Competitor Group, Inc.

Race Day Prep and Tips

by | Oct 01, 2012 |

As you know, I’ve been hitting the roads over the last couple of months, putting in 110 miles a week, training for the 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  The transition from training for track to marathon distance is never easy because it challenges me in different ways physically and mentally.  That goes for race day too. As someone who has recently gone back to training for a marathon, I’ve been getting a number of questions on how I approach different phases of the race to endure the 26.2. Here are a few aspects I focus on.


First and foremost, I always try to get 8-9 hours of sleep two nights before the race. While it would be ideal to get a good night’s sleep the night before, between my nerves and having to wake up early, I usually don’t. If I bank a little sleep, come race morning, I feel well rested and focused. It is always hard when I start to taper because I finally have energy again, but making that effort to unwind before bed always helps.

Warm-up Exercises

Whether it’s a short or long distance, I recommend a series of dynamic stretching routines over static stretches on race day. There’s a great article on Competitor that outlines the difference between the two. Static stretches are exercises in which you gently stretch your muscle for 20-30 seconds using body weight or opposing muscle groups. Dynamic stretches are exercises in which you move your muscles through exaggerated repetitive motions in order to increase flexibility.

To see examples of my favorite dynamic stretches, watch episode 9 from the Gatorade web series, Inside Endurance, when I showed them to endurance athlete, Ryan Sutter. It will give you plenty of options and the appropriate time to do them.

Fueling Smart

I highly recommend sticking with your fueling routine from training.  Race day is not the time to make changes to your nutrition intake.  Introducing new foods could upset your stomach, especially when combined with nerves.

As a Gatorade athlete, I’ve had the opportunity to visit The Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI), where they’ve conducted tests to help me understand how to maximize my performance through sports nutrition and better understand my fueling needs. Here are a few things I have learned:

3-4 hours before

Proper carbohydrate intake before the race tops off the body’s glycogen stores (especially if the workout or race is in the morning) and helps you to avoid hitting that wall during the race. I usually start my race day off with a cup of coffee to wake up (but not too much to upset your stomach), eat something simple like rice, which is easily digestible (try it with just a splash of milk and cinnamon and sugar), and then I drink Gatorade Endurance formula. Try to make sure and get the endurance formula for race day, the extra electrolytes will be essential once you get out on the course.

1 hour before

Closer to the start of a race, I always go with a smaller snack or meal that’s high in carbs but low in fat, protein and fiber, like G Series Pro Energy Chews, which are easy on my stomach.  They give me just enough energy to prime my system and decrease feelings of hunger later in the race.  Whether you have a beverage, chew or solid is up to you, just find something that works for your personal needs.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the marathon has so many elements to prepare for and there are always ways to improve your preparation. It takes patience to understand what your needs are as an athlete. I’m still learning what I’m capable of but know that I’m on the right path.