The morning of a marathon, or other distance event, is not the day to skip breakfast! Even if you are not accustomed to eating breakfast on a daily basis, the pre-race meal is an important time to provide your body with much needed fuel.
Here are a few tips to get you going:
1. Train your guts as you train your body. The morning of the race is not the time to try something new with food. You should try different types of foods and combinations of foods prior to training runs to see what is going to agree with your gastrointestinal system, then you will know what will also work on race day. It may take some trial and error, but the gut can be trained, just as your lungs and muscles!
2. Allow 3-4 hours for digestion. Yes, that may mean you will have to get up very early, if you have a morning race, but besides having time to adequately fuel for the race, it will give you time to check your supplies, get to the race on time, warm up, get prepared mentally, etc! The pre-race meal should contain lots of carbohydrate, a little protein, and very little fat (examples to follow). Skip the very high fiber (unless you're used to them) and high fat foods (sausage, bacon, cheese, gravy, etc) as they take longer to move through your gastrointestinal tract and could cause problems during the race.
3. Stick to tried and true favorites. Stick to foods and fluids that you have trained with and know work well for you. If you are traveling to a race, it is wise to pack some of your tried and true favorites for peace of mind (oatmeal packs, protein shake mixes, trail mix, bagels, etc). If you drink coffee and tea every morning, continue this as well. Again, don't try new foods the day of (or even the day before) a race.
4. Top off your fuel. About 1/2 to 1 hour before race start time, and then again about 15 minutes before, top off our fuel stores with more carbohydrate. Most athletes stick with liquids at this point (sports drink, for example) since they clear quickly from the stomach, are absorbed for quick use, and help meet hydration goals. See the table that follows.
5. If you like math... calculate the amount of carbohydrate you need the morning of the race. Then, use food labels to determine the servings of carb you need.