Now that you know what to pack for the starting line and what to pack for the finish line, as well as what to do during the week before your race, it is time to get ready for race day. The morning of your race is important, and having a list to check off can make it easier to make sure that you do not forget anything. The last thing that you need is to add something to worry about while you are waiting for the race to start.
Here is what you need to do on race day in order to finish your marathon:
- Wake up early: There are a few exceptions, but most marathons are first thing in the morning. Wake up early enough to get everything done that needs doing. You are going to need enough time to digest your breakfast before your race. Preferably, you will be fully aware of your surroundings before leaving your hotel.
- Eat breakfast: Marathon morning is not the time to skip breakfast. You are going to need those calories to make it through the finish line. If you have trouble eating before you run, then you might need to get up earlier. You should have been eating at least a small breakfast before your long runs in training so that your body will know what to expect. I always prefer to be over-fueled for a race than under-fueled. I usually have a snack on the starting line before the race goes off in addition to a good breakfast.
- Take a shower: You may want to take a shower before your race. Some people swear by it, and others never bother. This is a personal preference thing. I have tried showering and just heading straight to a race, and tend to lean more towards just heading to the race. I am a morning person, however, and am completely awake within a minute of getting out of bed. If you are not a morning person, then a shower might help you wake up. If you do shower, be sure to dry your hair before your race if it is cold out. The last thing you will want is to be waiting on a cold starting line with a wet head.
- Remember your bib, chip, and bags: It is imperative that you remember to attach your chip to your shoe and to put your bib onto your uniform. Ideally, you will have done this a day in advance so that it is less likely that you will forget them. If your race is chip timed, and most marathons these days are, then you will not get a finishing time if you are not wearing it. You packed a bag for after the race, and you may even have one for before the race. Be sure to remember to bring them with you. Do a last minute check that you are either wearing or have packed your race shoes and race uniform (shorts, socks, singlet, et cetera).
- Get to the race early: Unless the weather is absolutely atrocious and you will not be able to find shelter at the starting line, you should try to get to the race early. It will be easier to drop things at the baggage bus, warm up, and use the rest rooms before the crowd appears.
- Do a short warm up: Walk or jig jog a mile or two before your marathon. I realize that you are about to race over 26 miles, but you still want to warm up your muscles a little before hand. If you know that it is going to take 10 minutes to get to the starting line then maybe you can minimize your warm up, but you still want to at least walk around for 10 minutes or so before heading to the start line.
- Stretch your muscles: After you have done your warm up, then do some gentle stretching. The goal is not to increase your flexibility, so do not stretch to the point of discomfort. You just want to loosen up. Be sure to do this after you have done a short warm up. Do some simple stretching and reach easily for various points on your body. Once you can feel the stretch start, hold where you are at for 5 or 10 seconds or so. Do an opposing stretch, and then revisit the last stretch. You do not want to tear too many muscle fibers like you have been after your training runs, you just want to keep the muscles warm and limber so that you do not hurt yourself at the start of the race.
- Empty your bowels: If you can manage it, try to go to the bathroom at least twice before your race. Go before you leave your hotel, and try to go again at least once before the race starts. For some of the larger races you may need to empty your bowels well in advance of the gun. Use your best judgement. It is better to go before the race than to have to go during the race. You should also be drinking enough water that you will have to urinate at least once before the race, as well.
- Line up on time: Get to the starting line and place yourself appropriately before the race starts. If there are corrals, then find the correct corral that you will be lining up in as soon as you get to the starting area so that you will not get lost when it comes time to start. Follow all last minute instructions and remember to have fun when the gun goes off.
Keep your eye out this afternoon for what you should do after the gun goes off.