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What to Do the Day Before Running a Marathon or Half Marathon

14 Tips for Avoiding Pre-Race Mistakes


Updated June 02, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

The hardest part of your half or full marathon training is over, but what you do during the day before your race can make or break your race. Follow these tips to make sure you avoid making mistakes that will cost you valuable time or cause discomfort during your half or full marathon.

1. Eat Plenty of Carbohydrates

Plate with healhty looking food
Cultura/Maiwolf Photography/Riser/Getty Images

As you've been doing before your long training runs, you should be eating about 65-70% of your calories from carbs in the days leading up to your race. Don't stuff yourself at dinner the night before. Carbo-loading does not mean that you should eat three plates of pasta for dinner. As many runners like to say, "Too much 'loading' can lead to 'unloading' during the race." Eat amounts of food that you would normally eat.

More: Nutrition and Hydration for Long Distance Runners

2. Avoid Any Unusual Foods

Runners overeating
Photo by Greg Ceo

Stick with foods that have worked well for you before your long training runs. If you've had trouble with runner's trots during your training runs, follow these recommendations for the best and worst pre-run foods. If you're planning to eat dinner out, check the restaurant's menu to make sure they serve foods that you've eaten before your long runs.

3. Stay Hydrated

Runner Taking a Water Break

Drink plenty of water throughout the day. If you're hydrating properly, your urine should be light yellow.You can also have one sports drink, to make sure you're getting some extra electrolytes. Avoid alcoholic beverages because they have a dehydrating effect, and they'll interfere with your sleep. Plus, it's not a good idea to run with a hangover.

4. Don't Overdo It

Woman reading and relaxing
Dana Tezarr

Stay off your feet, rest and relax. When you go to the race expo to pick up your race packet, don't spend hours walking around, attending clinics, and eating free food samples. Spending too much time on your feet will tire you out, and hanging around big crowds at the expo may get you nervous about your race. It's never a good idea to try new foods in the days before a half or full marathon -- and that includes giveaways. When you do need to walk around (when you go to the expo, for instance), make sure you're wearing running shoes or other very comfortable shoes.

5. Go For a Short Run, If You Need It

Runner outside in fall weather
Photo by Chase Jarvis/Getty Images

You're not going to lose any fitness by resting the day before your half or full marathon. But if you typically get pre-race anxiety, or you feel like you need to stay loose, it might be beneficial for you to do a very slow, 20-minute run the day before. If you do run, keep your thoughts positive and keep telling yourself that you're ready for your race.  If you think you perform better after rest, then just relax during those 24 hours leading up to the race. Whatever you do, make sure that you don't do a significant workout that's going to leave you feeling tired or sore the next day.

More: Should I Run the Day Before My Race?

6. Make Sure Your Toenails are Trimmed

Photo by Justin Sullivan

Check your toenails and clip any that are too long. Keeping your toenails neat and short will prevent them from hitting the front of your shoes, which can lead to bloody or black toenails.

7. Get Your Clothing and Gear Ready

Lay out all your clothing and gear for the race the night before. Essential items include:

More: Marathon Packing List

8. Stay Relaxed

Butterfly Yoga Pose
Photo by Peter Augustin
Use visualization techniques while you're relaxing during the day. Envision yourself on the course. Think positively about all the work you've put into your training.

More: How to Avoid Pre-Race Anxiety

9. Plan Breakfast

Bagel for breakfast
Eric Futran/Chefshots

Make sure you have everything you need for breakfast. Don't assume that you'll be able to get certain foods at the race start -- it's better to be prepared and know you already have your food with you. Again, you should be eating breakfast foods that you tried out before your long training runs.

More: What to Eat Before Your Long Runs

10. Review the course map.

Runners looking at map
Gideon Hart
You probably received a copy of the course map in your race packet. (If not, you could always look on the race website.) Even if you've already looked at the map (including the elevation map), review it one more time so you'll know what to expect. It's always good to know where you'll hit some hills and how frequent the water stops are.

More Pre-Race Advice ->
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