Final Race Day Preparations

On Sunday, October 16th the Lucky13’s will be running the Columbus Marathon. For many in our group, it is their first half (or full) marathon! I know the anxiety and excitement has been building all week. Even I have had trouble sleeping because I am anxious (not to mention fighting a cold). Yes, this will be my 7th half marathon and I still get extremely nervous. For tips on relaxation (read: how to avoid a freak-out) check out this post. 

It is not uncommon to feel a great deal of anxiety this week and to feel wound up. It is important to relax, though. Worry and tension create fatigue and sometimes illness. So, make sure you take some time this week to do whatever most relaxes you. I remember being completely terrified for my first half marathon, nearly unable to function (I’m really not kidding), but looking back there was no need to stress myself out so much. I followed the same training plan as you and I made it through – it was the single greatest accomplishment of my life thus far. I have no doubts that you will also look back on your race with fond and proud memories.

Remember these three things, if nothing else:

  1. HAVE FUN – It’s what brought us all together in the first place!
  2. RUN YOUR OWN RACE – We’re not in it to win it. Our victories come from achieving what others may have said we couldn’t
  3. HAVE CONFIDENCE IN YOUR TRAINING AND IN YOU – You can do this. I have every confidence in you. You are prepared. You are ready. You will succeed! I, for one, believe in each and every one of you.

That being said, here are a few helpful (I hope!) hints to keep you ready for YOUR day!

Two Days Before the Race (Friday):

  • Start your carbo-loading and hydrating as if you were preparing for any normal long run.
  • Get to the Expo on Friday or Saturday to pick up your packet. If you are like me and get panicked easily, you may want to pick your packet up on Friday or even early Saturday. There will be fewer crowds on Friday night and you won’t have to go out on Saturday if you do not want to.
  • Get plenty of sleep Friday night.
  • You do not need to run on Friday. If you feel like you need to loosen-up or burn off some excess anxiety, a short walk is often beneficial. If you do decide to run, keep it slow and short. Two miles should be the most you run. 

The Day Before the Race (Saturday):

  • Try to keep off your feet as much as possible. Again, you do not need to run. I typically choose not to run the day before a big race.  
  • Increase your hydration. Keep water with you all day and drink it constantly. By now you know there is nothing worse than feeling dehydrated on a long run.
  • Eat fairly early on Saturday evening. I often have stomach issues due to anxiety the night before a big race so I like to eat early just in case.  
  • Carbo-load (but don’t carbo-overload) and do not eat fiber rich foods. Again, prepare for the race as you would for any other long run.
  • Get all your gear packed and ready before you go to bed, including pinning your bib number on your shirt. I thought this was trivial until the one time I didn’t do it and then I was flustered trying to get my bib on while walking to the corrals.
  • Go to bed early. Even if you can’t fall asleep right away, your body needs to rest!
  • Set an extra alarm clock just in case. 

Race Day (Sunday):

  • This is the day you have been working hard for and looking forward to! Enjoy it! Have fun! Relish every moment because you only get one first race.
  • Don’t do anything new on race day! This is not the time to experiment with your food, drink, clothes, shoes, socks, etc.
  • Eat your normal pre-long run breakfast. If you think you may be hungry before the start of the race (or have a significant amount of time to wait), bring a snack with you. I sometimes eat a half a banana after I have had breakfast and about 30 minutes before the race. Again, if you don’t normally do this – don’t try it on race day. 
  • Continue to hydrate!
  • The weather will be cool on Sunday morning (low 50’s). Consider wearing on old sweatshirt or long sleeve shirt to the start line that you can pitch once the race starts. Some people come to the start line dressed in a garbage bag to stay warm. Do not plan to run in long pants or long sleeves; it will be too warm for that (mid 60’s). We will be in the corrals about 25-30 minutes before the start of the race. After the start of the race, we may have an additional 5 – 10 minutes to wait before we begin. You want your muscles to be warm while you are waiting.
  • Plan to start out slower than normal. It is very easy to get caught up in the flow and excitement of the race and start out too fast. You want to conserve your faster pace for the second half of the race if you are feeling great – not at the beginning. My confidence has been shot a time or two by mile four because I darted out of the gate (like a race horse) and felt horrible later. If you feel comfortable with the pace at the beginning, then you are most likely going TOO FAST.
  • Make your adjustments early. This includes adjusting your fuel belt, tying your shoe, fixing a sock, stretching, going to the bathroom etc. etc. If you have to slow down or move to the side and fix what is bothering you, do so early on. It won’t take that much time. Remember, 13.1 (or 26.2) miles are a long way to go with something irritating you. I have stopped to stretch out a muscle and even use the porta-john early on in the race and felt much better after doing so. 

“A marathoner is a marathoner regardless of time. Virtually everyone who tries the marathon has put in training over months, and it is that exercise and that commitment, physical and mental, that gives meaning to the medal, not just the day’s effort, be it fast or slow.  It’s all in conquering the challenge.” 

-Mary R. Wittenberg, president, New York Road Runners Club

Until the next mile marker, 


  1. Great advice .. congratulations on SIX previous half marathons .. and GOOD LUCK on #7!!

  2. runningperseverance says

    love this post! and that quote at the end is TOO PERFECT! good luck this weekend to you and all of the Lucky 13s!

  3. Sara, this is all such great advice. I am book marking this post to refer to in May!

    Thanks. And have an awesome weekend – I can’t wait to hear about it all – you are going to have so much fun and do just great… To the rest of the Lucky 13s – HAVE A GREAT RACE!

  4. Kimberly Turner Bouldin says

    Wishing you the best of luck on Sunday, Sara! 🙂

  5. Good luck Sara!!! You sounds so prepared. I’m sure you will do awesome. I can’t wait for your race report!!

    And that quote at the end of your post is perfect!

  6. WooooHooooo! Looking forward to tomorrow, Sara!!! Go Lucky 13s!!! 🙂

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