Eric Gillis on the dos and don’ts of race day

Turn on the tunes but don’t do anything new: Race day tips from Olympic marathoner Eric Gillis

— By Kia Schollar

Eric Gillis’s sparkling running record includes a 10th-place finish in the Olympic marathon in 2016 and three Canadian 10K championships.

He’s not superstitious when it comes to his running routine. Instead, the three-time Olympian from Antigonish, N.S., works hard to avoid “getting caught up in one thing” on race day because it helps to give him the “energy and wherewithal” to handle unexpected situations.

But Gillis, 37, definitely has a clear picture of what he likes his race day to look like and shares his dos and don’ts with


Let the music play — Gillis wakes up three hours before his event is set to begin and turns on his tunes. He often starts with something slower like Frazey Ford or London Grammar. As the clock ticks closer to start time, he’ll begin to listen to more upbeat, higher-tempo songs. Some of his favorites come from The Tragically Hip, Rise Against and The Killers. Can you relate? What music gets your blood pumping and your feet wanting to run?

Eric Gillis

Eric Gillis

Repeat, (I repeat), repeat daily training habits — Following training habits help so that you “don’t have to think too much,” says Gillis, a graduate of St. Francis Xavier University. He believes “the fewer new things on race day, the better.” When you are able to repeat your training habits on race day it also leaves room in your mind for those situations that arise that are “new” and could otherwise be stressful.

SEE ALSO: Diet of an elite runner

Stick with what you know — Often people want to try the newest bars or gels when they are racing or even have a new race outfit. Gillis suggests sticking with what you know and that which allows you to be mindful of your climate; mindful of your surroundings; and accept your choices.


Not the time for new — Gillis brings up coffee as an example. Trying coffee when exercising has its benefits and certainly has its place. However, he warns that seeing how your body reacts to it for the first time on race day is a serious do not. He emphasizes his do of “keeping it plain.”

The fewer new things on race day, the better.
— Eric Gillis

Don’t allow adrenaline and/or anxiety to take over — Train your race plan leading up to the event so that when you are amongst the masses at the start line you are able to key into your race pace and concentrate on what you need to do in the first half of your event.

Don’t go out with the crowd if they’re not your crew — Wise words. So many people end up running the first half of their marathon in a personal best time because the adrenaline is pumping and the people are moving. However, this has caught up to the majority and leaves you wanting more when you cross the finish line.

There you have it, the top three dos and don’ts for race day from elite distance runner Eric Gillis.

Remember, keep learning and training.

There’s a reason people typically race more than one time.

It takes a while to perfect it.