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  • Writer's pictureLiz Lichtenberger

Tips for a Marvelous Marathon

Updated: May 21

Following a few simple tips can make your race experience more enjoyable.

Runners at marathon

Preparing for a marathon is not just about the race day. There are several things you can do in the days leading up to the marathon to ensure that you are at your best on race day. Here are some race preparation tips that you should keep in mind:


Pre-Race Preparation


The night before a race, you should pack your bag and prepare your clothes to make sure you have everything you need. Do not wait until race morning to gather what you need.




Don't try any new clothes on race day; wear the “uniform” you’ve trained in. Pin your bib number on your shirt the night before and lay out clothes (including shoes and socks). Put the timing chip on your shoe the night before and remember to bring sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen.


What to Bring Race Day:


As you are deciding what to bring, remember that all clothing tossed aside at the start line is collected and donated, so consider bringing an old sweatshirt that you don't mind parting with. A plastic garbage bag with head and arm holes is great for start line warmth.


Runners with race bibs

You'll also want to bring a bag with dry clothes to change into after your race, slippers or something comfy for your feet, handy wipes to refresh yourself after the race, a charged phone, water (about a quart), bandages, Vaseline, runner's lube or Glide, and cash or credit card for food, gas, etc. after the race. 

Make sure you attach your race bib number with 4 small safety pins to the front of your shirt so they know where to send the photos.

Attach your timing chip to your shoe (but do not lace it into your shoe, as that will make it tougher to remove at the finish line). Finally, bring a copy of the race morning instructions.


Race Expo:


Get to the race expo early and then get home and rest. Even though it is tempting to explore every booth that the expo has available, try and stay off your feet as much as possible the day before.





Get plenty of sleep during the week, as you may not sleep well the night before the marathon. Try to relax so you can sleep, but if you can't sleep, don't worry. Many runners have run very well on a sleepless night.

This one night’s bad sleep is okay!




It's also important to eat a light meal and drink 4-6 ounces of water every waking hour the night before your race.  However, don’t try new foods the night before (e.g., Thai food, extra garlic, raw oysters). Hydrate well for several days leading up to the marathon (check the color of your “output” to determine if you are getting enough fluids). *See our blog on hydration.


Race Day Info


Race Morning Hydration & Nutrition:

On the morning of the race, it's important to stay hydrated. After you wake up, drink 4-6 ounces of water every 1/2 hour. Drink your last large amount of water 1 hour before the race, and only take sips from then until the start. Have a light breakfast, such as oatmeal, banana, yogurt, bagel, or toast with jelly, 2 hours before the race.




“Lube” up areas prone to chafing and don’t overdress. While it might be cool at the start, you’ll warm up fast and will be happy if you didn't dress too warmly.


Leave EARLY for the race:


Traffic can be bad, but you want to be calm before the race, and not be nervous about not making it on time. You need plenty of time to get to the start line (and to the port-a-potty lines).


Happy marathoner

Warm Up & Race Pace:

Begin to warm up 30 minutes before the start. Don’t start out too fast; you’ll regret it later if you go out too fast. Run the first couple of miles 15 to 30 seconds slower than your marathon pace. Run the middle miles at your marathon pace, then pick up the pace in the final miles when you know you can finish. Run your own race. Cut the string to training friends.

Be prepared to modify your race plan if it is too hot out (it's okay to walk too).


Mental Tips:


Focus on relaxing parts of your body that are prone to tightness: shoulders, arms, butt kicks. Remember your mantra (e.g., “I think I can,” “Go-Joe-Go,” “Kick it”), visualize, and breathe.


Hydration/Fuel During Race:


Follow what you’ve been doing on your training runs. The marathon is not the time to experiment with anything new. If you’ve been using GU or some other gel on your training runs, or Gatorade go ahead and use it. Otherwise, don’t use it now! Stay hydrated with H20 and electrolytes. It’s a good idea to drink fluid at every aid station to keep yourself well-hydrated. It is okay to have friends/family planted on the course with stuff for you.


Remember to Have Fun:


During the race, take time to enjoy the course, the bands, the spectators, and the participants. Smile and wave to the spectators – they’ll give you more energy back.

You’ve done all the work during the training – the race is the celebration at the end.


Marathon finish

Post-Race Information


The pain goes away once you cross the finish line! Get something to drink and try and pick up something to eat right after you finish. Replenishing your body will keep you from experiencing problems later in the day. Within an hour or so of finishing, try and eat a nutritious lunch that is high in carbohydrates. Don’t forget to stretch, use the Stick, a foam roller, and ice your legs.

Last but not least, wear your finisher's medal with pride - you've earned it! And sign up to train for your next race with an awesome running club like!


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