Now that you know what to pack for the starting line and what to pack for the finish line, you need to figure out what you need to actually do the week before you get to the starting line. Your original goal setting should have been done before you planned your training, and I am going to assume that you have done the training and are in the last week of your taper before the race.

Here are 9 things to do during the week before your race:

  1. Revisit and visualize your goals: Are your goals still relevant? Visualize what you want to do during your race, and spend a lot of time thinking about it. Do not think thing of any negative thoughts about your goals; think only about what you will need to do to accomplish them. This can help you feel more confident when you get to the starting line, and serves a dual purpose of helping you to avoid taper madness.
  2. Avoid taper madness: After 3 to 5 months of heavy training, the last few weeks of relatively low mileage are leaving your body aching for a fix. You need to try to avoid going nuts and you have to resist the urge to go out and run or do physically strenuous activities like carting your treadmill around your basement. Not that I would ever do something like that myself…uhm…
  3. Pack your bags: Get your bags packed. If you need to travel, have all of your clothes packed ahead of time. Make sure that the shoes that you are going to wear and your race uniform are included. If you are going to have a specific bag for the start and/or finish lines, pack those as well. Any snacks that will not spoil can get thrown in also.
  4. Examine the course: With everything being available on the internet these days, do some research. Many races will at least provide a course map and elevation profile; some races (such as the Nike Women’s Marathon) go all out and provide a virtual course tour that will really let you visualize what you are going to be doing on race day. After looking this stuff up on the marathon’s home page, check out Race They have good supplemental info on a lot of race courses.
  5. Properly hydrate yourself: Being hydrated for a race starts a week ahead of time. There is a theory that thirsty people feel more pain. You should be drinking a lot of water. Try not to have more than a beer at a time in the days leading up to your race. I recommend limiting your coffee as well, but I can not really say anything about coffee with any authority because I never touch the stuff. Do not worry about drinking too much water unless you are not eating anything. Hyponatremia is a very real danger, but it is much easier to avoid than dehydration. Be sure to eat plenty of food throughout each day and to drink a lot of water and you will not have anything to worry about.
  6. Visit the Expo (pick up your bib): If the race has an expo, then you will need to visit it. Most marathons allow you to pick up your race bib and chip a day or two before the race. Some races require it. Even if you do not have to, I highly recommend getting it ahead of time rather than waiting until race day. The expo will often have good prices on various paraphernalia from race sponsors. Make sure you go in with a budget, and take care not to exceed it. It can be very easy to forget how much you are spending.
  7. Sleep well on Friday: If you are running a Sunday marathon, then try to get a good night’s sleep on Friday. If your marathon is on Saturday, then sleep well on Thursday. If your marathon is any other day, then try to get a good night’s sleep two days before the race. Sleep generally has a lag time of about 36 hours. Sleep the night before can be important; 1 hour of sleep will certainly not be enough. Sleeping poorly two days before the race will be much worse than sleeping poorly the night before the race, though. If you do toss and turn the day before, do not let it phase you on the starting line. Just remember that you are still ready to go.
  8. Get in a short jig jog: Especially if you have to travel to your race, be sure to get in a short 2 or 3 mile jig jog the day before the marathon. Do not go fast, try to avoid going up any mountains unless you are scouting the course, and try to relax. The pre-race jig jog can really help you stretch out and banish your nerves the day before your race. Just be careful not to succomb to taper madness.
  9. Eat a good meal: Ideally, you will eat the same meal the night before your race as you have been eating before your long runs. This is very difficult to do if you have to travel, though. Try to eat the same sorts of foods; if you have not been eating really spicy foods before your training runs, now is not the time to experiment with them. Many races will provide a pasta dinner the day before the race. You will usually have pretty safe food to eat available at these, and it gives you a great chance to meet some of your competition…I mean, fellow runners.

The biggest thing is to try to relax and avoid going bonkers at the end of your taper. Try to avoid walking around too much in the days leading up to the race; it can be very easy to go sight seeing in a new city or to spend all day walking around the expo. There’s plenty of time to do that after the race, and it will be better for you. But I am getting ahead of myself…