Deciding what to eat is often the biggest worry for those preparing for a night time race. For those with sensitive tummies, the food consumed during the day of a race with a late night start can make or break the entire race experience. RunDisney’s Tower of Terror 10-miler and the Wine & Dine Half Marathon both have a 10 PM start time, so some racers will be finishing long after midnight. Eating well can be the difference between a fantastic experience and a nightmare race.
If you are planning a night time race longer than a 5K, it’s a good idea to run a few of your longer runs at approximately the same start time as your race. Long runs are the time to test out all your race day strategies, including clothing, shoes, on-the-run fueling, and pre-race eating. Even runners who are very experienced with morning races can find themselves completely thrown for a loop by events that start as the sun goes down. Get in a dress rehearsal or two so you’ll be ready for race day!
My advice is to eat similarly to how you would for a morning race, just taking into account that the clock says PM instead of AM. So, if you’d normally eat a 8 PM dinner the night before and a small snack a few hours before you get in a corral for a morning race, this method would have you consuming breakfast around 8 or 9 AM with a small snack a few hours before the start of your night race. Aim for a carbohydrate based meal with some fat and protein as well. You’ll have several hours to digest this before you run. If your normal pre-race breakfast is a bagel with peanut butter 3 hours before the start, then make that your afternoon snack as you prepare for your nighttime start. If you are a cereal & banana person, than plan that for your snack. Avoid high fat & high fiber foods in the last few hours before your race.
Caffeine is a hotly debated topic among runners. If you usually have coffee before a long run, you may want to have a late afternoon or early evening cup so you can make it to the finish line wide awake. If you don’t normally have caffeine before your runs, now is probably not the best time to start.
Hydrate all day and stay off your feet as much as you can on race day. Many nighttime races are destination events and it’s tempting to be out on the Vegas strip or in the Disney theme parks, but the more you can rest, the better your run will be.
Fueling during your race is important no matter what time of the day you are running. Check to see what food & fluids will be provided for you on the course and bring anything you’ll need. Post-race recovery will play a big part in how you feel the next day. Find some fluids and protein to replenish & refuel as soon as you can after the race. It may be very late (or even very early in the morning!) but try to stay awake and moving for a while after you finish. The RunDisney Wine & Dine Half Marathon and Tower of Terror 10-miler both feature amazing post-race parties just for runners and their friends & families, so enjoy the celebration!