Many runners find themselves wondering what to do the day before a half marathon or marathon. Whether it’s your first race or fiftieth, the day before a race always brings some anxiety.
Even after months of training, planning and preparing, last-minute changes or unexpected events nearly always occur. The events that take place the day before a race will likely bring a mix of excitement and nerves. Most runners find themselves grappling with questions that they thought they’d already resolved.
What should you do the day before a half marathon?
Most runners plan extensively for race day, but forget to work out all the logistics that occur the day before a race. Taking the time to create a pre-race plan will help ease your nerves and allow time to mentally and physically prepare for a half marathon or marathon the day before.
Should you work out the day before a half marathon?
Training the day before a half marathon or marathon is entirely up to you. Some runners choose to take a full rest day, allowing time for travel and/or visiting the race expo. Other runners find success calming their nerves with a pre-race shakeout run or easy cross training. Whatever you choose, remember to take it easy. The day before a half marathon is not the time for long runs, fast intervals or intense cross training.
What should you eat the night before a half marathon?
Just about everyone has heard of the “carb-loading” that takes place before a long distance run or race. It is assumed that all runners carb load the day before a half marathon or marathon – but as race day approaches, the question quickly becomes: how?
Learning what to eat the night before a marathon or half marathon will help you avoid hitting the wall on race day, avoid digestive distress and stay energized throughout the run. However, it’s important to note that every runner is different. Some find success with simple pastas, while others prefer breads or even meat.
Take the time to experiment with different meals during training, so you’ll know exactly what to eat when the day before your race arrives.
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Once training comes to an end and race day approaches, having a plan in place for the week and day before will help you stay calm and focused on your goal. Knowing exactly what to do the day before a half marathon or marathon will allow you to toe the starting line feeling confident, rested and excited.
Here are 10 things you need to do the day before a race to set yourself up for success.
10 Things to Do the Day Before a Half Marathon or Marathon
A key part of preparing for your half marathon or marathon is planning for the day before. If you want to arrive at the starting line feeling refreshed and confident, what you do the day before will need to be well-planned and executed. Here are 10 things to do the day before a race to set you up for success.
Plan your race day parking and travel.
One of the most important things to do the day before a half marathon or marathon is plan your race day parking. There is nothing more stressful than experiencing surprises on race morning. 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, and 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.
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 causes 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 shakeout run the day before a race to help 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.
When planning what to do before a half marathon or marathon, you’ll want time to make sure you have fuel, plenty of it, and a hydration plan for race morning. 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 the night 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 you’ll complete 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.
Unfortunately, the day before a half marathon or 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.
The day before a race is the perfect time to plan your clothes and gear for the next morning. 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 a half marathon or 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.
Planning what to do the day before a half marathon or marathon will help maximize your success and confidence the next day. Running a marathon or half marathon is certainly challenging – but that’s what makes it so rewarding.
Once you arrive at the starting line, it’s time to focus, relax and take it all in.