the “how”.

What does it matter if you wear mismatched socks, drink a water sachet only when you feel like it and eat an orange segment off a complete stranger’s platter, or if you had prepared your outfit 2 days’ in advance, planned your splits down to the second, sent your seconders exact times with map pin locations and went to sleep the night before listening to Enya?

We all would have run – and that’s our thing.

Disclaimer: I do not have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which is a serious and often debilitating affliction. The way I like things done defines me as pedantic and fastidious, so let’s just take OCD off the table.

Ross Dold (@rostherambler) is a relatively new “import” to the Cape Town running scene with a passion for trails and Civil Engineering. Follow him on Strava.

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  • Rob Shaff says:

    Excellent read. Laughed out loud alot, my work collegues now think I am very weird.

    I have to address the elephant in the room though… what did you do to offend the running gods prior to the FKT MRS that lead to the unfortunate dental adjustment?

    • Ross Dold says:

      Rob, you may not believe it, but I actually messaged Lucas and Jono the night before saying that I couldn’t find my preferred chocolate coated peanuts and wasn’t feeling like it was going to be a good day… The bigger problem is – now I am even further in my own head!

  • Justin Rowles says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this read!
    I may or may or have had a little chuckle in the office at the coffee comment – I’m not sure if we can remain friends now 😉

    Although I may be slightly lower on the spectrum of crazy, I can seriously appreciate your ‘ritual’.

    You are the person I line up next to on race day and follow out for as long as I possibly can, knowing that I WILL be on track for a stellar result!

    Out of interested – with your thorough research into the science of nutrition and running, what would you say about my half a slice of carrot cake (always iced), 3/4 cup of black coffee and 4.5 red gummy bears, exactly 15:45 prior to the race gun? 😉

    Ps: One branded sock has always been my lucky charm, my secret weapon!

    • Ross Dold says:

      Shot Justin.
      And here I am usually lining up next to you saying “just hold on as long as you can”
      I’ll definitely try the one branded sock theory – on a 5km recovery run first!
      Also, you know how I feel about the coffee, but I think the carrot cake and gummy bears will give a great short term buzz.
      I wouldn’t recommend it for a 100miler…

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