Coach Jeff

Written by Coach Jeff


10 Simple Tips That Will Change the Way You Prepare for a Race

10 Simple Tips That Will Change the Way You Prepare for a Race PINAs marathons continually increase in size and more and more runners choose to run destination marathons, the planning and logistics the last week before a marathon are becoming increasingly important. To reduce pre race nerves and help ensure nothing goes awry in the week before the marathon, here are some great tips and important guidelines.

How do I prepare for flying and travel?

It is no secret that travel can be stressful. This can mean your baggage could end up in a different place to you.

Pack your race gear in your carry-on baggage if you’re flying to the race. Put any casual clothes on checked baggage if you are going to check luggage. Casual clothes and shoes are great to have, but your whole trip depends on you having your running gear.

You might forget that:

If your checked bag gets lost, you’re going to be surrounded by runners all weekend anyway, so being stuck in running clothes for a day or two won’t make you look weird at all.

When you’re packing, lay all your gear out on the bed so you can see it all and do a quick check at a glance. Don’t forget band-aids, chafing prevention, and nutritional products (usually energy gels, electrolytes) that you plan to use in the race. Pack these in the carry-on bag.

Leave nothing to chance.

Carry food with you at all times. In the peaking phase, you never want to get hungry (your nutrition in the 3 days before the race is important). Don’t overeat, but be prepared in case a meeting at work goes long, you hit traffic on the drive to the race, or you are late for a meal. Always have a good snack available.

In addition to your race gear, pack some good food in your carry-on bag. You may want something to eat on the plane/train/car. If you’ve flown in the last decade, you know how frustrating airlines can be with the arrival and departure times.

Try to keep fluids with you at all times as well. If you’re flying, empty a water bottle out before going through security so you can avoid buying the $4 bottle of water. Don’t over drink but be prepared.

Tweet: These tips from @Runners_Connect about traveling to races are incredibly helpful. #RunnersConnect

Getting settled and your pre-race meal

The first thing you should do after settling into your hotel is find a grocery store. Ask the front desk for the nearest one or call ahead to expedite the process.

Here’s Why:

If you’ve practiced you marathon nutrition properly, you already know what works for you, and this is not the time to try out new cuisines or products from the local area. Save that for after the race. Just think about how devastated you would be if your race did not go well because you decided to try that new delicacy.

Buy the foods you like and you know prepare you best for a good race. I like bagels, peanut butter and jelly, energy bars, yogurt, and sandwiches.  Don’t just eat out of nervousness but have food available if you need a snack.

Plan ahead for your meal on the night before the race. There are likely many runners and families coming to the race. Restaurants fill up in both big and small town marathons. Getting a pasta dinner on a normal Saturday night in Chicago or New York can be tough, but finding an open table when 50,000 runners are trying to do the same thing is next to impossible.

If you’re racing in a small city, the marathon is the only show in town, so things will get booked quickly. Call ahead and find a place you’d like to eat and make reservations. Don’t leave your meal to chance. Find a relaxing place and enjoy a nice comforting dinner.

Here’s an extra tip:

I usually try to eat close to my hotel so I can take a leisurely 10-15 minute walk after dinner to help fend off nerves and give my stomach a chance to digest. Don’t eat too early or too late or you may be hungry or stuffed on race morning.

As discussed in our marathon nutrition segment, the last meal doesn’t have to be huge. It’s the meal two nights before that is most important.

Tweet: Great article from @Runners_Connect about how to prepare for a destination race. #RunnersConnect

Can I still go to the expo and sightsee a little?

You’ll likely need to visit the expo to pick up your race number, chip, etc. Enjoy the expo but don’t spend all day there. Browse through it, pick up what you need and get out.

Here’s why:

It’s too much time on your feet. The expo is where many runners get dehydrated and hungry, so carry fluids and fuel with you to keep this from happening.

As tempting as it may be, don’t try anything new. Race expos are filled with companies selling or giving away products – clothing, food, gadgets.

Try not to eat anything you’re not absolutely sure sits well with your stomach and don’t be tempted to try a new clothing article if you haven’t used it before. Enjoy the information, take in the camaraderie, and save your new foods, gadgets and clothing for after the race.

If you’re doing a destination marathon, plan your travel so sightseeing happens after the race. Walking around before the race will get your legs tired and defeat the whole purpose of your visit and all your hard training.

You will also find:

Sightseeing after the race is more relaxing (you’re not stressed about the race) and it gives you a good chance to stretch out your legs.


The last week before the race can be stressful enough when you’re nervous about performing to your best. Add the marathon taper, travel and logistics to your already frayed nerves and your PR can go up in smoke before you even hit the starting line.

By methodically planning beforehand and following the tips in this article, you can eliminate potential issues and focus all your energy on running your best.

Tweet: Extremely helpful post from @Runners_Connect about how to prepare the week before a marathon #runnersconnect

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2 Responses on “10 Simple Tips That Will Change the Way You Prepare for a Race

  1. Make a list way in advance (when your mind is clear) and check it off as it gets packed. I met someone running MCM in the hotel elevator who I saw later in a total panic going out to buy new shoes (she forgot to pack her shoes! yikes!). Her husband said he did the same thing a few years back but was in DC for a week before so he had a chance to break them in. How do you forget your shoes? (unfortunately probably the same way we forget the other stuff)

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