Marathon Blog

No surprises: Planning for race day


No surprises: Planning for race day

You’ve done almost all of your training and your Healthy Driven Naperville or other fall half marathon (or 10K or 5K) and it is coming up soon. That’s very exciting — and probably a bit scary. Here are some tips to get you ready the night before and day of the big race.

Fueling and hydration. Hopefully, you have been keeping track of your hydration and fueling the night before long practice runs and determining what works best for you. If you haven’t, here are some general guidelines:

  • Food: Your night-before meal should be balanced. Aim for 40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein and 30 percent fat. You can eat slightly more than normal, but don’t go crazy. Avoid fried food, red meat, dairy, nuts and other high-fiber foods for 1-2 days before the race to prevent gastric distress during the race. I also recommend that you don’t sample any new foods or drinks at the race expo. On race day, keep any eating light, or use Gatorade Endurance or a similar sports drink to provide pre-race fueling and hydration. 
  • Hydration: Continue to hydrate well. Your daily intake should be approximately 0.5 ounce of water per pound of body weight every day (including the liquid in food). As a rule, for race day, two hours before the run, drink between 17 and 20 ounces of water. About 10 minutes before you run, drink another 10 to 12 ounces.

Activity. Limit activity the day before the race. Unless you are an elite runner, you probably don’t want to run at all the day before. In addition, limit any other physical activity.

  • Don’t do any big house projects or lift heavy items. If you feel like you need to do something the day before your race, go for a short walk (0.5 mile to 1 mile) and leave it at that.
  • If you go to the race expo the day before, try to limit the amount of walking you do while there.
  • If you stretch regularly, some light stretching the day before will help you feel less stiff and sluggish.

Generally, try to relax the day before the race. Watch a movie, read a book, do whatever relaxes you and will get your mind off of the race. The mileage taper might leave you feeling antsy, bloated, irritable and possibly achy and stiff. Make sure you move around periodically throughout the day before the race to avoid getting too stiff. 

Homework and preparation: The following plan-ahead tasks will ensure a worry-free race day.

  • Review the course map and weather forecast. Make sure you know the course, including the locations of the hydration stations. Prepare to bring any hydration or nutrition that isn’t offered on the race course. Determine if you will need any extra layers or rain protection before or during the race.
  • Lay out clothing and equipment. The morning of the race you will be nervous and forgetful. Lay out everything you will need the night before (if not earlier). This includes:
  1. Your race outfit. This should be the outfit (top, bottom, socks, shoes, hat/headband/ponytail holder, sunglasses, watch or smart watch, etc.) you used for long runs so you don’t get any unexpected chafing, blisters or discomfort. Lay out your Bodyglide or similar product if you use it. Attach your timing chip (if your race uses them) to your shoe per the instructions and pin your race number to your shirt or shorts. If you pin it to your shorts, make sure you can get the shorts on and off with the race number pinned on them. You might need to use a port-a-potty on the racecourse, and you won’t want to be unpinning and re-pinning your number during the race.  If your race number has the timing chip on the back, make sure you pin the number on your clothing right-side-up – some chip readers don’t read these chips if they are sideways. 
  2. Cash/credit card and ID.  Always bring these when you are racing – you may need to find your own way home. Some of the larger races are very crowded at the finish and it may be difficult to find your friends and family after the race. Make a plan with your support team about exactly where you will meet after the race. You might also consider bringing your phone if you have trained for the race while carrying it.
  3. Gear check bag. Consider bringing throwaway clothing layers (in case it’s cold before the race), a plastic garbage bag (you can make holes for your head and arms and wear it in case it rains or you can sit on it before the race if the ground is wet or damp), toilet paper, Bodyglide, sunscreen, bug repellent, masks, hand sanitizer, morning and pre-race hydration and fueling and a course map for last-minute reference. You will be able to check your gear check bag filled with any unused items at the start line before the race. Include some of those extra layers in your gear check bag for after the finish. Make sure you don’t put anything too valuable in your gear check bag.
  4. Your (car) keys. Set your car keys next to your gear bag for the morning if you are driving yourself to the race. Also, be sure to check the directions and route and determine where you will park. Note that some roads will be closed on race morning so plan accordingly. It never hurts to have a back-up place to park. 
  • Set two alarm clocks. You can go to bed a bit early, but no more than an hour early. Don’t expect to get a great night’s sleep the night before. Don’t worry, you will be sufficiently rested from the nights leading up to the race. You can always take a nap on race day afternoon after you get home.

Careful planning and preparation will allow you to wake up on race morning, get dressed and grab your gear bag without worrying about forgetting something. Get to the race location early so you have time to find parking, use the port-a potty and warm up. Finish your pre-race hydration and fueling and then relax and get ready to enjoy the race.

Laurie Lasseter Marathoner
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness