Avoid Stress on Race Day, What You Should Do The Night Before and On Race Day


Hello Runners,

In the last two posts, I discussed what to consume the night before and morning of your event.

In this post, I will talk more about your preparation the night before and morning of your marathon, as well as what to pack if you are traveling for a marathon.

Packing list for travel to marathon, don’t forget these items if your marathon is not local:

  • Running shoes
  • Race outfit (shirt[s], shorts/pants, socks, sports bra)
  • Throwaway shirt (if it’ll be cold when the race starts, but you don’t expect to need extra layers the whole time)
  • Disposable poncho
  • A jacket, sweatpants, and anything else to keep warm before the start that you can hand off to someone (a garbage bag works and has the added advantage of being a portable privacy stall if you need to pee and the line is too long, which it will be)
  • Hat or headband
  • Gloves
  • Any compression gear, braces, or straps that you wear
  • Watch
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Chapstick
  • Band-Aids if you use them
  • Plastic baggies to store different foods, tablets, etc.
  • Anti-chafing lubricant
  • Anti-blister powder
  • Fuel belt or other bottles/pouches
  • Race packet (unless you’ll pick it up at the expo)
  • Whatever food you plan to eat before, during, or after that you might not be able to find at the expo or a grocery store (specific types of gels, sports drink, electrolyte tablets, for example)
  • Extra running clothes (if you plan to do any light running in the days before the race)
  • Headlamp (probably not needed for most road races)
  • Tissues or toilet paper, for emergencies
  • Maps, race information, and anything else that needs to be printed if you won’t have access to a printer
  • Marker or tape (if you want to write your name on your body or clothes so spectators can yell it)
  • GPS device if your spectators will need it (many roads may be closed, so it can come in handy)
  • Camera

The day and night before your marathon

  • Attend to race details in advance to limit unnecessary stress on race day
  • Have a plan A, B, and C in place before the race
  • Study the course so you know where the hills, etc. are. If it’s a local race run sections of the route periodically during training. Check website and videos of the course
  • If you will have family and/or friends as spectators, put someone else in charge of where they will be on the course, so you can focus on the race. Ideally, if someone can meet you at mile 17 with a fresh shirt you can feel fresh for the last third of the race


  • You should arrive at least one day before the race, if the race is out of town
  • Even if race is local, you might consider getting a hotel room near the start line
  • If you stay at home, consider having someone dropping you off, so you don’t need to worry about traffic and parking

Race Expo

  • Avoid spending any length of time on your feet at the expo. Get your race packet and get out!
  • If you can go to the expo 2 days before on lunch break do so
  • If can’t make it to the expo until the day before the event, go as early as possible to avoid crowds and get out so you can rest

Before Bed

  • Make sure your bag is packed and ready to go
  • Make sure timing chip is fastened to shoe laces or pinned to your shirt or belt
  • Have your clothes laid out
  • Have your water bottles full

The morning of your event

  • Ideally, wake up at least three hours before your race and consume your pre-race meal
  • As a general rule, you want to arrive at your race about an hour before it starts so that you can do whatever you need to do (eating, warming up, standing in line for the Porta Pot). Take into account whether there’s a long walk from the parking lot to the start line, which there sometimes is, road closures, and whether there might be a lot of traffic driving into the race. As a rule, public transportation is a far less stressful option than driving, if your race is in an area that offers it.
  • In the hour before the race you may want to consume an energy gel (if have practiced with it during training) and sip fluids
  • Check the weather before and during the event and consider the layers you may need before the start that you might shed. For layers you will shed, wear something that you are willing to throw away
  • Be calm before the start and approach the race with “cautious confidence”. Remember you trained well for this day!

What To Bring To the Race

  • You’ll want to dedicate a bag or two for things that you’ll bring with you to the race. Some you’ll carry with you while you run; others you’ll leave with your spectators or put in the bag drop that most every race has. (If you’re going to do the bag-drop option, make sure you bring whatever sticker or identifying tag you need from your race packet.)
  • Here’s a list of things to pack in your race bag (or wear):
    • Race number and safety pins (I’d recommend pinning it on before you get to the race. Don’t forget to write your emergency contact information on it.)
    • Timing chip
    • Extra clothing to keep warm before the race
    • A garbage bag (for warmth, rain protection, and an emergency bathroom stall if the lines are long)
    • Gloves and hat or headband
    • Compression gear and any straps or braces you wear
    • Something warm to wear after the race (could be the same as what you wore before the race)
    • A throwaway shirt to wear if it’s cold for the first few miles of the race
    • Food or drinks you need before the race
    • Any food you plan on eating during the race that won’t be provided by aid stations. This includes:
      • Gels or gummies (most races provide them at at least one aid station)
      • Sports drink (with bottles) if you don’t like what the race offers
      • Electrolytes
    • A few dollars for buying food/beer/soda/whatever after the race (a lot of times you need cash)
    • A sandwich or something else substantial to eat after the race (it might be hard to buy what you need afterward)
    • Anti-blister powder
    • Anti-chafe lubricant
    • Race packet (just in case there’s something in there that you didn’t realized you’d need)
    • Course map (for your spectators)
    • Camera (you probably won’t want to carry it, so give it to your spectators)
    • Cell phone (I wouldn’t recommend carrying it unless it really doesn’t bother you)
    • Watch
    • Sunglasses
    • Sunscreen
    • Chapstick
    • Band-Aids, if you use them
    • Headlamp
    • Tissues or toilet paper 

So, avoid unnecessary stress on race day and plan accordingly.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,


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Luke Humphrey with Ketih & Kevin Hanson. Hansons Marathon Method. Velopress, Boulder, CO, 2012.

Matt Fitzgerald . Marathon Roadmap The Plant-Based Guide To Conquering Your First 26.2.

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