Andy’s written in depth about how to put together a quality checklist when preparing for races and we’ve asked athletes with PH in their bottles to give us an insight into how they put their checklist for racing together…

Contents:

Why use a checklist as part of your pre-race preparation?

2016 Olympian and Pro triathlete Gabor Faldum:

Having a checklist for my race is similar to having my first breakfast coffee in the morning - it’s essential!

I have the same checklist today as I had when I competed at an international championship for the very first time 17 years ago.

I actually like to group my checklist into two parts:

  1. All the tools and kit I need to pack for race
  2. Timings and the schedule for the event

Following that ritual helps me release the unnecessary worries in the build-up to the event. My advice to fellow athletes would be to take a pencil and a paper, write down your checklist and make it part of your pre-race routine (much like your daily coffee!).

Great Britain ultrarunner Robbie Britton:

If there’s anything I can do before race day to make life a little bit easier in competition then it’s worth doing. Which is why I use a checklist because otherwise I’ll forget something important, like my toothbrush!

It can take some of the stress away from preparation, make the tasks ahead seem achievable and there’s always a sense of joy when the list starts to get smaller. Sometimes I’ll even put a really simple task, like “write race checklist”, at the top of the list so I can tick something off early.

Download Kat Matthews' race checklist template

Pro triathlete and IM 70.3 Busselton winner Dimity-Lee Duke:

It really depends on how seriously I am taking the race as I regard them as "A", "B" or C" races. I’m currently preparing for a 70.3 event which I consider as an "A" race. This means I get to my race location 5-7 days before so I can see the course thoroughly and make sure my equipment is ready to go.

I have a mental checklist but not something I particularly have written down. I try to keep my process quite consistent.

This gives you consistency and clarity so you are not overthinking things. It becomes part of your routine and gives you full focus on the race.

Record-breaking ultramarathon runner, Damian Hall:

I certainly find a checklist useful, mentally as well as practically. But then I am a “lists” sort of person.

The obvious thing is to hopefully not forget anything crucial. I'll often start the list about a week out from race day, including things I need to do too (such as food shop, put OOO on, trim my nails).

As I tick things off the list I feel increasingly ready. It's become part of the routine, the ritual.

Ultimately I think it helps me feel calmer (it should cancel out any last minute "Did I pack my toothbrush/running shoes?" panics), ready for the big day. The feeling of deleting the last item on the list is a good feeling.

Elite British marathon runner Tish Jones:

I keep track of most things, usually in the form of a handwritten diary. It’s a good way for me to actively engage with what I have accomplished; workouts or general mileage and how I felt before, during and after. It’s good for keeping a track of volume too.

Joe Wenman - ultrarunner and endurance coach:

I use a checklist to control the controllable factors. I know I’m going to be in a lot of pain, that's a given. So I want to make sure I remember everything that I need to prepare and bring with me in order to be as comfortable and fuelled as possible.

For example, running in a 24-hour race and forgetting your spare head torch batteries will not only impair your night vision but will also increase your negative energy during a race.

Good race preparation is all about being organised.

Pablo Marcos, top-age group triathlete and coach:

My hope is normally that when it comes to the big days (B and A races) I can sit down a couple of weeks before to write it all down and plan for it carefully, leaving few details to chance on race day.

These definitely include a checklist of everything to carry with me when travelling, what I should eat and drink the days before the event, checklist for transition, race bags, nutrition and hydration protocols. On top of this, I always plan with the profiles of the bike and run to know the courses perfectly and plan potential strategies!

The obvious reason is for peace of mind.

No matter how many big events I've done, checklists are always one of the first things I do for all my A races.

By getting this list done, I can start focusing 100% on visualising the event and being as mentally prepared with different plans for various possible race scenarios.

Do you use the same checklist for every race?

Robbie Britton:

Not always, I have a whiteboard at home that gets updated on a semi-regular basis - one side is a normal, neverending, to-do list, the flip side is a race checklist.

Sometimes my checklist is just a scrap of paper, other times just a mental checklist I’ll go through before an event.

Joe Wenman:

Yes and no. I have a long checklist of everything I could possibly need pinned on the wall in my study. This is what I use to prepare a new checklist tailored for each hike, long training run or ultramarathon.

The big checklist is one I have developed over years of experience. You always think of something new that may help you, so I add that to the big list. I use that big list to make sure I don't forget anything on my event-specific list.

Damian Hall:

Not intentionally. It's usually a Post-It note on my laptop and I start it afresh. Each race or challenge usually has something a bit different, but probably ends up about 80% the same.

Pablo Marcos:

No. Every race is different and although the list tends to come down to pretty much the same items and points covered, I like starting from fresh every race so that it has my full attention.

When it comes to training events (those incorporated into normal training weeks as quality sessions) I tend to go by repetition and stick to routine. I guess we could call this a mental checklist, but for my main events I do spend time preparing and writing everything down well in advance of the race.

What format do you use for your checklist?

Joe Wenman:

I always write using a fountain pen with writing paper. We are all desensitised to typed text and scan over words without reading them properly.

Handwritten notes are invaluable as they draw in the reader and attract better concentration. I also enjoy handwriting with a proper pen and paper.

Pablo Marcos:

When not in a big race, the mental list is normally the one. When it comes to big races, it’s always pen and paper. Putting things on paper is always much beneficial and allows us to think more carefully about it.

Further reading