Marathon Checklist

by Keith Brantly and Jon Sinclair


  • Bring your favorite foods with you to the marathon. You might not be able to find them where you are traveling.
  • Drink plenty of water and start eating a high carbohydrate diet three days before your race. Don't change your diet dramatically unless you've successfully experimented with the changes before.
  • Plan for starting line logistics. Consider bringing an old blanket, sleeping bag or foam mat to lay on in case your wait at the starting area is a long one. This happens often at the NYC marathon and many other point to point marathons. Have your own water and toilet paper available. Try to bring only clothing and equipment that you won't mind loosing.
  • Pack plenty of cold weather gear and be sure to bring hat and gloves. These are the most important pieces of clothing for running in cold weather.
  • Pack clothes and equipment that you've used before. Don't pack brand new socks, shoes, shorts... that you haven't used at least a couple of times.
  • Do not skip any prescribed medications.
  • Study the weather reports carefully. Understand how possible changes in weather will effect your race.
  • Study the course profile and know the general terrain you'll be racing over.
  • If possible, stay in a good hotel near the start. Social obligations and staying with relatives at the race location are interactions that lead to additional stress and lack of focus. See your friends and relatives after the race, not before.
  • Eat foods that are normal for you and don't experiment with foods, drinks, power gels, carbo loading formulas, etc., that you haven't tried before.
  • Go to bed early two nights before the race. That night's sleep is more important to good racing than the night before. If you've slept well two nights before the race you needn't worry too much about lack of sleep the night before.
  • Prepare the night before. Pull out your clothing, number, carry bag, water bottle for pre-race hydration, toilet paper, Vaseline and anything else you'll need in the morning. Put them in a place you can find them easily the next morning.
  • Don't worry about sleep the night before. Stay up and watch TV or read until you're so sleepy you can't stay awake any longer. Once you start preparing for bed avoid thinking about or discussing the race.
    Don't eat at the race "carbo loading dinner" unless this is an experience you just can't live without. Bad things can happen at mass produced dinners and the stress level is usually high.


  • Wake up early and wake up slowly. Leave yourself plenty of time to execute your race-morning plan. Relax and don't rush.
  • Do a short warm up. Do 10-15 minutes of very easy jogging, walking and stretching followed by a few easy striders at race pace. Your muscles should be warm, flexible and prepared to easily run at your planned race pace.
  • Review the weather at the start and adjust your race plan if necessary. If the starting line temperature is above 50 degrees and looks like it will warm significantly, then thought should be given to slowing your planned race pace and extra special attention should be given to hydration.
  • Prepare your mind
  • Review your goals, splits and race strategy.
  • Stay relaxed, expending as little mental energy as possible.
  • Visualize your success.
  • Everyone has negative thoughts. When they occur just push them away and review the positive aspects of your training. Think about the best workout you did in the last three weeks or a recent race where your results were particularly good.
  • Prepare your body
  • Apply lubricant to areas that will chafe. If the racing conditions will be cold apply it to thighs, forearms and calves.
  • Wear cap and gloves, if even slightly cold. You can always discard them during the race.
  • If you eat or drink before your race, don't eat anything that you have not tried before.


  • Find your mental "zone", i.e. associate or disassociate, as soon as possible.
  • Do not "race" during the first 20 miles of the marathon. Start slowly! It's much smarter to be overly conservative and to be passing people at the end.
  • Do not panic if the pace seems wrong. Execute your race plan as closely as possible but be prepared to be flexible if the weather conditions change unexpectedly. Many things can happen, it's a long race and there will be plenty of time to make up early slow splits.
  • If it's windy stay behind other runners and shelter from direct head winds.
  • Run with as little effort as possible, relaxing fingers, mouth, shoulders and neck.
  • Do not race through the water stations. Stop if necessary. Drink the full amount, especially if warm. Don't worry about drinking as fast as you can. Carry the cup with you as you run, take your time and drink in small swallows.
  • Finally, and most important, HAVE FUN!!


  • Immediately after finishing you should: try to keep walking for 5-10 minutes to allow your legs to cool down; If the weather is cold, windy, or wet make an effort to get inside or back into warm clothing; keep drinking small amounts of water or sports drink if your stomach will allow it, even when you feel you no longer need to.
  • Ice any sore spots immediately. Covering your legs with cold water (and ice) while in a bathtub may be uncomfortable but always produces quicker recovery.
  • As soon as you feel like eating, begin with small amounts of easily digestible food that you know will agree with your stomach. You should concentrate on high glycemic foods (high in simple sugars) immediately following the race gradually transitioning to lower glycemic foods and protein. Although carbohydrate replacement is vital, protein is important for rebuilding damaged muscle tissue immediately following the race and for the next few days.
  • Keep your legs elevated as much as possible for the 24 hours after the race.
  • Anti-inflamitories (aspirin, motrin...) can have a positive effect but be careful taking them immediately after the race on an empty stomach or if you have any sensitivity to them.
  • Concentrate on rehydration for 48 hours after the race.