6 Things to Do the Day Before a Marathon

How to Prepare, Strategize, and Relax Before Race Day

After training hard for a marathon, it is understandable to feel more than a little anxious as race day nears. In the final hours leading to the race, you will want to do everything you can to ensure all the hard work is not undone by a sudden, last-minute mishap.


Watch Now: 8 Things to Do the Day Before a Marathon

To perform at your peak, there are 6 simple things you should always do the day before the big race.


Carb-Load Correctly

Plate with healthy looking pasta dish
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In the days leading up to your race, it is important that no less than 70 to 80 percent of your calories should come from carbohydrates. While some runners will eat nothing but rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you don't have to be so stringent. Oatmeal, bread, tortillas, pancakes, waffles, bagels, and yogurt are all easy-to-digest options.

Just be sure not to stuff yourself at dinner the night before a race. Carbo-loading does not mean overloading. Focus on consuming 4 grams of carb for every pound of body weight. If you weigh 165 pounds, that translates to 660 grams of carb per day (or roughly 2,640 calories).

Avoid heavy sauces, high-fat foods, or too much protein. The aim is to load with plenty of carbs which your body will convert into glycogen for fuel. Choosing the right foods can make a difference between a winning performance and a case of runner's trots.


Stay Hydrated

runner drinking from water bottle


Drink plenty of water the day before a race. If you're properly hydrated, your urine should be a light yellow. Generally speaking, experts suggest drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, or roughly half a gallon. 

As an athlete, you may need to drink more. In fact, the Institute of Medicine recommends that men drink 104 ounces (13 glasses) and women drink 72 ounces (9 glasses) per day. You don't want to go too much beyond this, though, as overhydration can be just as bad for you as dehydration.

Avoid caffeine and alcohol, both of which can cause dehydration and interfere with your sleep.


Don't Overdo It

Man getting massage


Your instinct before a race day may be to put in one last training session "just in case," More often than not, this is a mistake. In the end, while running may help settle your mood, it may unsettle your performance by burning up your glycogen reserves.

Instead of running, take the day to focus and relax. When you go to the expo center to pick up your race packet, don't waste hours walking around, attending clinics, and eating free food samples. Spending too much time on your feet will only wear you out, while hanging around all the pre-race excitement may do nothing more than raise your adrenaline levels and leave you exhausted by day's end.

If you have trained properly, you will not lose any fitness by resting the day before your marathon or half-marathon. It may even be a great excuse to pamper yourself with a massage or a spa treatment.

With that being said, if your pre-race anxiety is overwhelming, it may be beneficial to indulge a very slow, 20-minute run. If you do, use the time to remind yourself that you have trained hard and that you are ready.


Prepare for Race Day

clipping toenails


The best way to ensure your head is in the right space is to organize every detail so that you don't have to think or stress about anything on race day.

Start by laying out all your clothing and gear the night before. Essential items include:

With regards to race fuels, don't make the mistake of trying something new that you just picked up the expo. No matter how much anyone insists that it's the "best thing they've ever tried," you don't know how it's going to affect you. Save it for a later race, and keep to what works for you now.

The same applies to your race day breakfast. Plan in advance what you are going to eat, purchasing or pre-ordering your food if possible. Do not saunter down and eat whatever is on the hotel buffet. Eat what you know, and stick to your plan.

Finally, check your toenails and clip any that are too long. Keeping your nails short will prevent them from striking the front of your shoe, causing not only foot pain but a black toenail.



map app on iphone


Upon registering, you will probably receive a copy of the course map in your race packet. If not, ask a registration volunteer for one or download a copy from the race website.

To mentally prepare for the race, it helps to know what to expect in terms of hills and elevations. This will help you identify at which point you'll need to conserve energy in anticipation of a hilly stretch. If a topography map is not provided, there are plenty of mapping apps you can download onto your smartphone.

To visualize the race, some people will get into their rental cars and drive the route if it has not been cordoned off.  

In addition to elevations, make mental notes about where water stops and porta-potties will be situated. In this way, you can hydrate accordingly without fretting about where the next stop will be.



woman reading a book
Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

Once you have made all the necessary preparations, give yourself a chance to empty your head and unwind. Try to organize your preparations earlier in the day rather than later. If you leave it too late, you will almost be guaranteed to be too wired to sleep.

Plan to have at least two to three hours to settle quietly. Instead of joining everyone else for a last-minute get-together, organize to meet after the race when tensions have eased.

To help unwind, find a book or movie that will make you calm, happy, and uplifted. Avoid action thrillers, horror movies, or a downbeat tale of murder and woe. If you do yoga, meditation, or some other forms of mind-body therapy, use the practice to calm and center yourself.

You should also avoid video games or playing on the net. As you approach bedtime, start lowering the lighting a little at a time. As a safeguard, bring along a sleeping mask and earplugs in the event there is any noise or excessive outdoor lighting.

Before going to bed, set the alarm clock so that you arise early. Double-check to make sure it works. Considering asking reception for a wake-up call just in case. 

If you go to bed but cannot fall asleep, try not to stress about it. Most people do not sleep well the night before a big race. However, instead of just lying in the dark letting thoughts race through your head, sit up, turn on a reading light (only one), and read something that either inspires you or calms you.

In the end, one sleepless night is unlikely to hurt your performance. Most runners will tell you that the excitement of race day will provide you with more than enough energy to perform at your peak.

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