Your marathon begins days before your actual race day.
Not really, of course, but you should begin your final preparations and start getting in your race day head space 2-3 days before the starting gun goes off.
You face enough challenges on race day, don’t make it any more stressful than it needs to be. A little planning ahead can help you avoid last-minute logistics issues or possibly forgetting something.
The actual mechanics of your marathon taper is beyond the scope of this post (but I’ve written before about it before).
I’ll just summarize it here to say in those last 2 or 3 days before race day you should be drinking much more water than usual, eating more carbs, and exercising much less than usual.
Be warned: this may lead to you feeling grouchy and bloated. Ahh… the taper.
Pre-race stresses can cause real physical problems (I’ll spare you the details, but high-stress situations led to tummy troubles for me), but you can greatly reduce those stresses by planning ahead.
And you start laying the groundwork for this months before race day by using your long runs as dress rehearsals for race day. Using each long run to test out something you will be doing, wearing, or eating on race day.
Each week, you will be perfecting your ideal race day.
The last 2 or 3 days before your marathon is where you’ll really thank yourself for doing all that testing and iterating.
When you’ve been using your long runs as dress rehearsals, you already know when you should eat your major meal the day before or how long before you start running you should eat breakfast.
You’ll know how long it takes you to get up and out the door before a run.
All you have to do is plug the information into your race plan.
Two Days Out
Eek! It’s Thursday or Friday and your marathon is this weekend!
What (exactly) should you be doing?
48 Hours Before Race Day (at least)
Expo / Packet Pick-Up
Most larger races have an expo or packet pick-up event for you to get your race number and maybe a few goodies and freebies. Every race handles this differently, and how well-managed it is also varies race to race.
In these last few days before your race, confirm:
- Where (exactly) is packet pick-up?
- When (exactly) is it open?
- Is packet pick-up mandatory?
- If you can’t attend packet pick-up:
- Is there race morning bib pick-up?
- Can someone else pick up your bib number? If so, what info do they need (some races require a waiver or that the person picking up have your bib number or birthdate)
Prep Race-Day Travel
Race day mornings happen super early and you’ll be stressed and distracted. It can make race-morning travel more complicated than you might expect. This is especially true if you are doing a racecation and are new to the area. Even if you know the area, there can be race day closures or detours.
In these last few days before your race:
- Review the race website for information on parking
- Review the race website for information on race day detours and road closures.
- Drive/travel in the area ahead of race day if you can
- Review your transportation options. Are you driving? Getting a ride from friends? Uber/Lyft? Taking public transportation? Taking race shuttles?
Many races take place on Sundays, so make sure (especially for public transportation options) you are reviewing the right schedules. Buses and trains are usually much less frequent on Sunday mornings.
If you haven’t already, create a race plan and set race goals.
24 Hours Before
Race day is tomorrow!!!
- Confirm your transportation options (confirm your ride with your friend or reserve your Lyft/Uber in advance, if you can).
- Review parking maps/parking options.
- Check the weather – make changes/additions to your packing list accordingly
- Figure out your final timing – when do you want to wake up, leave the house, arrive at the start, be in start corral?
- Triple check when – exactly – the race starts
- Set your morning alarm (or two)
- Double check (or triple check) race day instructions from the race
- Make a list of everything you’ll have to do, bring, or pack on race day
- Pack your post-run bag
- Pack your pre-run bag
Clothing / Gear
- Lay out your entire race outfit
- Pack hydration pack/fuel belt
- Charge you watch, phone, iPod, bluetooth headphones (if you’ll be using them)
- Pin your bib to your outfit
- Layout/prepare your race day breakfast (if you can)
- Review your race plan
- Review your race goals
- Visualize an amazing race day
Follow your list, your plan or your checklist (you made at least one, didn’t you?) of what you want to do on race day.
The goal is to not have to do or think about anything this morning except how amazing your race is going to go.
- Leave wiggle room! Even with the best planning, something will go wrong or get forgotten. Plan for it.
- Make sure you account for the timing of others who will be with you on race day. On marathon days, I can get up and out in 30 minutes if it’s just me. However, it can take considerably longer when I’m with others.
- CHECKLISTS!! Have one (or more) and follow it! There is enough other stuff going on race morning. Don’t make it harder than you have to.
What about you? What do you do to prepare for race day in the last few days?