Stick to Familiar Foods
The day before the race is probably not the best time for new culinary adventures. Foreign cuisines are exciting, but new foods always carry the risk of unwelcome and unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects. Stay on the safe side and choose simple, familiar foods before your race and aim to discover local flavors after the event. Ask your hotel or any local friends for restaurant recommendations in your new city. If you're running an especially popular race, you won't be the only runner in town looking for the best pasta joint, so plan your pre-race dinner ahead of time to avoid a long wait.
Know the Course and Plan Ahead
After you sign up for your race, take a look at the course map and plan your hydration strategy. You don't want to rely solely on aid stations during the race. Consider the expected temperatures and humidity when you create your plan. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, "[t]he risk of dehydration and heat injury increases dramatically in hot, humid environments" but it's also "possible for dehydration to occur in cool or cold weather."
While some races provide water at every mile, others may only have a few stations for a 13.1- or 26.2-mile course. There's also a risk of water stations running out of supplies for runners at the back of the pack on hot days. Inspect the course map and determine if you need to carry your own water to make sure you're not left without fluids on the course.
Bring Your Own Coffee and Breakfast
Even if you don't have strict pre-race rituals, waking up in a new place on race morning can present a few challenges. Does the hotel serve breakfast? Will there be foods you're accustomed to in the morning? Can you get your coffee fix?
Reduce your stress on race morning and plan ahead. If you must have your morning coffee, bring a packet (or two) of instant coffee. Even if the hotel doesn't provide coffee in the room, you should be able to get some hot water. Also, be prepared with your own breakfast of choice. Bread, cold cereal, energy bars or quick-cooking oatmeal are great choices if you need to leave the hotel earlier than the designated breakfast times.
Pack Your Race-Day Food Ahead of Time
Again, stick to foods that are familiar; avoid trying new gels or energy bars on race day. This is not the time to experiment with new foods. "Digestion during exercise is difficult enough since the blood supply is diverted to the working muscles," says Dada. To keep your gut happy, stick to foods and supplements you have used during training. Depending on your race, you may or may not be able to buy your preferred gels or bars at the expo, so be sure to pack them ahead of time.
From exploring different sights and cultures to connecting with a new running community, there's so much to enjoy at a destination race. Worrying about your race should not be part of your itinerary. A little planning goes a long way in making your next run-cation a positive, memorable experience.race.
- Institute of Medicine DRIs for Water and Electrolytes
- Janice H. Dada, MPH, RD, CSSD, CDE, CHES Marathon Fueling—Runners Need Proper Nutrition and Hydration for the 26.2-Mile Stretch
- Today's Dietitian Vol. 12 No. 3 P. 36;
- ACSM Position Stand on Nutrition and Athletic Performance