The Day Before a Marathon
The First Step: Marathon's Medical Director Advises How to Prepare the Day Before the Race
The moment marathon runners step up to the starting line of a big race marks
the conclusion of months of intensive training. How athletes spend the day
before the race can also have a major impact on their success and stamina on
John Cianca, M.D., medical director of the marathon and a medical director
for TIRR Rehabilitation Centers, a part of Memorial Herman Sports Medicine,
offers tips on how to spend that all-important day before the event.
Primarily, Cianca said, runners should not do anything unusual the day before
the marathon or make any big changes to their normal routine.
"Runners should get good rest, and their diet should support their training,"
said Cianca. "Additional carbohydrates could be beneficial, and the morning of
the marathon runners should eat something that is a good source of energy and
easy to digest. Some runners do carb-loading prior to the marathon, and that can
be beneficial if it is done correctly."
Runners should ensure they are
hydrated well, but be careful not to over hydrate.
"Be reasonable when you are drinking water," said Cianca. "You do not 'store
up' fluids. Water should help food digest for optimal performance if you are
A runner's weight is affected by hydration, and runners should weigh
periodically as one aspect of monitoring their hydration. Scales are available
along the Houston Marathon course. If a runner has a problem during a race, his
or her weight fluctuations can help physicians better understand the
"We recommend that runners write their weights on the back of their bibs -
along with other emergency information - before the race," said Cianca. "If a
runner requires medical attention during the race, this will help the staff
understand what could be happening."
Take a Break
Rest is key to preparing for the marathon.
If possible, athletes should get more rest that usual and go to bed earlier in
the days immediately before the run.
"People underestimate the importance of rest," said Cianca. "Intensive
training requires more sleep for the body to recover and absorb the physical
stress. Recovery helps the training process; rest and training must be
"Runners should do whatever it takes to feel rested," he said. "If you want
to get a massage, go for it. The most important thing is to not change your
training routine just prior to the marathon."
Consult the Weather Report
The last variable that comes
into play the day before a race is weather, and last- minute adjustments are
often required. Clothing is a main consideration, and runners must take
precautions to prepare for whatever Mother Nature brings the day of the
marathon. Also, runners must be prepared for weather conditions in the early
morning when the race begins, as well as in the afternoon as the marathon
- Cold weather: Preserve heat where you lose it most: the head and the hands.
Wear a hat and gloves.
- Windy weather: Windy conditions require more cover and windbreaker
- Heat: Use light clothing with good coverage.
- Humidity: Wear lightweight clothing that moves, or wicks, perspiration away
from the skin.