BHealthy Blog

Last-Minute Marathon Tips For Race Day

By Jeremy Ray, Fitness Coordinator
Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock & Baptist Health Rehabilitation Institute

Marathon day is quickly approaching and if you plan to join, you’re already more than halfway through your training. Whether this is your first one or 10th one, I want to give advice for before, during and after the race to help you perform your best. 

If you have experience with marathon races, you probably have learned a few tips along the way. But if you’re new to racing or want a refresher, here are a few tips to consider. 

Weeks Out

Do a Dress Rehearsal

As race day approaches, make sure to do a dress rehearsal with the exact clothes and shoes you plan to wear during the race. Avoid anything new or unfamiliar on race day. This will help you know what works and what doesn’t.

Cotton T-shirts are a poor option because they lack proper ventilation, absorbing sweat rather than allowing it to evaporate quickly. You need a coolmax or nylon shirt that allows your body to cool. These fabrics are designed to allow air to circulate more freely, promoting better breathability and faster evaporation of sweat.

Experiment with Sports Drinks & Endurance Gels

Try different sports drinks and endurance gels to determine what your body can handle. Sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade are beneficial for replacing electrolytes lost from sweating. Gels help replenish glycogen or energy stored in muscle. Both are tools that you might want to take advantage of. 

Map the Course

Become familiar with the course terrain. Familiarizing yourself with the marathon route well in advance will give you a better understanding of what’s to come and help you avoid any surprises.

Set Goals

Setting goals for your race is crucial for your mental game. Goals give you motivation and the ability to focus on something other than what you’re actually going through, including any physical discomfort or fatigue along the route.

If you have a few races under your belt, then you might already have some goals to shoot for. However, if this is your first race, simply crossing the finish line might be your main objective, and that’s perfectly fine.

One way to set goals is to envision your ideal day with good weather and feeling well. Additionally, you can set a goal for a race day that may not be perfect. In these situations, it’s helpful to set secondary goals that take into account the challenges. For example, you could aim to maintain a steady pace despite rain or focus on staying mentally strong when faced with strong winds.

Days Out

If you’ve been training properly, your workouts have tapered and hopefully you’ve begun to feel more energized within a few days out from the race. You’ve been careful about what you eat, drink, and sleep during training, so now focus on these things even more. 

Increase Carb Consumption & Hydration

For good health, it’s important to eat a balanced diet with protein, carbs and fats. But when getting ready for a marathon, 24-48 hours before the race, you should eat more carbs to have enough energy. Don’t go crazy though. Just slightly increase all your carb portions throughout the day to make sure your energy supply is adequate. 

Hydration is equally as important. A reduction of 1-2% in your body weight due to insufficient hydration can cause your performance to decline, so make sure you’re well hydrated leading up to the marathon. 

Get Plenty of Sleep

Last but not least you need a good night’s rest with approximately 7-8 hours of sleep. This will ensure you’ve recovered from the previous day and are ready to run. 

Now that you’re done with training, you know what you’re wearing, you’re familiar with the course, have goals, and are hydrated and well-rested, you’re ready for the big day. 

Race Day

Start the Day Off Right

Begin the day by hydrating your body. You haven’t had any water or food for 7-8 hours, so start it off right and set yourself up for success.

Next, eat a breakfast that is low in protein and fat and higher in carbs possibly 2-3 hours prior to the race. The shorter the time between your meal and the race the smaller or lighter it should be. This varies from person to person. 

Get There Early

Arrive at the race in enough time so you’re not rushed and are able to get to your designated position. Fifteen minutes before the race, jog back and forth a short distance – or in place – and do some light stretching to make sure your muscles are warm and everything feels good. 

Stay Motivated During The Race

Once the race starts, ease into it the first 2-3 miles and take advantage of the breakstations. Normally, they will have a sports drink, water, or juice to choose from. 

As the race goes on utilize a gel pack if need be to keep those energy levels up. Avoid mixing the gel with anything other than water to prevent yourself from getting a big dose of sugar.

As you work your way toward the end, you may really start to struggle both physically and mentally. If that’s the case, try to direct your attention to another racer and chase them to the end. Anything to finish. Remember the finish line!

Rest and Replenish

You did it! Way to go. Hopefully you’ve accomplished your goal and now you can start replenishing your body with what it needs to recover. Soon after finishing, drink a sports drink, if needed, and within 30 minutes ingest a fruit smoothie, yogurt or something similar. For tissue repair, consider your carb and protein intake.

A couple of hours after completing the race eat a well balanced meal and pat yourself on the back. Congratulations, you’ve accomplished a great feat for your health!