5 Tips for a Happy Night Race

Las Vegas 2011
Las Vegas 2011 – after getting to right timing chip, of course!

It all began with RnR Vegas 2011. My first half marathon, my first night race. I remember going to hear John Bingham, aka the Penguin, speak. He was supposed to be talking about fueling for a night race but I think he just likes to hear himself talk and he didn’t really have a lot of tips (and how I wish I’d had my visor for him to sign!). I still love you, John.

I think the biggest mistake I made that night was not having a good enough snack before the race. I had a hot pretzel. Which you’d think would have been enough — but wasn’t. Luckily I’d packed a honeystinger waffle with me, which I ate at mile 10 because I was beginning to feel a bit lightheaded. It did the trick.

It’s Tuesdays on the Run and the theme is tips for night races.

Don’t eat dinner
Running at night is really tricky and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done it. There were 2 Vegas halfs, and there’s the local Last Run that I’ve done twice.

Maybe you’re a veteran night runner because that’s the only time of day you have to run. I do run at night sometimes — in group runs, with Darlene — but mostly I’m a daytime runner. I’m a morning person (like a really early morning person) and running in the evening tends to really mess with me.

So anyhoo, you don’t want a big meal sloshing in your stomach at night. But you don’t want to be starving, either. My suggestion is to have a good prerace meal the night before; a decent breakfast; a solid lunch, and then eat a snack/light meal about 3 hours before your race. You might want a smaller snack about half an hour before your race, too.

My race day eating plan for a night race might look something like this:

  • Sushi/pierogis the night before (or whatever your favorite prerace dinner is)
  • Maybe some baked oatmeal or overnight oats for breakfast
  • Maybe some more sushi around, say, 1pm for a 6 pm race (or pancakes)
  • A protein bar, honeystinger waffle, or something similar plus a banana about half an hour before the race

Don’t go wild on the treats before the race; save that for after! Stick to good, clean carbs and a little bit of fat and protein.

Don’t eat a high fat/fiber/spicy meal
Normally fiber is your friend, but not before a race. Let’s just say you don’t want to have to make a bathroom stop, and fiber and running basically do the same thing: they move things along. By giving yourself enough time to digest your meal (see above), you should hopefully avoid that date with the portapotty (except at the beginning).

Stay off your feet/try to nap
Suffer with nerves before a race? It’s really tempting to keep yourself busy. But do you really want to have tired legs for your race?

Save the chores/sight seeing for after your race.

Try to take a nap. I’m not much of a napper, but even just laying down & falling down the internet rabbit hole can help you relax. Watch some tv or a movie (Spirit of the Marathon is a personal prerace favorite). Read a book.

Hydrate well — but don’t overhydrate
Remember you really want to avoid a mid race portapotty stop, right? I like to stop drinking liquids 2 hours before a race. So I drink normally throughout the day, and then I try to stop around 4 pm for a 6 pm race.

50 degrees at night feels colder than 50 degrees in the day
There’s a little thing called radiant heating. Which basically means that the sun warms up the road, and the road releases that heat into the air, and that’s part of why it’s warmer during the day than it is at night, even if it’s the same temperature.

Consider your environmet, too: hands down, and this is going to surprise some folks, that first Vegas half was my coldest half on record (not my coldest race). Vegas is desert, and it’s dry, and it does get cold — it even snows on occasion. So when it’s nice, yes, it can get cold (or not, the next year was pretty warm).

So you may find yourself feeling colder at a night race, and of course instead of warming up it’s going to cool down.

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Have you run any night races?

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11 thoughts on “5 Tips for a Happy Night Race

  1. I run in the afternoons during the week and mornings on the weekends. Night races are difficult because my normal routine is relaxing and getting ready for bed. It’s tough to have to run late and it messes with my internal clock.

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  2. Great tips! My first night race and my first longer distance race was the Tower of Terror 10 miler at Disney last year. I love night races but the fueling is definitely tricky. Rock and Roll Vegas is definitely on my to do list.

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    1. The first year it was cold — colder than it was that night in upstate NY! The next year I wore a long sleeve’d tee, and even though I ended up walking it with my friend, I was still too warm.

      So you never know — and of course when I did it, it was still in December, too.

      I love Vegas, though, so it was a lot of fun.

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  3. The first year it snowed! Since they moved it to Novemeber and moved up the start time, it is much warmer. While lots layers might be overkill, a light windbreaker might be handy out near the airport.

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