You’ve trained for months and probably spent big bucks on your marathon race entry, so now is not the time to leave anything to chance! Whether you have weeks to go or merely hours, follow this checklist to ensure you’ll get to the starting line well-fueled, relaxed and ready to run your best.
The Month Before
With 30 days to go, you want to make sure your travel preparations are in order.
- If your race is out of town, have you confirmed your train/plane/bus reservations?
- What does your arrival and departure schedule look like? Will you have enough time to pick up your bib from the expo? How about that post-race shower?
- Where will you be staying the night before the race? If you’ll be in a hotel, make a call to ask for special requests such as a late checkout or mini fridge.
- Taking any vacation days? Confirm with your employer and/or firm up childcare if necessary.
- During your final long runs, practice what you’ll wear and what kind of fuel you’ll use on race day.
The Week Before
With 7 days and counting, now is the time to get serious about nutrition and sleep.
- Try getting a bit more shut-eye each night–even if it’s only 30 minutes.
- Avoid any strenuous or new activities. If you can put off any home projects or extensive yard work, definitely do so. Even though taper may have you feeling great, it’s important to conserve your energy!
- Slowly begin increasing your carbohydrate intake. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need more calories overall, but you should replace some fat and protein calories with carbohydrates. Eating oatmeal or toast for breakfast instead of eggs and/or consuming juice or sports drink can be an easy way to do it.
The Night Before
Worried about insomnia? Even if pre-race jitters leave you with a restless night, do your best to rest and stay off your feet. And if it’s any consolation, many runners believe that it’s the night before the night before the race that really matters when it comes to sleep!
- Consume an easy-to-digest lunch and dinner. Avoid anything overly spicy or fatty and stay away from excess fiber.
- Stay hydrated throughout the day, and if your race will be in warm or humid conditions, consider an electrolyte-replacement drink (or a bit more salt in your food).
- Before you hit the sheets, lay out everything you’ll need for the next day: race bib, race outfit, socks, shoes, watch, headphones, phone, anti-chafing cream and mid-race fuel, as well as anything you’ll need at the start such as throw-away clothes. Then set two alarms!
It’s marathon day! You’ve woken up with plenty of time (remember those two alarms?), so now’s the time to dig into your tried and true breakfast.
- Eat something that you’ve practiced with during training. Sip water and sports drink throughout the morning, but stop about an hour before the race (to allow for one last bathroom stop).
- Once you arrive at the start, check your bag (if needed), get in line for the porta potty and start visualizing the awesome 26.2-mile party you’re about to join.
- Make sure you know what time your corral closes and make your way there with some time to spare.
- Once the gun goes off, try to keep your pace in check. No one runs a PR by sprinting the first mile!
After the Race
Congrats, marathoner! Once you’ve finished the race, there are still a few things to keep in mind. If fact, you may want to sort out the following before race day.
- Do you have a plan for meeting up with family and friends? How will you get in touch with each other if you don’t have your cell phone or you don’t get reception?
- How will you stay warm after the race? Will you pack an extra set of clothes? Have a friend or family member bring you a jacket?
- If you’re planning a post-race celebratory dinner, consider making a reservation—especially if you’re running a big city marathon such as New York or Boston.
- Finally, sign up for your next race. Come on, we know you’re already thinking about it!
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