Get Ready for Broad Street!: Ease Your Race-Day Worries

Team Philly’s running coach Ross Martinson on everything from what to eat and when to sleep to the best spots for spectators

You always hear that you should eat pasta before a race. Is this true?
For a 10-mile race you don’t need to carb load. The run should burn about 1,000 calories (kind of disappointing, huh?) and your muscles normally store double that in ready energy. Marathoners need to try to boost their stores by loading up for a few days before their event.  

You do want to eat something the night before the race that you are comfortable with, and that your stomach is comfortable with.  Try testing some foods out before your long runs.  I went through a phase where I only ate pizza the night before races, then turkey clubs.  But don’t feel you need to force down extra calories or stuff yourself, since you might not feel as good in the morning.  Save that for after the race.

What about water? Should I be drinking more the week before?

Hydration is always important—and the week leading up to a race you should really focus on drinking plenty of fluids. Plain water is ideal, but juices and sports drinks can work if it will make you drink more. Someone who normally drinks coffee every morning should keep drinking it (I was happy to hear the most recent research shows coffee doesn’t dehydrate you).  Hopefully all of your readers keep a reasonably healthy diet and only have an occasional soda.  The week of the race is a time to be consistent, you don’t want to cut things out or change your diet if you don’t know how your body will react to the changes (caffeine withdrawal, etc.).

I have a feeling that I am going to be wired the night before. Any tips that might help you relax the night before so you get a good night’s sleep?
Sleep is a bit like the hydration thing—you need to get sleep all week. Try to go to bed at your normal time—trying to go to bed before you are ready to sleep can leave you lying there, wondering when you will get to sleep.  If you go at your normal time, you should fall asleep like normal.

I am usually a great sleeper, but I have had some bad nights before races, and the races still went well.  It helps having that experience so you can reassure yourself that things will go well.  The other thing to tell yourself is how great it feels to just lay down and not have to do anything!  Simply lying in bed will give your body the rest it needs, and if you don’t sleep as much as normal the night before, your body will still be ok.

I also advise doing the things you normally do at night, if you normally have a glass of wine with dinner, still have the glass of wine (but keep that water handy). 

What time should I wake up on race day?
You should be up two to three hours before a race starts.  This gives your body some time to warm up, and you can eat a light breakfast and be ready to go for the race.  If you are taking the train from the Broad Street finish to the start, you need to get there early anyway.  I usually eat my breakfast (and coffee) on the way, and bring another snack, like a banana, for while I’m waiting for the start.