Race Day Prep Tips to Help You Finish Strong

By Jenny Meints, physical therapist assistant

If you are signed up for a marathon or race this season, congratulations and good luck! Signing up was the easy part, training came next, and now it’s time to gear up for race day.

The days leading up to the race may be very fun and exciting, but remember to make final preparations. Here’s some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along my marathon journey.

Week of the race:

  • Gradually increase your carbs in the days leading up to the race.
  • Electrolyte chews or honey sticks work great during the race, so test them for flavor and texture during a long run before the actual race. Running belts are nice for holding these items. During the race, it’s a good idea to take these as a water station is approaching.
  • Take one last short run two days before the race.
  • Look over the race map; visualize starting the race, running the race and crossing the finish line. Practice nice slow breaths and keeping your shoulders and arms relaxed.
  • Enjoy the expo, the city you are visiting or spend time with family and friends if you are local.

Day of the race:

  • Breakfast is important. Bananas and nut butters on either bread or rolled in a whole wheat tortilla are a great option. Honey can be added as well.
  • Stay hydrated before and during the race, and listen to your body; urine is a great indicator of dehydration. Remember, there is such a thing as too much water!
  • Dress cooler than you think you’ll need to; add at least 10 degrees to the temperature. Your body heats up during the race, and the temperature tends to warm up as the race progresses.
  • Double knot your shoes and make sure the laces aren’t too tight either, you don’t want toes going numb during the race.

During the race:

  • Don’t stop during a race or try not to. It’s always harder to get moving again. Keep the adrenaline going and take a bathroom break before the race.
  • Frequently partake in the water stations for at least a sip. Once you’re further into the race, stop at a few “Gatorade” stations, too. Remember not to actually stop; you’ll get good at slowing down and keep moving.
  • Please thank the great volunteers who are handing out water, wet sponges, snacks or even the medal at the end. They are a huge instrumental part of the race.
  • When things get hard, if you don’t already have one, find a buddy or a pacer.
  • Try not to look at your watch or pacer bracelet too often. If you’ve put in the time, you know your pace, and you’ll tend to run quicker on race day.
  • Find a favorite inspirational quote to recite in your head for motivation. Read the spectators signs — they will give you a good laugh.
  • After the race, you will never regret giving it a great effort but you may regret not giving it your all. You got this!

After the race:

  • Keep moving after the race with walking, stretching and even some light jogging. Later in the day feel free to take a nap.
  • Eat something within 30 minutes after the race, even if you don’t feel like it. Chocolate milk, bagels or fruit are usually offered after the race.

All in all, have fun and enjoy the crowd, the day, the experience and the sites.  You can’t control the weather, race day jitters or simply having an off day. Keep your head up, stay relaxed and good luck!

The University Health Center Physical Therapy team offers the evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and conditions affecting the muscles, bones and joints. All UNL students, faculty and staff are eligible. For more information or to make an appointment, call 402.472.5000.


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