A few years ago I ran my first marathon. It was a fantastic experience, and I would encourage anyone who is a casual runner to set it as a goal and train hard for it. The feeling of accomplishment when you cross the finish line is indescribable. But, what do should you do to prepare before running a race?
I certainly did a lot to prepare. I’m talking 3 months of training, adjusting my diet and sleep schedule, and learning to tape up my knees. Even still, I think that the most important preparation I did took place the night before race morning. So whether you are running a full marathon, a half marathon, a relay, or something else that you have been working hard for, make sure you do these 5 things before running a race. And, before your head hits the pillow.
While carb-loading might sound like a fancy excuse to eat a lot of pasta, there is actually some compelling science behind it. According to the health website, The Greatist, “During exercise, our muscles and liver use glycogen, or stored glucose, for energy. While the body gets glucose from most food groups, it converts carbs to glucose more easily than it converts fat or protein. So loading up on carbs can mean a big energy boost.” It is important not to overdo it the night before race. You don’t want to wake up still feeling full and bloated from a bottomless bowl of spaghetti. However, your last meal should be carb-heavy. Self.com recommends filling half of your plate with grains, one quarter with vegetables, and one quarter with a lean protein. My favorite pre-race meal is brown rice, broccoli, and 4 oz of salmon.
Lay out your race gear…all of your race gear
Avoiding anything that induces stress and anxiety is really important. For me, nothing is more stressful than looking for something that I need and not finding it. People may set out their clothes and shoes, but forget those last minute comfort items like Ibuprofen and hair ties. The night before running a race, I lay out everything I think I would need. I lay out my clothes, my shoes, my fuel, my race number, my chap stick, extra hair ties, and the water bottle that I drink before I even head to the starting line. Having everything I may need laid out helps me to stay calm the morning of my race. I just grab what I need and I am out the door.
Take it easy
The night before a race should be calm and relaxing. Stay off of your feet, engage in low-stress activities (Netflix, anyone?), and avoid alcohol. You want your body to be rested and ready for the next morning. So, the night before you run, stay relaxed, hydrated, and mentally prepared. To add to this, Minneapolis Running suggests staying positive. “Self doubt and second guessing yourself is never a beneficial or productive activity. In the final week before your marathon, stay positive. Think happy thoughts. Staying positive will help you stay relaxed, and more often than not, a relaxed runner is a strong runner.”
Set multiple alarms
If there was ever a morning for a back-up alarm, it is race morning. I know many people (myself included) who still experience pre-race anxiety despite their preparations. They may have trouble falling asleep the night before running a race. Those lost hours of sleep make reliance on your alarm all the more crucial. I always set an alarm on my phone and an alarm on a clock. I also deputize whoever is with me to set their own alarm and make sure I’m up!
Plan the run and run the plan
A few years ago I was at a race expo, and sat down to watch a panel of Olympic runners give their own pre-race advice. My favorite one was to “plan the run and run the plan”. The first part of that advice speaks to the pre-race preparation that goes into training. You should know exactly how your run should go before you even make it into the corral. The second part of that advice speaks to the fact that you don’t want to try anything new on race day. You will be nervous. You will be tempted to drink Gatorade instead of water, fuel too early, or cross the starting line at a faster pace than you’re used to. Avoid those temptations. For your best race ever, you should feel confident in your race plan. Stick to what you have prepared to do. If you can repeat that mantra to yourself as you fall asleep the night before your run, you will wake up feeling calm, rested, and secure.
Best of luck runners, stay focused, and be prepared!