Ryan Hall’s Marathon Race Day Rituals

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Ryan Hall is not your average runner. He is the fastest marathoner in American history (2:04:58…at Boston, for that matter), is the only American athlete to break the one hour marathon, and ran for the U.S. in the Olympics twice. Obviously Hall is above and beyond average — but he still puts one foot in front of the other to get where he’s going. And while most of us won’t be running a 2:04:58 anytime soon, we can all follow in his footsteps when it comes to getting ready for your next race. When it comes to getting to the end of a 26.2 these days, this is his race day routine.

3 hours pre-race

· Wake up

· Immediately drink 20 ounces of water

· Make a protein shake

“I want to wake up feeling full, because that’s how I know I ate enough the day before,” Hall says. “You want to top off your fuel stores without making your muscles feel bogged down. His recipe? A simple 1.5 scoops of Cyto Carb plus 1 scoop of Muscle Milk protein powder.

2 Hours pre-race

· Stretching

“We do dynamic stretches only,” he says. “It’s all about doing gentle movements to wake my body up.” His go-to’s are leg swings, hip circles, walking lunges, high knees, and butt kicks.

· Self-massage

This is how you loosen up any areas that have been giving you trouble — aka IT bands, calves, and quads. Use light, short circular motions to pump blood into your muscles without causing excess tension. Remember, it’s just a warm up.

1.5 Hours pre-race

· Drink a 20-ounce coffee

“That timing is critical,” Hall stresses. If you drink it too soon or too late, you won’t hit peak caffeine-spike while racing and you won’t be hitting the toilet at the right time—which we all know is crucial. “You want to hit max energy while the race is on, and want to get everything flushed out pre-race so you can feel light and bouncy.”

1 Hour pre-race

· Jog

Hall does a short jog, timing it depending on the distance of the race. Before a marathon, he’ll jog for about 10 minutes. For a half-marathon or 10K, he’ll bump it up to 20 minutes.

· Warm-up

Now it’s time for the dynamic warm-up, consisting of high-knees, butt-kicks, and striders. Run six 10- to 15-second striders. “You’re running faster than race pace but not sprinting,” he explains. “It’s about getting your legs turned on and full of blood so that first mile feels good.”

20 Minutes pre-race

· Make sure you have your race necessities—which for Hall consist of Band-Aids and Vaseline.

“I never forget to have extra Band-Aids for my nipples,” he says. “When I set the American record, it was my nipples that hurt the most. Chaffed nipples can ruin your day.” He applies the Vaseline to his feet as a prep so blisters don’t have a chance to be a problem.

10 Minutes pre-race

· Stand on the start line.

“This is where you take the moment to prepare yourself mentally for what you’re about to do,” he says.

And Post-Race

· Eat some sugar

“I don’t eat sugar except right after I work out — and after a race it’s actually good for you to have something that is just straight-sugar.” His favorite? Candy corn (we encourage you to indulge in any other leftover Halloween candy, though)

· Get some protein in

As soon as you finish running 26.2 miles, you probably won’t want to immediately take down a steak, but protein intake during the 30-minute recovery window post-race is imperative. Try eating a protein bar or have another shake — but get in a full 20 grams.

· Go have fun!

“After two weeks of tapering, I usually have energy to spare post-race,” Hall says. “So go outside and do stuff — go celebrate!”