Preparing for Race Day

After months of training, you’ll need to start preparing your body for the big race.

Taper Your Training

Tapering your training will help repair your body and ensure that you’ll have enough energy on race day.

  • A couple of weeks before the marathon, begin tapering your mileage and incorporate more days of rest into your training schedule.
  • Avoid thinking that you need to get in one more run. Without rest, you increase your risk for injury and may be too fatigued to run your best or finish the race.
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before the race.

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Properly Hydrate

Increase your fluid intake, with both water and sports drinks, in the days leading up to the race.

The day before the race:

  • Drink your baseline amounts of fluids (Female 11 cups, Male 16 cups)
  • Drink 16 ounces of water starting 1 hour up until going to bed

Race day:

  • Drink 16 more ounces of water when you wake up
  • Drink 8 to 10 ounces of water or sports drink about 10 minutes prior to racing

During the race:

  • Your fluid intake depends upon how much you sweat, the climate on race day and how fast you run
  • General guidelines recommend drinking between 18 and 36 ounces of fluid for every hour of running (18 ounces/hour for 10+ minute mile runners; 36 ounces/hour for 8-minute mile or faster runners)
  • Sports drinks may be preferable over water if you’re a salty sweater or losing excess fluid due to climate or pace of running. In general, drink what you trained with.

Everybody’s fluid requirements vary, so be sure not to over-hydrate, especially if you are a slower runner or don't sweat much. Drink as you're thirsty throughout the race.

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Boost Your Carb Intake

Increasing or keeping your carbohydrate intake to a moderate-high level days leading up to the race will aid in refilling your glycogen stores, and assist with increased performance on the day of the race.

Three to five days before the race:

  • Keep your main meal plates and snacks 50% carbohydrates. If you’re at a lower carbohydrate intake, increase your plate distribution to 50% carbohydrates as an easy way to add in the days leading to race day.
  • Use carbohydrates that your body knows and you have used throughout training

The night before the race:

  • Eat a high-carb meal with small portions of protein and vegetables, keeping fat and high fibers to a minimum
  • Give yourself enough time (2-3 hours) to eat your meal before going to bed. Too much quantity right before going to bed can disrupt the chance of a restful night’s sleep.

Race day:

  • Don't skip breakfast
  • Give yourself 3-4 hours from race time if choosing to have a large breakfast
  • Give yourself 1-2 hours from race time for a carbohydrate rich snack like breakfast
  • Eat mostly carbohydrates, keep your protein, fat, and fiber consumption low
  • Use the same breakfast that’s worked for you throughout training

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Don’t Try Anything New on Race Day

This is not the time to experiment with things you haven’t already tried on several training runs.

  • Don’t wear new shoes, but your existing shoes should have no more than 500 miles on them.
  • Stick to the same clothing that you have been wearing during your training. Anything new may cause discomfort and prohibit you from running your best.
  • To avoid discomfort or upset stomach, don’t eat or drink anything new close to or on race day.

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Be Mindful of the Weather

Spring weather is often unpredictable, so prepare for various scenarios.

  • If it's very cold in the morning, wear top layer clothes that you won't mind discarding along the course as the day warms up
  • If the weather is warm, wear clothing that is light-colored, loose fitting, and lightweight
  • If it's raining, wear a trash bag or disposable poncho at the start line and throw it away when the race begins
  • Be careful not to overdress. At the starting line, you should actually feel a little chilled because your body will warm up a few miles into the race.
  • Be flexible with your performance goals. Running a certain time when the weather is 50 degrees and overcast may not be achievable if it's 80 degrees and sunny.

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Things to Do on Race Day

  • Before you get dressed in the morning, apply sunscreen to prevent sunburn and Vaseline® or BodyGlide® to prevent chafing in key locations like armpits, nipples, and inner thighs.
  • Keep your warm-up short to loosen up your muscles yet conserve your body’s energy.
  • Address problems early in the race. Letting them persist could result in an injury. Don’t ignore issues like:
    • A poorly tied shoe
    • An area of skin that's beginning to chafe
    • A pebble that has made its way into your shoe
  • Relax. It's normal to feel nervous the morning of the race.
  • Have faith in all of your hard work and preparation
  • Feel confident that you can achieve your goals
  • Enjoy the marathon experience

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Contact Us

To schedule an appointment with a physician or other Sports Medicine expert, call 1-855-937-7678.

UPMC Rooney Sports Complex
3200 S. Water St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15203

UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex
8000 Cranberry Springs Drive
Cranberry Township, PA 16066