You’ve been training for months and marathon morning is finally here. Just like you followed a well-thought-out training plan to get you here, you should also follow a plan the morning of the race to make sure you get to the start line ready to run the best race possible. Whether it’s your first marathon or your 10th, don’t forget some of these important steps on race day morning.
Set your alarm
This, of course, requires some planning the night before. You should plan to arrive at the start line no less than one hour before the race start, and if you’re running a larger race, you should plan to be there two to three hours early. Many of the larger events will tell you what time you need to be there in your race information package, so pay attention to that and plan accordingly.
You also need to give yourself plenty of time to eat and digest before the race starts, and ideally, you should have enough time to relax a bit before it’s time to warm up. Most experts agree you should get up at least three to four hours before the start of the race to ensure you’re fully awake and ready to run. That also gives you time to get there without rushing, which will help you reduce stress on race day morning.
This also requires planning the night before. Of course, you should have everything you’re going to wear for the race ready to go, including your bib or timing chip and whatever fuel you’re going to carry with you on the course, but it’s also important to plan what you’re going to wear before the race starts.
If it’s a chilly morning, you want to keep your warm clothes on as long as possible before the race starts to avoid shivering, which can actually cause you to dip into your glycogen stores. This can be problematic at a large race that may require you to be in your corral an hour or more before the race actually starts. If you can, go to a used clothing store before the race and pick up “throw-away” clothes — inexpensive pants and sweaters that you can wear right up until the last minute, then take off and toss to the side before the gun goes off. Most races know runners will do this, and have clothing pick-up programs so all the items left behind are donated to charity.
How much you warm up will depend on the conditions on race day, your goals and your level of experience. If you’re a first-timer whose only goal is to finish the marathon, you likely don’t need much of a warm-up — a 10-minute walk will be enough to get your legs moving and your blood pumping. If you’re more experienced and you’re planning on running at a faster pace, two five-minute runs with some gentle stretching in between is enough to get you primed and ready to go.
You should start your warmup about 30-40 minutes before the start of the race and should end it no more than 10 minutes ahead of time. Any earlier than that, and you risk getting cold again. Again, if you’re at a large race that requires you to be in your corral long before the race starts, try to find a place where you can sit and relax a bit, and alternate between sitting and doing some light walking to avoid being on your feet too much too soon. Once you’re in that 30-40 minute window, however, you should keep moving to stay warm.