Race Week Tips

Marathon training plans range can range from 12-18 weeks long (or more). But in my opinion, the most important week of training is the week with the least amount of training – race week. Occasionally missing a run during a training cycle or having an off week in training will likely have minimal impact on your race performance. But running too fast or too long, not getting enough sleep or not focusing on things like nutrition and hydration can have a huge effect on your performance on race day.

We just entered the window for spring marathons (check out Daily Burn’s article on the Top 15 Spring Marathons in the US). With that comes some peak mileage, the taper and then race week. Race week always means several key things for me. Nutrition, Hydration, Sleep, Rest, Trust. I try to focus on just these five things – otherwise I feel overwhelmed, confused and unorganized.

photo (39)

– Nutrition: Think plain, simple, lightPlan your meals this way and your stomach will thank you. I typically aim for carb-dense foods in the days leading up to the race and then add some protein the night before. But everything is very plain – nothing loaded with cheese or spices. Plain pasta (or pasta with coconut oil), bagels or bread with coconut oil or almond butter, pretzels and chicken are my go-tos during this time.


– Hydration: Don’t wait until night before race to hydrate. I start focusing heavily on hydration early on in the taper and gradually increase my water consumption as I get closer to race day. Doing this allows my body time to absorb the water without making me feel bloated or heavy from the increase in fluids. If you wait until the night before (or morning of!) to down a gallon or two of water, it will be too late. For more hydration tips, check out this post I wrote last fall for the NYC Marathon

– Sleep: I try to go to bed about 30 minutes earlier each night starting mid-week. Chores around the house, blogging, responding to emails…all take a backseat to sleep in the days leading up to the race. I aim for 7-8 hours of sound sleep a night as the race approaches and try my hardest to get the best night of sleep two nights out (the night before may be tough because race nerves may keep you up).

– Rest: This one is harder than it sounds, especially if you have a job and/or kids, where staying off your feet is not possible. But try to kick your legs up and rest your muscles as much as you can, especially the day before the big race. Save the walking and/or sight seeing until after the race (it would be a great recovery tool). photo (100)

– Trust: Trust your training. Trust your physical strength. Trust your mental strength. Don’t overdo it with mileage and pace this week. It’s common to feel fatigued and tired during the taper and especially during race work. Don’t let the internal pressure and doubt you feel to cause you to run too fast. When in doubt, run slower and run less. Save the racing for race day. Focus on easy running to keep your legs and mind loose. It’s time to coast until race day.

If you feel overwhelmed, just remember to do what has worked. You’ve successfully gotten through countless long runs, a long training cycle, peak weak and maybe even some tuneup races. Continue doing what has worked for you – from your shoes to your meals to your paces on runs. Don’t do anything new this week.

Do you do anything special during race week? 


I don’t post here every day, but I post all of my workouts (and other happenings) on Instagram on a daily basis {NYCRunningMama}.

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    8 thoughts on “Race Week Tips

    1. Such great tips and good reminders of what to do before the big race.
      One thing that I did the day before my last marathon was I had my big pasta meal at lunch and a small simple dinner that night. It worked really well for me and my stomach felt great during the race!!
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    2. I definitely do all of these things and a lot of visualization. I tend to be very anxious in the week leading up to a race (partly because running a lot helps me release it!) so I practice envisioning a well run race, feeling strong mentally and physically though out my toughest miles (wherever those may be!) and seeing my family at the finish with a huge smile on my face!
      Allie recently posted..Quantity vs Quality (at Carla’s Place)My Profile

    3. Great advice Michele. We are glad you mentioned about nutrition and keeping it simple. The never try anything new on race day also applies to that week. It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your race, especially after all the hard work. Finding other things to enjoy, and ways to relax is also important, which you seem to have the balance of well! Boston is ready for you, and you will be ready for Boston!
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    4. I always do the Western Australian CHO loading protocol, which is a really great way to not have to bother with thinking about it until right before the event. Makes life a little easier.

      Also, I always try to remind myself to not slack off too much during a taper and peak. I generally lower my volume but keep the intensity pretty high, to keep my feet sharp!
      Kyle recently posted..Athlete Interview: Tad KardisMy Profile

    5. i love destination races, but before the marathon i make a concerted effort to stay off my feet and not do too much exploring by foot. when i did the nyc marathon in the fall, we purposely got tickets to a broadway show on saturday afternoon to keep ourselves from being tempted to walk around too much!
      kristin | W [H] A T C H recently posted..LONG RUN: VIETNAMMy Profile