8 Things to Do the Day Before a Marathon

After training for a half-marathon or marathon, it is common 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 eight simple things you should always do the day before your half-marathon, marathon, or other big race.

Man packing a gym bag

Getty Images / yacobchuk


Eat a Proper Dinner and Breakfast

In the last few days leading up to your race, 85% to 95% 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. Carb-loading does not mean overloading. Focus on consuming 4 grams of carbohydrate for every pound of body weight. If you weigh 165 pounds, that translates to 660 grams per day (or roughly 2,640 calories).

Avoid heavy sauces, high-fat foods, lots of fiber, 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. It's always best to stick with familiar foods so you don't get an unpleasant surprise.

Similarly, don't try new fuel options that you just picked up at the expo. You don't know how they are going to affect you, so save them for a later training run. 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. Eat what you know, and stick to your plan.


Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water the day before a race. If you're properly hydrated, your urine should be 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 throughout your training and especially just before a half-marathon or other long race.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that athletic men drink 104 ounces of water (13 glasses) and athletic 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.


Reduce Anxiety

Your instinct before a race day may be to put in one last training session "just in case." But this may not be the best strategy. For you, it may be beneficial to enjoy a very slow, 20-minute run to shake out your legs and calm your nerves. If you do run, use the time to remind yourself that you have trained hard and that you are ready.

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. But exercising the day before a race is a personal decision, and you should decide what works best for you.


Take Care of Your Body

Making sure your feet are comfortable while you run is critical, and that includes your toes. 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.

Doing some stretches the night before is a good idea to relax your muscles. Also consider taking a hot bath or soaking in a hot tub—just don't stay in too long (you can get dehydrated) or let the jets work on your muscles too much.

Things Not To Do Day Before Race

Remember the golden rule: nothing new for race day.

  • You never know if new clothes or shoes will rub you the wrong way and lead to chafing, blisters, or other issues. Long training runs are your opportunity to make decisions about race gear, so don't try anything new for the marathon.
  • Foods you don't normally eat, high-fiber carbs, and too much protein are a bad idea as they can do a number on your stomach and digestive system.
  • Now is not the time to try a new fuel for pre-run or during the race; stick with what you know and what has worked in the past.
  • If you have to travel and stay in a hotel the night before, don't share a room with the whole family; create a sleeping environment that is most like home.
  • If your running group invites you to go out to celebrate the night before, don't over-indulge and stay out late. You need to be well hydrated and well rested. Better yet, instead of joining fellow runners for a last-minute get-together, meet up after the race when tensions have eased.
  • And well hydrated doesn't mean drinking all of your water right before bed, because that will mean you have to keep getting up to use the bathroom and won't get a good night's sleep.


Plan to have at least two to three hours before bed to settle quietly. 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.

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. You should also avoid video games or other screens.

If you do yoga stretches, meditation, or some other form of mind-body therapy, use the practice to calm and center yourself. As you approach bedtime, start lowering lights gradually. If you are sleeping away from home, bring along a sleeping mask and earplugs in the event there is any noise or excessive outdoor lighting.

If you go to bed but cannot fall asleep, try not to stress about it. Most people have problems sleeping well the night before a big race. The excitement of race day will provide you with more than enough energy to perform at your peak.

Don't Forget to Charge

If you are using any electronics during your run, such as a watch, ear buds, and phone, make sure to charge them the night before.


Lay Out Your Essentials

The best way to beat pre-race anxiety is to organize and lay out everything you need for race day the night before; this way, you don't have to think or stress about anything the next morning. (Don't forget to check the weather so you have the proper clothing.)

Essential items include:

We've tried, tested, and reviewed best anti-chafing products. If you're in the market for anti-chafing creams, explore which option may be best for you.


Get Inspired

Visualizing yourself on the course is a great way to get motivated, feel centered, and prepare yourself for the day ahead. It helps to know what to expect in terms of hills and elevations so you can identify at which point you'll need to conserve energy in anticipation of a hilly stretch. A course map will be available to you as soon as you register for a race.

You can also picture how you want to pose for your photo as you run through the finish. Imagine what you'll be thinking as a volunteer puts your race medal around your neck. This kind of visualization will help you feel less anxious and more excited about your race.

Have a Mantra Ready

It’s going to get hard at some point, and you’ll need to be prepared. Have a few phrases in mind that you’ll be able to keep repeating to get through rough patches. Try something short, simple, and positive, like "Keep running strong."


Prepare For Your Morning

One of the most important things on race day is that you wake up on time; oversleeping can cause stress and set the tone. If you normally only use a smartphone or virtual assistant for your alarm, you may want to consider adding a battery alarm clock (just in case of a loss of power), testing it the night before; we all know how technology can fail at times. If you're staying in a hotel, arrange for a wake-up call as a backup.

Make sure you know exactly how you’re getting to the race, where you’ll park, or whether you’ll use public transportation or race shuttles. Look at the marathon website for recommendations, and check if there are any road closures that will affect you.

Plan to give yourself plenty of time at the race site. You'll need to use the restrooms (lines can be very long), check your bag, and find your corral (if the race has them). Talk to other runners who have done the race or read reviews on websites to find out how early you should get to the starting line

Go over your race plan again and make sure you account for weather and any injuries or illness you had or are dealing with. In addition, make mental notes where there are elevations in the course as well as where water stops and porta-potties will be situated. This way, you can hydrate accordingly without fretting about where the next stop will be.

And finally, if you have friends and family meeting you post-race, make sure that plan is figured out before race day. You don't want to waste energy sorting this out on race morning, or post-race when you might need all of your energy just to walk or manage your pain. Know where you have to go, and know where, exactly, your friends and family will be cheering for you on the course. You want to be prepared to look for them, for example, at the northeast corner of 75th Street and 1st Avenue (not just "at 75th Street").

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Racoobian T. Mind over marathon: the psychology of running a marathon. Baptist Health South Florida. 2018.

  2. Jarvis J. Video gamers delay bedtime for playtime. University of North Texas Health Science Center. 2016.

Additional Reading

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.