Signing up for a marathon or half marathon is a scary act. Committing to running a distance that may feel nearly impossible from the start involves a lot of dedication and perseverance. And even with the best of training, the day before your marathon or half marathon often involves nerves, anxiety and plenty of unknowns.
Many runners get so caught up in the fears and worries about actually running the race that they overlook a great deal of essential pre-race day preparation.
Having a pre-race checklist on hand for the day before your marathon or half marathon is a great way to ensure you don’t forget anything when those nerves start to take over.
If you’re preparing for an upcoming race, completing these 10 things the day before will help you arrive at the starting line feeling confident, focused and ready for your best race yet.
10 Things to Do the Day Before Your Marathon or Half Marathon
Plan your race day parking and travel.
There is nothing more stressful than experiencing surprises on race day. Expecting to be able to park right by the start, arrive at the last minute, or park for free can all cause great delays when they don’t turn out as planned.
While a few races certainly do have a plethora of free, nearby parking options, more often than not, parking lots close at a certain time, cost money, or are located quite a ways away from the actual start line.
Failing to plan your parking and travel logistics before your marathon or half marathon often leads to unwanted stress and anxiety on race day.
Plan out exactly where you will park, what time you will need to leave, how far you will have to walk to the start, where you will discard any throwaway items, and anything else involved in the travel process on race morning.
These details might feel tedious the day before your race, but taking the time to plan them out ahead of time will help you start your marathon or half marathon feeling calm, focused and in control.
Pick up your packet and attend the expo.
The day before your half marathon or marathon is the perfect time to hit up the expo and get inspired! Whenever possible, try to pick up your packet ahead of time to avoid the rush and stress of doing so on race day.
Most races have some sort of expo or booths set up ahead of time that offer free samples, running gear and various products that you might find helpful. Even if you don’t plan to make any purchases, walking around the race expo is a great way to get excited and inspired for race day.
Be sure to include time to browse and walk around without feeling rushed the day before your race.
Get your legs moving to shake things out.
Many runners end up traveling to get to their marathon or half marathon destination. Sometimes this travel involves a short road trip, while others fly cross country or even internationally to arrive at the start.
Regardless of whether you drove 30 minutes or have been traveling for days, it’s important to get your legs moving the day before your marathon or half marathon.
Traveling and sitting around cause your muscles to tense up, often leading to unwanted aches, pains or soreness before you even get to the starting line. Make a point to walk around a bit the day before your race to get things moving and keep the blood circulating.
Many runners find success with completing a short, easy paced shake-out run pre-race to loosen things up and keep their legs fresh. If you’ve planned a rest day before your race, make a point to walk through town or browse the expo to get your legs moving after traveling.
Prepare your race day fueling.
One of the most neglected areas of preparation before a marathon or half marathon is fuel. After months of successfully fueling during training runs, many runners find that they have run out of supplies or simply forget to get things ready beforehand.
Proper race day fueling can really impact your performance during long distance races – which means that forgetting your fuel or trying something new can lead to a miserable race.
It’s important to make sure you have your usual fuel, plenty of it, and a plan for hydration the day before the race. Set everything out so you won’t forget it – and don’t forget to plan for how and where you are going to store your fuel on the run.
Enjoy a carb-heavy dinner.
By dinner time the day before your marathon or half marathon, you’ll likely have arrived at your destination and successfully picked up your bib. Now comes the fun part: carb-loading.
Be sure to enjoy a carb-heavy dinner the night before your race to help your body stock up on fast-acting sugars for the long distance in the morning.
Picking something simple is often best, as it helps avoid any unwanted or unexpected digestive issues throughout the night and during the race.
Simple options, such as pastas with sauce or bread products are often a favorite among runners. Take this time to celebrate your training and get excited for what is to come the next day – just don’t go so crazy that you cause a stomach ache.
Drink plenty of water.
The day before the race is a crucial time for hydration! Heading to the starting line feeling dehydrated will set you up for sluggishness and heavy legs before you even begin.
Unfortunately, the day before a marathon or half marathon often involves a lot of travel and time spent away from your usual routine – making it harder to remember to hydrate.
Bring a water bottle with you during your travels and try to consciously take sips throughout the day. As tempting as it might be to pair your carb-loading with an alcoholic or sugar-filled beverage, try to save the celebrating for the next day.
Drink plenty of water with dinner and before bed to hit the starting line feeling hydrated and energized the next day.
Lay out your race day clothes and gear.
When your alarm goes off on race day, you’ll likely be filled with nerves and anxiety – regardless of how well your training has gone. Try to avoid adding to this stress by having all of your gear out ahead of time.
Set out all of your outfit options (be sure to have a few backups in case the weather is unusually cold or warm), all of your electronics, running accessories, shoes, hair accessories, and pins for your bib.
Place everything where you can see it to allow easy access on race morning. Nothing adds stress to your morning like frantically sorting through your suitcase to find your lucky socks. Pack your gear-check bag ahead of time or create a plan for all of your throwaway clothes.
Having everything laid out and ready to go for the morning will make waking up before the sun and getting ready for your race much easier.
Stretch or take a warm bath.
It’s no secret that running (and training for) a marathon or half marathon is taxing on your body. Long distance training and races can really wear out your muscles, no matter how healthy or athletic you may be.
A great way to relax the day before your marathon or half marathon is to take the time to stretch or indulge in a warm bath or hot tub session. The heat and relaxation are really helpful for loosening up your muscles and promoting healthy blood flow.
After months of tough training, treat yourself to some relaxation before things get crazy on race day. If a bath or hot tub is not an option, spending a few minutes stretching will help loosen up any knots or unwanted tension that may have built up throughout the previous weeks.
Charge all your electronics.
Amidst the chaos of finding the expo, arriving at your destination, getting all of your gear organized and still trying to go to bed early – it’s so easy to forget to charge your electronics.
Waking up to a dead watch or headphones when you’d planned on using them all along can feel devastating on race day.
Be sure to pack all of your chargers, regardless of whether or not you think you’ll need them. Top off the charge on all of your electronics the night before your race to ensure they are fully functional and ready to go during your marathon or half marathon.
Set an alarm and go to bed early.
You’ll likely be waking up before the sun on race day, so setting an alarm is key to arriving at the start on time. Set an alarm that will give you plenty of time to get ready without rushing, but will allow you as much time as possible to sleep.
The night before your race, try to head to bed as early as possible. However, remind yourself that the night before the race is actually not the most important night of sleep. Stressing about trying to get enough sleep will likely leaving you tossing and turning for hours.
It’s completely normal to have trouble falling asleep the night before a half marathon or marathon, so rather than obsessing if you’re having difficulties, simply try to relax and enjoy the calm before the storm.
Running a marathon or half marathon is certainly challenging, but that is what makes it worth it. Be sure to accomplish these 10 things the day before your race to set yourself up for maximum success.
Once you arrive at the starting line, it’s time to focus, relax and take it all in.
More pre-race day tips:
- 12 Things to Do the Week Before Your Race
- 8 Tips for Your Best Race Day Ever
- 9 Ways to Prepare for Your First Race