Race Week Flight Plan

By Matt Forsman A.K.A. Marathon Matt, December 16, 2017


Photo Credit: Flickr | Jan Kraus licensed under CreativeCommons


You’ve logged the miles, you’ve done the crosstraining, you’re just a few days away from race day. BUT, do you have everything covered? With just a few days left until you toe the line, we've outlined a 'flight plan' for you that practically guarantees you'll have a positive experience on race day.


Identify your race day wardrobe.

Make sure whatever you choose is something you’re comfortable running in. Ideally, whatever you wear is something you've used during your training cycle. You want to avoid trying anything new at this stage in the game.

Additionally, keep a close eye on the weather forecast and plan accordingly. You want to plan for both ideal and 'less' than ideal conditions. Bringing a few different wardrobe options accounting for both scenarios would be wise.

Scout the course.

Any race worth its salt posts course maps, elevation charts, course descriptions, and other relevant information about the course on their website. Set aside some time to review all of this content. Where are the challenging parts of the course? Are there any hills? Is there anything about this course that's different from what you've done during your training?

Take note of anything you find and keep it in mind as your formulate your pacing strategy. You may need to dial back your pace/level of effort during hilly segments. Conversely, you might want to leverage downhill segments to pick up a few seconds. It’s always a good idea to get the lay of the land before race day!


Nail down your travel plans.

You want to plan on getting to the race start AT LEAST 30-45 minutes in advance of the actual start. Figure out how you’re getting to the start of the race NOW. Don’t wait until later this week.

Arriving well in advance of the start of your race will give you time to use the restroom, warmup, and make your way to the start. If you're driving to your race in the morning, allow PLENTY of time! It will likely take time to find parking.

Schedule a sports massage.

After weeks (months?) of diligent training, you may have some residual soreness/tightness. Now is the time to take care of this. Schedule a quality sports massage later in the week (a couple days before your race) to help knock out those last few kinks.




Nail down race nutrition items.

If you're running a half marathon or marathon, you should aim to consume some kind of nutrition product (GU, Clif, etc) every 45-60 minutes during the race to keep yourself performing at a high level.

Ideally, you should consume said product with water. Try to coordinate consumption of these products in conjunction with the water stops. Just a reminder that any product you bring should be washed down with WATER, NOT an electrolyte beverage. Make sure whatever you use is something you've already tried during your training.

Lube if necessary.

Chafing happens. It's particularly common when you're logging 13.1 miles or more. If you've encountered any blisters on your toes/feet or chafing during the course of your training, there’s a handy product called ‘Body Glide’ that you can apply to your feet, thighs, underarms, or any other area where you encounter friction based irritation that will help reduce/eliminate this.

It may be time to invest in some. Alternatively, you can use Vaseline, but it can be a bit messy. Gentlemen, if you have experienced chafing of the nipples, you can stick a band-aid on both nipples and you should be good to go.


-Focus on complex carbs.

OK, we’re a few days from the race and now is the time to start making some adjustments to your diet to help insure you’re properly fueled for race day. Think whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, whole wheat bagels, organic fruits/vegetables, etc.

We're not saying you need to 'carboload'. But, topping off your glycogen stores (your primary fuel source) in the days leading up to your race is a good idea. This doesn’t mean eat carbs EXCLUSIVELY!

Simply try to increase your intake of quality, complex carbohydrates a few days prior to toeing the line.

-Hydrate properly.

One way you can identify whether or not you are properly hydrated is by looking at the color/quantity of your urine. In short, ‘clear’ and ‘copious’ is what you’re looking for. You should start making a conscious effort to make sure this is what you’re seeing in the days leading up to the race.

Make sure you're not just taking in water. You want to make sure you're taking in electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, and potassium) as well.

Friday and/or Saturday–

-Get a good night’s sleep (two days prior to your race).

Most races start quite early. The early start time and some (likely) pre-race nerves makes it tough to get a great night's sleep the night before a race. Ultimately, this isn’t a big deal and has not proven to have a significant impact on race day performance by and large. But, make sure you get a quality night's sleep two nights prior to your race.

-Get your bib/shirt/etc (the day before your race).

It's likely a pre-race expo (with bib/shirt pickup) is scheduled the day before your race. Make sure you swing by the expo, grab your shirt/bib, and take care of business.

-Eat dinner early the night before your race.

Target 5PM or 5:30PM to get your final meal of the day the night before your race. You probably want to focus on complex carbs for this meal and stay away from anything that is spicy or markedly different from anything you would normally eat.

If you have a particularly sensitive stomach, you may want to plan on bringing your own food for this meal.

-Lay out your outfit for race morning.

Lay out all the items you need for race morning on a chair or on the floor next to your bed before you go to bed. This includes your shirt, your hat, shorts, shoes, gels, socks, race bib, etc. Have everything laid out so that when you get up in the morning, you won’t have to even think about it, you can just put everything on and you’re good to go.

-Set your alarm clock, set your alarm on your cell phone, and request a wake up call from a friend or two (if they’re willing).

This three pronged approach virtually GUARANTEES you will be up in the morning on time! You should plan on being near the race start area AT LEAST 30-45 MINUTES PRIOR TO START!

Race Day

-Eat something small prior to your race. Try to eat something small a couple hours prior to your race. This is particularly important for those running a marathon. You could have half a bagel with some peanut butter and a banana. Whatever you consume, make sure it's got some protein, carbs, and is not high in fiber.


Arrive at the race start 30-45 min. early. This gives you time to warmup, use the bathroom, change clothes, get your race bib (if necessary), and get positioned near the start.

-Pace Accordingly!

So, you’re probably going to feel pretty amped when the start gun goes off, but HOLD BACK and PACE ACCORDINGLY! You ‘should’ have a solid handle at this juncture on what you can maintain for your race based on what you'd done during your training.

Focus on running at YOUR pace and don't get swept away by race day energy and run a pace that is NOT consistent with what you've done during your training.

RESIST the urge to go out fast. If anything run a bit SLOWER the first few miles and EASE into your target race pace. You want to make sure you have something left in the tank those last few miles!

-Take water/sports drink at every opportunity.

Even if you aren’t necessarily feeling thirsty, TAKE IT ANYWAY. Make sure you're not JUST taking in water. Most races offer some kind of sports drink with electrolytes. You need to replenish electrolytes when you're running in addition to water.

Some of you may have heard of ‘hyponatremia’ which is often associated with taking in too much water (and not enough electrolytes). FYI, Hyponatremia is MOST PREVALENT in marathons where elapsed time on the road exceeds 4-5 hours.

-How to handle water stops/stations on race day-

There will be several of these along the course. Typically, there are several tables laid out. DO NOT GO TO THE FIRST TABLE YOU SEE! Let the other runners slow down and bump into each other to get their water and electrolyte drink.

Try to go to the 'second' to LAST TABLE you see at the water station to avoid slowing down or possibly stumbling. Certainly you can walk through the water stations if you like.

-How to drink water and/or electrolyte drink on the run-

When you get your cup of water or electrolyte drink, pinch the top of the cup closed and fold one of the corners over so you effectively have a small, narrow ‘spout’.

Pour carefully into your mouth. If you don’t want to walk through water stops/stations, this is the best way to drink while running (if you elect to do this).

-Take in some simple carbs every 45-60 minutes.

Make sure you get some simple carbohydrates (GUs, gels, or some other form of simple carbs) in your system every 45-60 min. This will help you continue to perform at a high level. Make sure to wash any nutrition product down with WATER not an electrolyte drink.

-Be mentally tough!

You’ve done the work. You’ve endured the long runs. You’ve tapered. You know how to fuel/hydrate properly.

Remind yourself of all the hard work and preparation you’ve done those last few miles when you might be feeling a bit tired. YOU CAN DO THIS!!! YOU ARE READY FOR GLORY!

-Expedite race recovery.

As quickly as possible, get a quality combination of carbohydrates/protein in your system (remember 4 carbs: 1 protein is OPTIMAL for recovery. FYI, chocolate milk has this ratio.)

We'd also encourage you to walk around for a few minutes to help increase circulation and help flush the lactic acid out of your system. If you have a stick or foam roller handy, spend some quality time with it!


Questions? Email me at marathonmatt@sportme.com. Good luck!


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