The 6 Stages Of Marathon Morning

Stages Of Marathon Morning

This post is the latest in a ‘Stages Of Marathoning’ series:

Stages Of Marathon Morning

At long last!

Race day is here!

You’ve trained. You’ve tapered. Hopefully, you are rested, carb-loaded and hydrated.

It’s (almost) all over but the shouting.

The only thing between you and the starting line is the hurry-up-and-wait of marathon morning.

Stages Of Marathon Morning

The Alarm(s) Goes Off

Most marathon mornings start at the ass crack of dawn since most marathons start early. Especially if your marathon has shuttles to the start, wake-up calls come super early.

When I did Big Sur, I had to catch the shuttle to the start at 3:30 am. I actually considered if it was worth it to stay awake.

There are a few times of day one should never see after you’ve graduated college. 2:45 am is one of those times.

What To Do

  • Have a tested race plan that includes your marathon morning timing. Knowing your timing means you won’t wake up earlier than you have to.

Dine, Drink, Dress and (hopefully) Pit-Stop

Everyone has an order to their pre-long run or pre-race to do list that works for them. Eat first? Get dressed and ready first? The right answer is whatever works for you.

You should be testing breakfast foods and breakfast timing during your training. By the time race day rolls around, you’ve (hopefully) found the right combo.

On marathon morning, get ready, get dressed, eat breakfast, continue hydrating. Do the steps in whatever order worked for you in training.

Hopefully can also take care of your necessary bathroom business while still at home (or the hotel), but we runners aren’t always that lucky.

Read MoreLong Run As Dress Rehearsal

What To Do

  • Don’t eat (or drink) anything new on race morning. If you rarely have coffee, don’t start now just because you think you didn’t sleep well and you need the caffeine.
  • Practice your morning routine during training. What steps, and in what order, do you want to take care of business on race morning? Your stress levels can be greatly  on auto-pilot.
  • When planning (and practicing) your race morning timing, remember to take into consideration if other people will be with you. If alone, I can be up and out in a half hour. If there are others with me, I know I’ll have to plan a much longer prep time due to fighting for bathroom time and other unexpected delays.

Leaving The House

Gather your gear and head out.

By the time you return, you’ll have finished a marathon!

What To Do

    • Do I have to say it again? Have a race plan that lays out your timing so you know when you should be leaving. Marathon morning is not the time to do the math (for the first time) on when you should leave.
  • Layout and prepare everything (at least) the night before. Do not wait for marathon morning to look for ____________.
  • Have a packing list so you don’t forget anything. You don’t want to arrive at the start line only to realize you forgot a key piece of gear. You’ll have a lot going through your mind on marathon morning, do NOT trust your memory alone.


How you get to the marathon start area and how long it will take varies greatly. I’ve done races that start a 10-minute walk from my front door, races that are a 2 1/2 hour drive to get to a shuttle that will drive me another hour to the start area, and races that require various modes of public transportation.

This is also the area, in my experience, where the greatest chance of unforeseen delays and unexpected issues arise. The bus doesn’t arrive, there is a huge traffic jam of runners all getting off at one exit or hitting a race-related detour you didn’t expect.

What To Do

  • Review race-related road closures, detours, and parking options (at least) the night before the race. This information is usually at the race expo, the race website, or a final runner email.
  • Double check driving routes (especially if doing a race-cation where you will be in unfamiliar territory).
  • If you are taking public transportation, remember during your planning to take into consideration that weekend options are usually more limited (and sometimes are significantly limited).
  • Work a cushion of time into your timetable to account for possible detours or race-related traffic issues.

Pre-Race Business (a/k/a Hurry Up and Wait)

Ah, the hurry up and wait of race start lines.

Porta-potty lines. Gear check lines.

Killing time while marinating in pre-race nerves.

Read MoreRace Start Line Time Management

What To Do

  • Do gear check and porta-potty duties as soon as you can. Don’t wait until the very last-minute – it will always take longer than you expect.
  • Have throwaway goodwill sweats, or a space blanket saved from another race to keep warm at the start. That way you don’t have to wait until the last minute to check your real gear. You can just throw the extra layer when you are done with it (many races collect discarded gear for local charities).
  • Always get in the porta-potty line that has mostly men – it always moves the fastest.
  • Don’t hog a porta-potty. Take the time you need to do your business, but don’t camp out ‘just in case.’ Get out and get back in line if you think (but aren’t sure) you’ll need it again.

Read MoreLine of porta potties


Line Up


About 10 minutes before the gun goes off, make your way to that actual start line.

Listen for last-minute announcements (although I rarely understand what is being said during the pre-race announcements).

It’s just about time to do this thing!

Read MoreStarting Chute

What To Do

  • Make sure you are in roughly the right spot or in the right corral in the starting area.
  • Do a final check of your gear and clothing. Are your shoes securely tied? Phone securely stashed?
  • Take a few deep breaths, visualize the race that is to come. See yourself running and feeling strong.
  • Do a final mental review of your race goals and race plan.

And then the start gun (or the starting Howitzer in the case of the Marine Corps Marathon) goes off… The race begins!

What about you? Have you had any other stages of marathon morning?


Stages Of Marathon Morning

2 thoughts on “The 6 Stages Of Marathon Morning

  1. Great tips Sara – it’s all about that pre-planning to ensure things go as smoothly as possible! And fingers crossed you get to do your biz before the race…

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