The Boston Marathon is just around the corner. Whether you’re taking part in Boston or are training for a local race in your city, it’s never too late for a check to see if you’re marathon ready.
I’m sure you’ve been preparing for your marathon for many weeks or months (at least I hope so!), but you still may be a bit anxious or nervous as race day gets closer. That’s okay. Take a deep breath and check out these 21 last-minute marathon tips, knowing that you are now one step closer to doing a victory dance as you cross the finish line!
(Don’t have a victory dance? Well, that’s your first homework task … then you can get back to the tips.)
The Week Before Your Race
1. Load your body with carbs to ensure that your glycogen stores are full. This will help keep you fueled for all 26 miles of the marathon. Make sure you include a high-quality carb source at each meal.
2. Get plenty of sleep the week before. Aim for at least eight hours of sleep per night.
3. Increase your salt intake a just little the week before. When you’re running, you lose electrolytes through sweat. Salt is one of five electrolytes that are crucial to staying hydrated. Not replacing the lost electrolytes can lead to muscle cramps, swollen fingers and toes and can even be life-threatening.
4. When training for your marathon, run at the same time of day as the start of the upcoming marathon. By doing so, you’re syncing your body’s rhythms with marathon needs.
The Day Before Your Race
5. Plan your transportation to the marathon’s starting point. You won’t want to be bothered with Googling how to get to the starting point a few hours before the race — it’s distracting and can be stressful. Trust me, I’ve been there!
6. Avoid spicy or fatty foods the day before the race as they may cause heartburn and indigestion. Fatty food is especially slow digesting so it can lead to that unpleasant feeling as if it’s all just “sitting” in your stomach as you run.
7. Eliminate dairy products from your diet. Lactose tends to cause gas, bloating, and unpleasant stomach issues, even for those who aren’t officially lactose intolerant. Gas and running don’t mix.
8. Load up on lunch. The day before the marathon, make lunch your largest meal, or simply eat dinner earlier than usual, so that your food has plenty of time to digest.
9. Eat a mix of carbs and protein the night before your race. Anne Mauney, a registered dietitian, says, “My favorite [pre-race meal] is a reasonable portion of either pasta, brown rice, quinoa or sweet potatoes with some grilled chicken or salmon, veggies, and your sauce of choice.”
10. Pack your bag with snacks, fluids, Vaseline and Band-Aids. Double-check — did you forget anything?
11. Prepare everything you’ll wear for the marathon and make sure you try it on. In fact, never experiment with your gear for a marathon. Wear the same type of clothes you trained in. And never — NEVER – wear new shoes for a race.
12. Speaking of feet, clip your toenails. For obvious pain-avoiding reasons.
13. Have sex the night before. You’ve read that correct! A recent study by Oxford University found that having sex the night before the race will actually makes you run 5 minutes faster than you would if you had abstained!
14. Set two alarms to wake you up in the morning. Better yet, ask a friend (or multiple friends) to call you in the morning. You don’t want all these months of hard work to be slept away, do you?
On Marathon Day
15. Do NOT skip breakfast. Unless you want to collapse during the marathon, make sure you fuel your body with energy first thing in the morning before the race. According to Mauney, you should aim for breakfast “that is lower in fat, protein, and fiber (all of which slow down digestion), and higher in simple carbs, like toast with a thin layer of nut butter and either sliced banana or some jam.”
16. You can drink coffee or tea, which will give you a slight energy boost due to their caffeine content, but no more than 2 cups before the marathon. Bonus effect: Coffee will help you poop, which is always a good pre-race behavior.
17. Don’t waste your energy for nothing. Skip long walks on the marathon day. Instead, use public transportation or get a ride to get to the starting point.
18. Lube up. Put a thin layer of Vaseline on your feet and on every inch of your body that might come in contact with skin or clothing during the run. Putting Vaseline on hot spots helps prevent blisters and chafing.
19. Wear Band-Aids over your nipples to prevent chafing. If you already have blisters from your marathon training, put Band-Aids on them, too.
20. Have a bottle of water or sports drink to sip before the marathon begins. Don’t drink too much though — just a few sips. Sports drinks are preferred since they contain salt, which, as mentioned above, help prevent electrolyte depletion.
21. Speaking of salt … If you don’t like the taste of sports drinks, you can do a “salt shot” before the race begins. Keep another salt packet in your pocket and do a second shot when you’re halfway done.
Now go out there and run!
If this is your first marathon, remember that once race day rolls around, you’ve already done all the hard work. Follow these steps to make sure you don’t miss any last-minute details, then you can go and enjoy your race.
How else are you preparing for race day? —Dave Smith