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Pre-Race Meal Plans (for Every Distance!)

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Fuel up for your best race ever with our easy-to-follow meal plans.

The night before her historic win at the 1978 New York City Marathon, Grete Waitz famously dined at Tavern on the Green, where she enjoyed a three-course meal complete with shrimp cocktail, steak, ice cream and red wine. The next morning, Waitz ran a new world record, but felt so badly that she took off her shoes and threw them at her husband, yelling, “I’ll never do this stupid thing again!”

The heavy dinner may have left the legendary marathoner with a bad stomachache, but for us mortal runners, it would almost certainly have led to disaster. “Never invite a new food or drink into your diet on or before race day,” says St. Louis-based marathoner and sports nutritionist Jennifer McDaniel, M.S., R.D.

So what should you eat before a big event? McDaniel says that depends on the race. The fueling strategy you use for a marathon will be different than a 5k, although one rule of thumb always applies: “Practice nutrition strategies during training so you are comfortable with your routine.” Here’s McDaniel’s best advice for fueling your way to a strong finish no matter the distance.

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