Pre-Race Preparations: What to do and not to do before running a marathon

I don’t care how many marathons a person has run, there is still always a hit of nervousness and anticipation that starts to settle in your stomach the days before a race.  You start looking up the weather and it makes you nervous.  You check the laces on your running shoes and it makes you nervous.  You pick out your outfit and even that can make you nervous!  The nervousness is not so much a nervousness that you won’t do well, it is more of a nervousness because you want to do your best.  (Runners tend to be perfectionists ♥)

I don’t care how many marathons a person has run, there is still always a hit of nervousness and anticipation that starts to settle in your stomach the days before a race.  You start looking up the weather and it makes you nervous.  You check the laces on your running shoes and it makes you nervous.  You pick out your outfit and even that can make you nervous!  The nervousness is not so much a nervousness that you won’t do well, it is more of a nervousness because you want to do your best.  (Runners tend to be perfectionists ♥)

For me, my mind starts to become overly dramatic and I all of a sudden start feeling all of these new aches and pains.  Usually if I just pop a few Advil, it can help get my mind off of it.  But there does come a point that you do have to really listen to your body in the days before a race.  If you stretch a lot on a usual basis, double it when you are getting close to a race.  If you hardly stretch, then increase your routine slightly to ensure you are not all kinked up.  If you drink a lot of water normally, keep at it.  If you are not good at hydrating during your training (which I highly would doubt…) then make sure to get on the hydrating train!  Its all about embracing your body and overly nurturing it after the hard training you have put it through during your training.  The days prior to a race is your time to thank your body for getting you through training and fuel it up to take you even further during the race.

Here are a few other key tips I recommend for pre-race prep:

  1. Don’t try anything new:  I see so many people at the expo the day before a race buying new shoes and clothes; these are the same people I then see sitting along the sidelines at mile 6 with their shoes off because their feet are so blistered.  Or, they are slabbing on the Vaseline under their shirts because the fabric is irritating them.  No matter what, your training was the time to try all of your new things out.  Race day should just be an extension of that; do what you are used to because you know you can do it that way!  It is so easy to think “If it worked this way during training, it will work better if I just <fill in blank>”  If this is really how you are feeling, consider this race as a test run, do it the way you trained, then try your new thing next season :)
  2. Every meal is important:  In the days before a race, every meal and beverage you consume is important.Make sure you are eating additional carbohydrates but, be sure to not go out of your dietary restrictions to avoid becoming sick.  Some people like to eat huge bowls of pasta for their carb-load.  I prefer to eat a normal pasta dish but, I typically add one additional oz of quinoa pasta to my bowl (instead of having 1 oz of quinoa pasta with chicken and veggies, I have 2 oz with the same amount of chicken and veggies).  I also ensure I am snacking as often as every 2 hours on things like rice cakes and apples with almond butter, mangos/bananas, and protein & spinach smoothies.  When you are not eating a meal or snack, you should be drinking plenty of water.  I aim to drink a 1 litter bottle every 2-3 hours. Note though, I drink tons of water on a regular basis so this isn’t too new for me.  If you are not used to drinking so much water, don’t over hydrate as that can become very dangerous.  Drink what you are comfortable with.  If you start to feel full from drinking water, stop drinking so much.
  3. Sleep, Sleep & More Sleep:  I aim to get an extra hour each night of the week leading up to the race.  I already know I won’t sleep good the night before the race so I try to compensate ahead of time for that.  I have found that I do sleep much better the night before a race if I take a melatonin vitamin before I go to bed.  To help prepare my body for taking this sleep aid, I also take one two nights before and then wake up very early the day before the race.  That way, I will be tired early on the night before and, the melatonin won’t throw my body off.  Melatonin is an all natural sleep aid that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles.  It has been known to make some people groggy (it doesn’t affect me like this but…) the next morning so, be sure you try it out before so you know how it affects you.
  4. Spend the day before a race relaxing:  Races can be overwhelming, no matter how new or advanced you are.  In order to enjoy and be prepared for the experience come race day, I recommend spending the day before a race relaxing and mentally preparing.  Here is what a day before a race looks like for me:6:00am:  Wake Up, have coffee, hop on my computer
    8:00am:  Dynamic stretching routine and light yoga poses for stretching
    9:00am:  Head to expo to pick up race day packet
    12:oopm:  Each lunch consisting of rice cakes with almond butter, mango/greek yogurt/chia seeds parfait.
    12:30pm:  More stretching and foam roller massage
    1:00pm:  Relax and read or watch a movie – Just relax.
    3:00pm:  More stretching and foam roller massage
    4:30pm:  Prepare clothing and bag for race morning.  Pin bib on sports bra, pack bag with the following:

    • For Pre Race:  Water, banana (to eat 30 minutes before since I eat my oatmeal breakfast so early), warm clothing to strip before I hop in the corral, Iphone case and headphones, 4 Gu’s (one for every 5-6 miles), chap-stick & lotion (to moisturize before I head out).
    • For Post Race:  Hydration and electrolytes, (although they always have stuff at the finish line, I like to have my own just in case they run out or, I don’t like what they have.  Last thing you want to do after you have just run 26.2 miles is upset your stomach!), towel, jacket, flip flops & clean shorts to change into, massage stick.

5:00pm:  Prepare dinner consisting of 2 oz quinoa pasta, 4 oz chicken & lots of veggies.
6:00pm:  One more stretching routine and foam roller massage
7:00pm:  Bedtime!

5. Mentally Prepare: If you train anything like I do, you have spent the last four months living and breathing this race.  You have been out on numerous long runs, you have followed a clean and healthy diet and your body is in check.  Now, all you have left to do is catch your mind up to your body.  I like to print out the map of the race so I can study the mile markers and, plot out my hydration plan ahead of time.  I like to know exactly what aid stations I plan to stop at so, I don’t encounter any surprises of there not being an aid station when I need one during the race.  Studying the map also takes the anticipation out of where you are headed as you are running.  Instead, you can just focus on your running and enjoy the scenery.  If you are from out of town, try to go drive the race course a couple days ahead of time or, check the race’s facebook as many races post a video of the race course.  Another helpful tip is to go back and look over your training calendar.  Sometimes, just seeing all of the runs you have done writen down reminds you how prepared you really are.

All of these tips aside, the most important thing is to enjoy the run.  Running a marathon is something so few people do and it takes so much commitment and dedication, you should be proud!