Pre-race Checklist

A practical guide to help you prepare for running races from 5 kilometers to the marathon. Use this checklist as a guide to make sure you are prepared and have a great running experience. More information on running supplies can be found in Running 101


2 Days Prior

  • For marathons or half marathons eat a larger meal that is higher in carbohydrates.
  • Go to bed early – nervousness the night before your event is normal. Plan ahead and get extra sleep a day early, it will carry over and make up for any lost sleep the night before.

Day Before

  • Pick up your race packet – if your event provides a pre-event packet you will receive a bag that usually contains the event shirt, race number, and promotionals. Attach your race number on the front of the shirt you will wear during the race. Your number needs to be easily visible.
  • Familiarize yourself with the course. You may want to drive the course before hand or simply review appropriate maps to limit race day confusion and mentally prepare for the terrain of the course (big hill, long straight stretch, etc).
  • Pre-race meal. The evening before your event eat a meal that you are accustomed to. Keep the meal a little more carbohydrate oriented and avoid high fiber, fatty or high protein meals. There is no need to gorge – just enjoy a sensible meal.
  • Packing Up. Get your gear together to minimize the last minute chaos on race day. The weather will be the biggest determinant of how much to bring so check the weather but be prepared for possible changes. Set the clothes you will put on before traveling to the race in a separate pile – anything that may be used at the event goes in the bag. Changing at an event is difficult so wear your racing clothes under your travel clothes. The following is a list of items to consider:
Sweat shirt
Watch / GPS
Racing shoes
Wallet / Money
Waterproof Jacket
Racing socks
Hat / Head Band
Sports Drink /
Gloves / Mittens
Recovery Snack
Running pants
Race Packet
Sleeveless Shirt
Map / Directions
Short sleeve shirt
Tissues (you never know)
Long sleeve shirt
Lip Balm
Body Glide (longer races)
  • Set the alarm clock. Arrive at your event an hour before the start if you have already picked up your packet – an hour and a half if you need to register or pick up your race number. It’s better to be early than be stressed.
  • Relax and know that you have prepared appropriately (even if you haven’t you can still have fun tomorrow)

Race Day

  • Eat a light meal two hours prior to your event. Stick with foods you have been comfortable with in the past before running.
  • Arrive at the event 60 – 90 min before start time. If you didn’t have a pre-race packet now is the time to check in. Be prepared to fasten your race number to your shirt.
  • Relax and visit with your fellow runners or listen to your favorite tunes.
  • 30-45 minutes prior to the event drink 4-6oz of sports drink.
  • Apply body glide to sensitive areas (nipples, thighs) for longer races.
  • Visit the “Port-a-Potty” early – before the pre-event rush.
  • 20 minutes prior to the event put on the shoes you will run in – perform warm up drills (walking on your heels, walking sideways alternating crossing one foot in front of the other (left and right) and skipping with high knees each for 20 steps) then lightly jog for 5 minutes. Now a little light stretch and you’re ready to go.
  • Shed the warm up gear and be dressed in the clothes you want to perform in. For small events you can leave the warm ups in your car or with friends. Larger events may have a bag with your race number on it that you can put your warm ups in and they will have them available for you at the finish.

Have fun – explore your abilities – and be a good running citizen.


Race Etiquette

  • Line up according to how fast you plan to run or walk. Slower runners and walkers should move to the back of the group.
  • If you are in a large group be conscientious of participants behind you who may want to pass.
  • At water / aid stations be aware of the flow – avoid stopping in front of others who are continuing to run and limit bunching around the tables so that upcoming participants can get in. Get your trash in the can – volunteers will love you!
  • If nature calls find a Port–a-Potty, business or home. To clear your nose or throat, move to the side.
  • Move to the side if you need to stop – avoid collisions.
  • Many races don’t allow strollers or animals – don’t be offended – strollers and pets may present safety hazards for other runners.
  • As you approach the finish line listen to the instructions – you may need to finish in a particular chute. There will be volunteers to help you thru the finish, if possible keep moving according to their directions and in the order you finished.
  • Do not cross the finish line if you don’t have a number - make sure it is visible to the race staff.
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Bryan Whitesides MPT, OCS

Physical Therapist

This article may be reproduced with appropriate reference.