50 Last Minute Tips for Running a Marathon

Congratulations on making it to the starting line after months of training.  Here are some practical tips to help you run your very best on marathon race day. Good luck and Godspeed!

  1. Plan your transportation to the starting area
  2. Plan your transportation from the finish area
  3. Pick a post-race meeting place for friends & family and write it the back of your bib
  4. Run for a charity cause when possible
  5. Drink coffee or tea, but no more than 2 cups before racing
  6. Clip your toenails
  7. Eat lots of carbs all week, switch to white pasta and breads 2 days before your race
  8. No spicy food the day before
  9. Make lunch your biggest meal the day before the race or eat dinner early
  10. Pick out everything you’ll wear, try it on, and set it out the night before
  11. Pack a throwaway bag with snacks, fluids, and Vaseline to take to start
  12. Don’t wear new shoes
  13. Wear the same type of gear you trained in. Be predictable.
  14. Write your full name and emergency contact details on back of your bib
  15. Pin your number to your shirt the night before
  16. Go to bed early but read or watch TV if you can’t sleep due to anxiety
  17. Set more than one alarm clock and have a buddy call you just in case
  18. Eat something like oatmeal and bananas in the morning, avoid fats
  19. No massage the week before your race, no cross-training, be conservative
  20. Sleep well the week before, night before isn’t as crucial
  21. Don’t walk around sightseeing, save your legs for the marathon
  22. Double knot your laces, but leave just a little room for your feet to swell
  23. If it’s cold bring gloves and hat from dollar store and throw away once you’re warmed up
  24. Bring toilet paper to the start
  25. Bring a trash bag to the start to sit on
  26. Bring a bottle of water or sports drink to sip, not guzzle, before the race starts
  27. Use an extra pinch of salt on your food the week before
  28. Wear warm clothes while waiting to start and leave them in charity bins
  29. Being nervous is part of it, trust in your training and your taper
  30. Visualize reaching your goal and crossing the finish with your arms raised in celebration
  31. Drink a little bit at each water stop or at least rinse your mouth out
  32. Only drink water with your energy gels
  33. Avoid puddles, potholes, and curbs
  34. Start at a slower pace than you hope to finish (negative splits)
  35. Aim to run an even goal race pace if possible
  36. Temperature, wind, and hills will make things harder and slower, adjust your expectations accordingly
  37. Try to run the tangents when you go around corners, the distance adds up
  38. Fatigue will visit you, be ready to kick it’s ass when it does
  39. During the last 6 miles, everybody hurts. This is what you signed up for.
  40. Stand up straight, you’ll breathe easier
  41. Look where you’re going and you’ll get there faster, keep your head high
  42. Listen to the crowd cheer and feed of their positive energy
  43. Write your name on your shirt so people can cheer for YOU
  44. Wear band-aids or something extra over your nipples to avoid chafing in wet conditions
  45. Wear sunglasses to avoid squinting and stay relaxed
  46. Put plenty of Vaseline on any hot spots before you start
  47. Tape over existing blisters with band-aids and duct tape
  48. Fuel the way you did during your long run training
  49. Smile at the photographers, a picture is forever
  50. High five the kids along the race course and enjoy the experience

4 thoughts on “50 Last Minute Tips for Running a Marathon

  1. thank you Jason, interesting list, especially I never ran marathon. Getting now ready for my first one in 2015. One question though, what do you mean by “Use extra salt on your food the week before”? what is that for?
    cheers

    Carsten

    1. Carsten,

      Physiologically, you lose A LOT of salt in your sweat. The concentration of salt in your sweat is generally more than the concentration of salt in energy drinks. Excessive loss of salt leads to cramping, dehydration, and hyponatremia. If you are a heavy sweater, if you get quite dehydrated during marathons, if you have white salt stains on your body or clothes after a marathon, or if you experience significant cramping during a marathon you probably could benefit from some form of salt supplementation. Salt has several benefits in endurance events: the average athlete loses a lot of salt in their sweat, much more than can be replaced by the typical sports drink, therefore salt supplementation may help to maintain adequate sodium (salt) levels. The average athlete will lose approximately 1000 milligrams of sodium per liter (33 fluid ounces) of sweat. Most sports drinks have between 200 to 450 milligrams of sodium per liter; thus the need for salt supplementation. Salt helps your body retain water which leads to less dehydration. Additionally, if you have digestive problems, sodium helps move fluids out of the stomach enhancing digestion. (Source)

  2. Thanks Jason. This is an awesome list. I’ve used some of the tips already and discovered others on your list by myself. Number 37 is a little ambitious (at times impossible) when we have tens or hundreds of runners bending around a corner or hairpin turn. I find it so challenging to have to slow down so much and scamper to avoid tripping myself and others that I give up and almost always take the wide turn around to maintain my run pace as much as I can. Many ‘amateur’ runners are just so self-centred, runner etiquette goes out the window and it’s like every man/woman/child for themselves around corners. My pet peeve in every single event.

    1. Michael, The bigger the race, the more difficult it is to run an accurate race distance. At the NYC marathon I ran an additional half mile over the length of the course. The only way to avoid the crowds is to run in front of them. 😉

Thoughts?