Now race season is fast approaching I have decided to write down the five things I always take in my rucksack for when I have finished a race. Everyone knows about hydration, nutrition and stretching, but over the last two years and four half-marathons I’ve learned about a few other things that I wouldn’t want to be without!
1. Cotton Wool and Cleanser or Face Wipes
When you complete a long run you sweat a lot over a long period of time, but have you ever noticed that by the end of the race you’re pretty well… dry… despite dripping with sweat earlier in the run. The sweat hasn’t disappeared, but it has dried. This means your face feels dry and rough as it is covered with salty flaky crystals. For the sake of my complexion and for feeling clean I like to quickly clean my face after a long run. I personally don’t use face wipes as they’re too stringent for my skin, but whatever you would normally use just put a travel size version in your bag and you will be grateful for it!
2. Coconut Water
If you haven’t heard of the benefits of coconut water by now then the chances are you live under a rock. I really like coconut water after a race as I find it refreshing and find it a great and natural way to rebalance my hydration levels. You can sip a bottle or carton of coconut water and be ready to take on your next big challenge…walking to the car. I personally prefer coconut water to Lucozade but I also think it’s a better way to rehydrate than just lots of water, especially because Hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels from taking on too much water) is one of the most common medical complications in long-distance training and racing and is the cause of a large number of race-related fatalities.
My favourite brand is Chi! They’re natural, taste delicious and come in a range of flavours. I’d challenge you not to chug the Pineapple flavour as it tastes so good! I was lucky enough to try the different flavours when Chi featured me on their blog, but I’ve been a fan of theirs for a while and use their coconut oil too. However, I would also recommend Zico for a tasty and easy to find brand.
3. Recovery Food
This is where you should choose something natural and balanced and good for the body, and in training I do. I will have something like banana-oat bars, raw energy balls or my recipe for healthy flapjacks. However, when I’ve run a race and I am high on endorphins, exhaustion, adrenaline, excitement and the crowds of runners that surround me, I want to raise my blood sugar levels until I can go home and eat properly. Plus, I want a treat! For me this means jelly babies or my all-time favourite Marks and Spencer’s Belgian Chocolate Flapjack. I say or, but in all likelihoods it will be both.
4. A Cotton Layer
This will be a t-shirt or sweatshirt depending on the time of year, but I promise that something dry and natural against the skin will feel so much nicer than the technical t-shirt you will have just been handed, even if it’s consummate proof to all around you that you are essentially a professional athlete. Take a nice cotton t-shirt and put your medal on top for world champion in down-time look.
5. Your Mum
Unless you’re a borrower she won’t fit in your rucksack so I did lie a little. However, no matter the distance or your time your mum will treat you like you’re Paula Radcliffe. Nobody will be prouder of you, more prepared to help you reclaim your bag, find the port-a-loos, help you stretch and get you home. A flatmate/friend will also do! Having someone at the finish line to pick you up and stick you back together and treat you like you’ve just won the Olympics is really important – don’t be brave and go by yourself as you will want someone there!
Good luck to everyone in training – there isn’t long left!