The 24hrs prior to a running race can be frantic – you have to prepare all your equipment, think about logistics, remember what to eat – and all the while, you’re meant to be relaxing.
It can be tough to keep things in order the day before the race. Over the years, I’ve developed a routine for 24hrs before starting a running race, which takes me all the way up to the start line.
(Don’t forget to check out my accompanying article, My Pre-Race Checklist – The Week Before The Race).
Here it is:
The Day Before the Race
By now you should have completed race registration, have all your equipment, clothing and bags looked out, know exactly what your travel arrangements before and after the race are going to look like . . . you should be ready to eat those miles.
What to Eat
Avoid caffeine if you can. The night before a race, you’re likely to be nervous enough as it is – adding any stimulants to your body won’t help. Avoid alcohol too – there’ll be plenty of time for that on the other side of the race.
Unless you’re following a set dietary plan, I’d advise you to eat heartily – without over-eating. Stick to carb-rich foods to give your body fuel. Don’t eat a huge plate of meat just before going to bed – in fact, try to eat at least 3-4 hours before bed.
Prepare Everything The Night Before
OK here are the final steps. You’re getting your gear together for the final time before you put it on tomorrow morning. The trick is to do everything that you can possibly do the day before the race, to minimise your workload, and panic, on the morning of the race. Here’s exactly what you want to do:
- Set two alarms. You’re getting up early, but you still want some good sleep. If nothing else, setting two alarms gives you a lot of reassurance that you’re not going to sleep in.
- Set out everything you need. This means running shoes, socks, shorts, shirt, hat, GPS watch, food, salts, money, iPod – have it all neatly laid out, so when you get up in the morning you simply have to put it all on.
- Plan what to eat pre-race. This is discussed in the next section, but you should have it prepared the night before.
- Pin your bib to your race shirt. You don’t want to be nervously pinning the bib on in the morning before the race, so do it the night before. Tip: it’s easiest to pin these in place while wearing the shirt.
- Charge your GPS. The last thing you want is for your GPS to die half-way through the race, so ensure you charge it fully the day before the race.
- Revise the Race Information. It’s good to check over all the tiny details again, one more time. Check what time you’re meant to arrive at the start line, remind yourself where the aid stations are, what is available at the finish line, etc.
The Morning of the Race
Here it is, the big day!
You should have everything laid out and ready to go, so you simply wake up, wash and go.
Race Day Checklist
Here’s a checklist of the essentials – and some optional items – to check for race day:
– Running shoes
– Gloves, if cold
– Extra clothing layer, if cold
– Suncream, especially on your face and back of your neck.
– Lubricant / anti-chafe cream on your feet, thighs and nipples (band-aids also work on nipples).
– Race bib
– Safety pins
– Gels, drinks, snacks
– Medication, if required.
What to Eat
Your goals for eating before a running event should be:
- Eat something that will fuel your event
- Don’t try anything new or exotic
- Don’t eat anything that might unsettle your stomach
Typically, in the hours before the race starts people will eat light. Before your event you should have prepared sufficiently that you know what your body can accept and process before a long run.
Examples are porridge / oatmeal, bananas, or smoothies. Smoothies are a great way to throw several fuel sources together – bananas, nuts, seeds, peanut butter – and turn them into an easy-to-digest drink!
As long as your stomach allows it, you should each something solid at least two hours before the race starts – as races usually start early in the morning, you may wish to eat as soon as you wake up.
Most races start early in the morning, so you’re likely to have just gotten out of bed and made your way to the start line. For this reason, it’s a good idea to do something to let your legs warm up a little before you start.
This means power-walking to the start line, and doing some light jogging repeats in the 30 minutes before the race starts, to get your legs ready.
Go to the toilet
Even if you went to the toilet 30 minutes earlier, there’s a good chance you’ll unexpectedly realise you need to go just before the start line. Pre-race jitters gets to everybody, and there are often lines at the facilities in the 20 minutes before the race kicks off – a lot of nervous stomachs! Factor in a trip to the bathroom, and if in doubt perhaps bring along some wet wipes too, just in case.
Last minute fuelling
The 30 minutes before the race starts is quite a good time to have any last-minute snacks – be it sweets, crisps or a gel. Food takes an absolute minimum of 15 minutes to be converted into fuel by your body, so plan accordingly.