Top Race Day Tips from Our Experts

Whether it’s your first half marathon or 5K or you’re a race veteran, you’re probably feeling pretty revved up right now getting ready for the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon & 5K Fun Run on Sunday. Here are a few tips from our experts to help you get ready for the fun.

The Day Before the Race

Hydrate Ahead of Time

For proper hydration on race day, you have to start early. Drink at least 8 glasses of water the day before the race, spacing them out throughout the day, says Heatherose Peluso Pitman, a fitness health coach at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco.

Carbo-Load Your Dinner

Your evening meal the night before the race should be high in carbohydrates, but not too heavy or fiber-rich, says Heather D’Eliso Gordon, sports dietician and nutrition health coach at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco. Fiber can upset your digestion the next day, and a meal heavy in fat can slow you down. Beware acidic foods as well because heartburn can affect your sleep, and you need that pre-race rest.

Avoid Anxiety

If this is your first half marathon or 5K, you’re probably a little nervous, and that’s okay. To stay calm, avoid introducing anything new into your running routine at the last minute, says Kaiser Permanente Physical Therapist Brian Soo. “Remind yourself that you’ve done all this before, and know you can do it,” says Soo. Lay out your clothes the night before, and stock them with any supplies you’re planning to carry. You’ll save yourself time and also help ensure you don’t forget anything important.

On Race Day

Eat an Early Breakfast

You’ve probably heard you shouldn’t eat right before a race, which makes it tempting to skip breakfast altogether. But for best performance, eat about two hours before the race, says Kaiser Permanente training team captain Jodi Thirtyacre. Her preferred pre-race breakfast: toast topped with peanut butter and banana. If you feel hungry again closer to the race, add a granola bar.

Consider Carrying a Sports Drink or Gel

If you’re planning on carrying water during the race, you may wish to fill your bottle with a sports drink rather than plain water which will be provided along the way. The purpose, says D’Eliso Gordon, is to replenish lost minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. D’Eliso Gordon recommends replenishing electrolytes at least after the first hour of your run, if not before. If you tend to sweat heavily, these minerals are even more important.

Keep a Carb Boost Handy

Have you ever heard of the terms “bonking” or “crashing”? This happens when the glycogen fuel stored in your muscles and liver runs out and your blood sugar drops, leaving you lightheaded and dizzy. This is where energy goo or gel comes in, says Brittany Garrett, footwear department manager at the Presidio Sports Basement and cross country coach at San Francisco State University. No matter how light you plan to travel, they’re easy to carry, she says. “That’s what that seemingly random little pocket in your running shorts is for!”

Be Prepared for Surprises

Expect the unexpected, say the experts. “I carefully plan my day-before-a-race meals, I drink lots of water — and I still expect a side stitch at every race,” says Thirtyacre. Knowing it’s going to happen helps her keep going while concentrating on her breathing. It’s also common to develop unexpected pain, chafing, or irritation, says Soo. If that happens, you’re probably pushing yourself a little too hard. “Slow down and focus on appreciating what you can do, not what you can’t.”