The 4 Stages Of Marathon Week 

stages of marathon week

This post is the second in a series:


The 4 Stages Of Marathon Week

You’ve gotten through (at least) 17 weeks of training. Now there is only one week left: marathon week!

And what a week it usually is. Nervous energy, anticipation, maybe some travel, some (or more than some) pre-race stress.

While each of my marathons has had a few unique stresses (especially if it’s a destination race with the added stresses of traveling), my marathon weeks generally follow the same pattern.

Note: I’m assuming here the marathon is Sunday. The same pattern holds true if it’s a Saturday race, just move everything up a day.

stages of marathon week

Monday & Tuesday

Monday and Tuesday never seem to end. They are the slowest days ever.

I’m usually going stir crazy from the taper, stressing out as race nerves start to kick in. I’m itching to do something to make race day come quicker.

I want to start to get ready for the race, but it’s too early to begin any practical preparations. I still need my running gear for a few short runs (so I can’t start packing or setting aside race outfits), it’s too early to start race-specific hydrating or carbo-loading.

What To Do

  • If you haven’t already, create a race plan and set race goals. If you already have a race plan, review it and modify it, if necessary
    • Review course and elevation maps, make sure your race plan accounts for hills on the course
  • Create (or review) a race day packing list or checklist
  • Double check race locations and times, such as:
    • Where/when is the expo/packet pick up
    • Where (exactly) is the start line
    • When (exactly) does the race start
  • Do your last few easy runs. These runs may feel way harder than they should. It’s common for runs during the marathon taper to feel a bit off. Don’t stress out about it. Trust your training and trust the taper.
  • Be nice to your loved ones who are going to have to deal with you this week

Wednesday & Thursday

At long last, practical preparations can begin!

Eating carbs, drinking glass after glass of water. It feels good to start practical preparations, but there is still so much time before race day.

These can be boring days. I don’t want to try anything new, eat anything new, or do anything new. I take a few days off from the gym and minimize social contacts (even more than usual, and for me, that is saying something!) to lessen the chance I’ll pick up some bug.

Without fail, there is some sort of muscle twinge, stuffy nose, or some other new physical problem (nearly always imagined) that pops up on Wednesday.

What To Do

  • Review race logistics
    • How are you getting to the start area?
    • Does your race have shuttles?
    • Are there going to be road closures/detours on race day that will impact getting to the start area? (This information is usually on the race website)
  • Have a non-running form of stress relief you can take advantage of in this time. During the taper, you’ve lost running as a stress relief while your stress levels may be increasing. You need an outlet or you’ll become a really unpleasant person to be around
  • Sit more than you usually would. Ignore your Fitbit step count. Save up a Netflix show you really want to binge
  • Start carb loading with the foods you know work for you. You did use your long runs as dress rehearsals, right?

Read moreLong Run As Dress Rehearsal


It took me a long time to realize this, but if I feel like crap on Friday and Saturday before a marathon, I am likely carbo-loading properly.

Here is my equation: (Too many carbs + not enough exercise) x loss of running as a stress relief = feeling like total crap.

Come Friday, I’m starting to feel bloated and slow.

Many runners worry about the amount of sleep they’ll get the night before the marathon. But the key to marathon sleeping is the night before the night before (or Friday night for a Sunday marathon).

It’s common to not sleep well the night before a race, but if you don’t sleep well the night before, the impact usually isn’t too terrible the next day. But the night before the night before? The impact of a bad night’s sleep on Friday night will likely hit you on Sunday. That is what you want to avoid.

What To Do

  • Do everything you can to go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep on this key night of sleep
  • Review the weather forecast. Make changes to packing lists, race goals, and race plan, if necessary
  • You should be done with your ‘real’ runs (some runners do an easy shakeout run on Saturday), so pack up/set aside your race outfit and gear
  • Pack your post-run bag, if you’ll have one


Even after doing 27 marathons, on Saturday I’m a bundle of nerves and nervous energy, and I also physically feel like crap (see Friday: carbo-load crappiness).

Saturday is usually expo day! I’ve realized that I freak myself out at big race expos. So while I love them, I minimize my time there so I don’t psych myself out.

I eat my last pre-race meal and know I should go to bed early, though I know there is no chance of falling asleep early.

What To Do

  • Minimize your expo time and don’t try too many samples of new foods
  • Minimize the time on your feet
  • Keep it up with carb loading and hydration. Eat your last pre-race meal at the time you know works for you
  • Review the weather forecast, make any necessary changes
  • Review your race plan
  • Final prep
    • Fill water bottles or hydration pack
    • Charge your watch and your phone
    • Layout race outfit, gear, and bib number
  • Set your alarm. If you, like me, can be a touch paranoid, set 2 (or 3) alarms for race day.
  • Go to bed at a normal hour. It is tempting to try to go to bed super early, but unless falling asleep at unusual hours is something you know you can do, stick to something near your normal bedtime time. If you go to bed early and can’t sleep, you may keep yourself awake worrying about why you can’t sleep, making it worse.


Then wake up: It’s Marathon Morning!

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

stages of marathon week


One thought on “The 4 Stages Of Marathon Week 

  1. Thank you for this. I’ve got my first marathon Saturday morning and I’m just a teensy bit nervous. (i.e. all the nerves)
    You’re packing lists and stages of whatnot have been so helpful to me and my nerves.

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