How to eat for a night race

This is a rerun post from last year. I thought it would be good timing, as Barry and I are running a 5K tomorrow evening that has a start time of 8:30PM.

2013 Downtown Sundown 5K

The majority of the races we run are usually morning races. Every once in awhile the opportunity arises to run a night race. Mixing it up can be a lot of fun, but it also mixes up how you would normally prepare for a race. On race day you may find yourself wondering how to eat for your race. Here are some tips on what works for me for a night race, with specific examples of what I did leading up to last year’s Downtown Sundown 5K.

Summer Solstice Fest Downtown Blacksburg

1. Eat a good breakfast. You want to eat a good breakfast that’s not too high in fats, as those will stay in your system longer. Stick to things that you would normally eat. On race day last year, I had scrambled eggs mixed with a little bit of cheese and salsa on top. I also had a piece of toast. I drank my usual morning coffee and had half a bottle of Fuze Banana Colada.

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2. Eat a lighter lunch. Again, make sure you stick to foods you typically eat. As always, nothing new on race day! This tip works well for an evening race, but since this particular race’s start time was closer to my bedtime, I ate a larger lunch. I had a chicken sandwich and some fresh fruit.

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3. Make sure to hydrate throughout the day. Keep a bottle of water with you to sip on throughout the day. Be sure not to overhydrate!

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4. Stick to your normal pre-race routine. If you normally eat a bagel with peanut butter two hours before your race, you should do the same for a night race. I typically eat a Power Bar about an hour before a race. But sometimes I’ll eat a Luna Bar or a Honey Stinger Waffle. Before last year’s race I had a Luna Bar about an hour before start time.

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It’s also a good idea to practice running in the evening at race time, if you’re usually a morning runner. This will give you a chance to practice running at that time of day and to test out how certain foods will work for you. When I am training for a specific goal race, I will try to do many of my Saturday morning long runs at the same time as the race start time. The same principle applies for a race with an evening start time.

Most of my weekday runs take place in the evening, and in the summer time they can sometimes be as late as what this race’s start time is. I eat a normal breakfast and lunch during the week, and then usually have a small snack before my evening run. But for a race, you add the inevitable nerves and you have to be a little more conscious about what you put in your belly.

I have run a few other races that had start times sometime other than in the morning. In October 2012, I ran the Haunted Half Marathon in Kingsport, TN. It had a start time of 4 PM. I followed the above guidelines, except that on that race day I DID eat a light lunch since the start time was in the afternoon.

2012 Haunted Half Marathon Kingsport, TN

The Blacksburg Classic 10 Mile is another race that has an odd start time. Since this race is run in February, and it’s often pretty cold here in Virginia, the start time is 1 PM. I typically eat breakfast as normal and then will have my prerace meal (Power Bar/Luna Bar/Stinger Waffle) around Noon, an hour before the race.

2014 Blacksburg Classic 10 Mile

When it comes down to it, never try anything new on race day! Try to mimic your usual pre-race routine as close as possible.

Have you ever run a night race? If so, how did your preparation differ from the preparation for a traditional race that starts in the morning?
What tips would you add?

12 Comments

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  1. Great timing since I’m running an evening race tomorrow night! 🙂 I agree it’s harder to figure out what to eat for evening races. Mine is at 5 so I’m thinking regular bfast & lunch (safe foods) & then dinner after.
    jan recently posted…Random Summer PicsMy Profile

    1. That sounds like a good plan! I hope it worked out well.

  2. This is a really good list.

    We have done one night rub. Only problem I had wad doing our normal Saturday stuff then going to the race. My legs were more tired than when we race in the morning.
    The running schlub recently posted…Group Run/Fun Run/Adventure RunMy Profile

    1. It can definitely be tough to be well rested for a night race, when you still have stuff you need to do during the day.

  3. I’ve done a couple of evening races. I think your tips are good. I definitely need the snack (think I’d need more than a Luna bar if the race wasn’t until 8:30) I hate being hungry!!
    Good luck at your race!
    Jo recently posted…Seen on the run (outtakes)My Profile

    1. Yesterday I ended up eating a large lunch around 3:00 PM, and then that was it besides a few pretzels about an hour before the race. It worked out well, though. I don’t like to feel hungry during a race, but I want my stomach to feel very light during a 5K.

  4. When I ran a night time 5K in Pensacola, we were on vacation and I splurged on treats the day of the race – a Krispy Kreme donut and key lime pie. Fortunately, it didn’t hurt me – somehow, I came in 3rd AG. I told myself I should do that for all of my races, but I usually stick to something healthy like you suggested after all!
    Tina@GottaRunNow recently posted…Snakes, Poison Ivy & HumidityMy Profile

    1. Sounds like Krispy Kreme and pie should be your go-to night race fuel, haha.

  5. Sleep all day and pretend its morning when you get up for the race!

    1. Good suggestion! Unfortunately, I had other things I had to do yesterday. Plus I really suck at naps, so I’d probably be no good at actually sleeping all day.

  6. I like the idea of running at the typical start time of an upcoming race ~ especially if it is at a time you normally don’t run. Great suggestions, Meagan 🙂
    Stephanie@nowirun.com recently posted…Sacred Mountain Prayer Run ~Race Recap~My Profile

    1. I especially like doing my long runs during training for a half or full marathon at the race start time. It helps race morning feel more routine.

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