Preparing for Race Day

After months of training, pounding pavements and changing your diet, you’re finally there: marathon race day. Whether the marathon is in your hometown or you’re travelling further afield, smart marathon race preparation is essential for feeling confident on the day – and avoiding any upsets.

Preparation is crucial – both on a physical and mental level. If you feel prepared, your mind and body feel more confident and your plans are much less likely to get knocked off course by, for instance, forgetting your favourite running socks or some other gear.

Read our marathon race day tips to check if you’ve thought of everything you need – both the day before the race and on the morning of the marathon.

Marathon race preparation: the days before

After weeks of laying the groundwork, the last couple of days before the marathon you will feel a mix of nerves and the desire to just get on with it. You should have tapered down over the last couple of weeks and have started carb loading.

The third and second day before the marathon it’s normally a good idea to do almost no exercise at all – you want your body to rest and recover and feel completely fresh. The day before the marathon itself, it might be worth doing a short run (2 to 3 miles max.) to calm any nerves and reassure yourself you’re still feeling fit and healthy.

Here are some other tips for the day before the marathon:

  • Study the marathon route: You’ll probably have been given a route map for the race in the run-up to the marathon. Spend some time studying this so that you’re mentally prepared for when you meet hills and other tricky bits of topography.
  • Pick up your bib, chip timer and other gear: Visit the marathon runners’ centre to grab your bib, timer and other gear, and have a quick browse of the stands to pick up any kit or food that might be useful.
  • Plan your route to the race: Whether you’re leaving from your own home or staying at a hotel or with friends, it’s a good idea to work out the route you’re going to take to the marathon the next morning to avoid any stress.
  • Eat a carb-heavy dinner: Your body’s going to be using up a lot of energy the next day – so eat a carb heavy dinner with rice, pasta, potatoes or a similar starchy food.
  • Clip your toenails: Especially if you’ve had a couple of weeks of hard running, you may not have noticed your toenails growing. No one wants rubbing or painful toenails, so make sure you cut them back the day before.
  • Try and sleep well: While you’ll certainly feel a little nervous, try your best to sleep well, giving yourself plenty of time to drop off. And of course, set an alarm

Marathon race day tips: the morning of the race

So, race day is upon you! You might feel a little nervous, but you can avoid the worst of the jitters by planning your morning routine in advance. Think about the following:

  • Choose a breakfast with complex carbs: Complex carbs – from foods like brown bread, porridge or granola – will slowly release energy over the course of your marathon. Choose a breakfast that’s rich in these complex carbs. It can be a good idea to test out this breakfast earlier on in your training when doing longer runs, just to make sure it sits well with you.
  • Visit the toilet: No runner wants to be caught short when trying to set a personal best – so visit the toilet before your race.
  • Get all your gear packed and ready: Give yourself the time to pack your bags and assure yourself that you’ve got all you need – including your running bib and chip timer, your watch, a bottle of water, your sweets or energy gels and your running clothes, shoes and other accessories.
  • Avoid too much walking: You’re going to be running 26.2 miles today – there’s no need to add to that number! As much as possible, try and take public transport, get a lift or even cycle to the starting area – you want to avoid any unnecessary running or walking.

Marathon race day tips: in the starting pen

Experienced marathon runners know that waiting in the starting pen before your race is a time of nerves and excitement. Here are some tips to make the most of that wait:

  • Use the opportunity to stretch and warm up: Do all the usual stretches and do some light jogging back and forth to get the blood flowing and your body warmed up. By no means do you want to start cutting into your energy reserves, but it’s worth getting your body going.
  • Stay warm/cool and as dry as possible: Depending on what the weather’s doing, you want to feel comfortable – especially if you’re waiting around for a good hour or so. In cool or rainy weather make sure you’ve packed some old joggers and a waterproof top you can pass over the fence to a friend – and if it’s hot, make sure you’ve got a cap and sunglasses at hand.
  • Find ways to relax: Listen to music, read the news or talk to other runners you know or meet to relax yourself before the race.

No question, 26.2 miles is a long way to run – but with the right preparation, you’ll go into the race with the right mindset – and that means you run your best race.