The alternative pre-marathon (or any big race) checklist

With the London Marathon coming up, plus a whole host of other big running races over the autumn, we asked the wonderful Lonely Goat Running Club community for their top ‘alternative’ pre-marathon (or any big-race) checklist items. In other words, What are the essential ‘must-do’ things to remember before you take to the startline?

There’s lots of conventional pre-race checklist articles out there with undoubtedly sensible advice, but we wanted to feature the hints and tips that are often learnt the hard way, plus any lesser-known hacks that can make your marathon experience go more smoothly.

We can’t promise the items on this checklist will work for everyone, and you follow this advice at your own risk, but if they’ve worked for at least one runner, they might just work for you!

Here’s our top 8, in no particular order…

Cut your toenails three days beforehand

Our un-scientific testing has concluded that cutting your toenails on the Thursday before a Sunday marathon is the optimum time to do it. It strikes the balance between keeping your toenails short, but allowing enough time for them to grow out a little and get more comfortable should you accidentally cut them too short.

Don’t do your bikini line the night before

This is a variation on the advice above. If you’re giving yourself a trim, make sure you don’t leave it so late that you’re left dealing with any residual irritation.

Buy a fresh hair band

If you tie your hair back to run, you’re going to want it to stay put. After spending loads of money on shoes, kit, travel, a hotel and race entry, you don’t want to be distracted by an old, baggy hairband sliding its way to freedom. Spend another couple of quid on a fresh hairband and enjoy that fresh elastic peace of mind.

Book your pre-race meal

Whether you’re a fan or pasta, rice, chips, a burrito, or whatever, make sure you book your pre-race carbo-loading dinner well in advance, so that you’re not left wandering around the day before a big race looking for somewhere to eat. You can guarantee that almost every Italian restaurant in a city will experience a spike in bookings on the day before a marathon. Make sure one of those bookings has your name on it!

Enjoy a pint the night before

The build-up to a big race can be stressful. Whereas many runners prefer to keep a clear head, others swear by a relaxed pint the night before.

Pop a shot of Tia Maria in your breakfast cappuccino

We’ll admit, we’d not heard of this advice before, but it forms part of the essential pre-marathon breakfast routine for at least one member of the Lonely Goat herd. We don’t know what the rationale is, but it goes to show there is definitely more than one way to prepare for a race!

Stock up on Imodium… or get an enema

Runner’s trots is a thing. If you’re a runner who is concerned about dealing with an unfortunately timed urgent toilet break, then Imodium (or similar, non-branded anti-diarrhoea drugs) might be your saviour. The corner shop by the race start will almost certainly have sold out, so add it to your shopping list well before race-day. And if Imodium just isn’t going to hack it, then perhaps an enema is worth considering?

Go charity shopping

How often do you see ‘Wear old, warm clothes before the start that you don’t mind discarding’ in the instructions of a race? If you’re not someone who has a massive stash of old jumpers in their drawers, head to a charity shop in the days before your marathon. This offers two benefits: One, you get a bargain while a charity gets some money; and Two, you can be the best dressed person on the start line. While everyone else is there in an old paint-spattered sweatshirt with torn cuffs, you can be strutting to the line in a kimono, fairisle sweater, unicorn onesie, floor length fake-fur coat, or a vintage three-piece suit!

Get your pre-race kit from a charity shop, and you could dress like Macklemore and friends in the song ‘Thrift Shop’

Use this advice – or not…

OK, so this article is a little bit of fun, but there is some good advice in there. It might work for you, or it might not. We’ll leave it to you to experiment and find out. But what we hope it does demonstrate is that there is more than one way to prepare for a big race.

Take a moment now (yes, now – not 5 minutes before the start of your race) to think through everything you need to do in the few days leading to the start. Jot it down and you’ve created your own personal checklist. Don’t stress too much about whether you should be doing ABC, or not doing XYZ. If it works for you, then that’s all that counts!


Thank you to Lonely Goat Running Club members Sean Keaney, Kirsty Brookfield, Jeff Finnie, Dean Murley, Claudene Silverman, Helen Motteram, Lou Lou, Steve Amos, Pete Fenn, and Marion Frankland for joining in the original discussion that led to this article.


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