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Marathon Race Day Preparation and Checklist

Updated on September 28, 2012

Preparation for a successful marathon or half marathon

Whether this is your first road race or your 1000th, you need to prepare for an optimal race day. Factors such as location, weather, course difficulty play into the things you will need on race day. This article covers common items you will need for a marathon, half marathon, 5k or 10k road race.

A Few Days Before a Race...

Take care of your feet. Wear comfortable shoes. Ideally your running sneakers are your best bet. Avoid high heels, flip-flops or open toed shoes. The last thing you need is to twist an ankle, drop something heavy on or stub one of those sweet toes!Begin increasing carbohydrates. This will help top off your body's glycogen stores. Check out the runners world article titled Fill 'Er Up . It has a fantastic table for an ideal day of carbo-loading foods.Hydrate Drink enough not to be thirsty. Include water and sports drinks. Alcohol can contribute to dehydration so drink in moderation or save it for the post-run celebration.Watch caffeine intake. Avoid caffeine if this is your first time using it. Even if you typically consume caffeinated drink, watch your consumption level. While caffine is getting less of a bad rap it can still negatively affect your performance on race day if you consume too much.Start thinking of your pacing strategy. Be prepared but be willing to have some flexibility. Start slow and build your speed slowly doing negative split times. Use the McMillan Calculator to determine your goal pace. Use the Cool Running Race Planner to print out your split times. You can use this to gauge how close you are staying to your goal. Many people either write them on their arm or print them on a wrist bracelet etc.Know your course. Take the time to print off the map and look over the course. If you can, drive the course before you run it. This will help you mentally prepare for challenging spots. It is also a great way to locate spots for your cheer team to meet you along the course.Know your safety stops. Most courses have water stops every 1-2 miles with first aide stations every few stops. Drink early and often. I recommend grabbing something at every water stop. You need both water and electrolytes. In addition, you will need some form of nutrition such as GU, a power bar, banana or pretzels.Dress appropriately. Temperatures can change so monitor the local weather. You will feel 10-20 degrees warmer than the actual outside temp. Watch the weather and set aside your running outfit early.

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Marathon Checklist

Below is a list of key items to prepare for marathon day. Prepare ahead so you are not rushed the morning of the race. Pre-race jitters are common and it is easy to forget a critical item. A little acryonym I use is CANS.






ShoesShortsSocksShirtThrowaway shirt (long sleeve for cold weather)Post-race change of clothes and shoesAccessoriesVaseline or body glideRace numberRace instructions, directionsTowelGarbage bagToilet paperRunning watch/Garmin/iPhone *

Safety pins or race number beltBand-aidsNutritionEnergy bars or gelsWater bottle for drive, pre-raceSunSunglassesHatSunscreen

Dress for Race Day Success

What you should pack to wear on race day.

Proper dress is an important factor for maintaining proper body temperature during a race. Dress too warm and risk overheating, under dress and risk hypothermia. Wear clothing that wicks and keeps moisture off of your body. This is important in both warm and cold weather. Below are some tips on how to adjust your pre-race checklist for weather considerations.

Cold Weather Check List

Gloves - Two critical areas to keep warm are your head and hands. If there will be a warming trend during the race time, opt for an inexpensive throw away pair of gloves and a hat. You do not want to be carrying them for miles and you don't want to risk going out too cold either.HatLong sleeve shirtFace maskLip balmRainZip lock bag - Small sandwich bags can be used to protect expensive items such as a phone or iPod.Trash bag - Trash bags quickly double as rain gear and are easy to throw away once the rain has subsided. They are also easier to carry as a just-in-case measure.Protective rain gearHat/VisorSunglassesWarm WeatherHat/VisorBug sprayChafing glideSun screen

One to two days before...

Pick up your bib number. Your bib will have a timing chip on it. Take care of it so it does not bend. Fill out the emergency form on the back of the bib.Check off your pre-race checklist.Check the weather and set aside your clothing, food ect. one or two nights before. Pre-race jitters are common and preparation makes for a smooth and fun experience. See below for a pre-race checklist.Get a good nights rest. Friday night is the most important night to rest.Hydration Continue to stay hydrated.Stay off your feet. The day before the event, stay off your feet. Limit your time spent walking around the expo. You want fresh legs for your event.

Night before and day of...

Eat a healthy dinner. You will need some carbohydrates but do not overeat. You will need a good night's sleep. The majority of your fueling came in the days before.Check the weather. Adjust for any weather changes.Pack your race day items Pin your bib onto your race clothes and pack your post run clothing into a gym bag for the drop off service.Review your race plan. Adjust your plan for any hurdles such as illness, minor twinges or drastic changes in the weather.Set two alarms Make sure one is battery powered in the event the power goes out.Relax If you have pre-race day jitters, find a favorite activity to relax such as light yoga, a warm bath, read a book or watch a favorite show.Eat a good breakfast Consume about 150 grams of carbohydrates 2-3 hours before the race if possible. Do not try anything new on race day. Stick to what you know works for you.Arrive early, but not too early. Arrive an hour before the start time to give you plenty of time to park, use the facilities and line up.Be polite to your fellow runners.During the race, remember to use race etiquette. Be aware of those around you. You do not want to ruin someone else's months of training nor your own by accidentally tripping and unsuspecting fellow racer.Hydrate early and often. Drink every 15 minutes if you can or at least at every water stop. Aid stations on the left hand side tend to not be as crowded. Watch your footing around aid stations. They can be slippery with wet cups and debris.

Inexpensive Gloves and Hats

Carrying a pair of gloves or a hat after temperatures rise on a marathon is cumbersome. Many places like Amazon, Walmart and Target sell inexpensive gloves and hats that you can toss on the course. Gloves, scarves, hats and hand warmers can typically be found for $2-$5 at discount stores.


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