What to Do the Day Before a Half or Full Marathon

Tips for Avoiding Pre-Race Mistakes

The hardest part of your half or full marathon training is over, but what you do during the day before your race can make or break your race. Follow these tips to make sure you avoid making mistakes that will cost you valuable time or cause discomfort during your half-marathon or marathon.

Eat Plenty of Carbohydrates

Plate with healhty looking food
Load up on Carbs. Cultura/Maiwolf Photography/Riser/Getty Images

As you've been doing before your long training runs, you should be eating about 65 to 70 percent of your calories from carbs in the days leading up to your race. Don't stuff yourself at dinner the night before. Carbo-loading does not mean that you should eat three plates of pasta for dinner. As many runners like to say, "Too much loading can lead to unloading during the race." If you'd rather avoid an extra porta-john visit, eat amounts of food that you would normally eat, but eat a greater percentage of carbs. Proper nutrition and hydration ​are essential before a race.

Avoid Any Unusual Foods

bacon cheeseburger and fries
Don't Eat Weird Foods Before a Race. veryulissa/istock

Stick with foods that have worked well for you before your long training runs. If you've had trouble with runner's trots during your training runs, follow the recommendations for the best and worst pre-run foods. If you're planning to eat dinner out, check the restaurant's menu to make sure they serve foods that you've eaten before your long runs.

Stay Hydrated

runner drinking from water bottle
Stay Hydrated. PeopleImages/istock

Drink plenty of water throughout the day. If you're hydrating properly, your urine should be light yellow. You can also have one sports drink to make sure you're getting some extra electrolytes. Avoid alcoholic beverages because they have a dehydrating effect and they'll interfere with your sleep. Plus, it's not a good idea to run with a hangover.

Don't Overdo It

relax with tea and a book
Don't Go Crazy Before a Big Run. Petrunjela/istock

Stay off your feet, rest, and relax. When you go to the race expo to pick up your race packet, don't spend hours walking around, attending clinics, and eating free food samples. Spending too much time on your feet will tire you out, and hanging around big crowds at the expo may get you nervous about your race. It's never a good idea to try new foods in the days before a half or full marathon—and that includes giveaways. When you do need to walk around (when you go to the expo, for instance), make sure you're wearing running shoes or other very comfortable shoes.

Go for a Short Run If You Need It

getting ready to run
Go for a Short Run. Cecille_Arcurs/istock

You're not going to lose any fitness by resting the day before your half-marathon or marathon. But if you typically get pre-race anxiety, or you feel like you need to stay loose, it might be beneficial for you to do a very slow, 20-minute run the day before. If you do run, keep your thoughts positive and keep telling yourself that you're ready for your race. If you think you perform better after rest, then just relax during those 24 hours leading up to the race. Whatever you do, make sure that you don't do a significant workout that's going to leave you feeling tired or sore the next day.

Trim Your Toenails

clipping toenails
Trim Your Toenails. Ouan_Ton/istock

Check your toenails and clip any that are too long. Keeping your toenails neat and short will prevent them from hitting the front of your shoes, which can lead to black toenails or foot pain.

Get Your Clothing and Gear Ready

running clothes and gear
Prep Your Running Clothes Before a Racec. Anchiy/istock

Lay out all your clothing and gear for the race the night before. Essential items include:

  • Race bib (number) and safety pins
  • Race timing chip (if it's not part of your race bib)
  • Running outfit, hat, shoes, and socks
  • Wristwatch or GPS watch
  • Your race fuels, such as energy gels (whatever you've been training with)
  • A product to prevent chafing, such as petroleum jelly or Body Glide
  • Sunscreen


Stay Relaxed

Relax Before a Race. monkeybusinessimages/istock

Use visualization techniques while you're relaxing during the day. Envision yourself on the course. Think positively about all the work you've put into your training. It will be worth the effort to avoid pre-race anxiety.

Plan Breakfast

Bagel for breakfast
Healthy Breakfast. Eric Futran/Chefshots

Make sure you have everything you need for breakfast. Don't assume that you'll be able to get certain foods at the race start—it's better to be prepared and know you already have your food with you. Again, you should be eating breakfast foods that you tried out before your long training runs. Always remember, nothing new on race day.

Review the Course Map

map app on iphone
Change Your Course. DragonImages/istock

You probably received a copy of the course map in your race packet. (If not, you could always look on the race website.) Even if you've already looked at the map (including the elevation map), review it one more time so you'll know what to expect. It's always good to know where you'll hit some hills and how frequent the water stops and porta-potties are.

Get Inspired

Woman reading
Get Yourself Inspired. Cavan Images

Watch a movie or read a book that you find inspiring. You might even look up inspiring quotes about running marathons.

Plan Your Trip to the Start

Man reading and relaxing
Plan Your Morning. Alistair Berg

Make sure you know exactly how you're getting to the start and that you're anticipating any problems, like road closures and traffic jams caused by other racers arriving at the venue. If you're driving to the start, make sure you have the right directions and know where you can park near the start. Give yourself plenty of time so you're not nervous that you'll miss the start if something unexpected happens. If you're taking mass transit, do your research to see if there's any potential for delays.

Don't Stress About Lack of Sleep

man unable to sleep
Insomnia Stress. monkeybusinessimages/istock

Don't worry if you can't sleep the night before your half or full marathon—most people do not sleep well the night before. One sleepless night is very unlikely to hurt your performance. Two nights before your race is the most important night of rest. The excitement and adrenaline rush from race day will give you enough energy for your race.

Plan to Get Up Early

sleeping man
Set Your Alarm Early. Eva Katalin/istock

Set your alarm and double-check it. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready, eat breakfast, and get to the race start early. If you're staying in a hotel, request a wake-up call, just to be safe.