What You Need on Marathon Race Day
Have you thought about what you’ll need on marathon race day?
Planning what you will need during and immediately after your next race can mean the difference between a massive PR and a complete failure. That sentiment might be a little dramatic, but if you forget something simple, such as a pair of socks, you aren’t doing yourself any favors.
For the past three marathons, I have basically worn the same thing. When I attempt to break three hours next week at Grandma’s Marathon, I’ll be wearing my battle-tested uniform. Planning now means one less thing to think about on race day so that you can focus on your run.
Below you will find my complete “race kit” list – everything I need from the start line to the finish. Take note and begin assembling your kit today.
There’s nothing special about my brands, they just work well for me! Stick to what you have been using during your training.
Marathon Race Kit
Shoes – I like the Asics DS Racers on race day. They are a bit lighter than my trainers and help me feel fast. Make sure you know what shoes you will wear for the race, but remember, nothing new!
Socks – My go to sock is the Fitsok F4. They never give me blisters, and wick well.
Shorts – I have enjoyed several PR’s in the Pearl Izumi Infinity Short. These were my first pair of “real” running shorts and totally worth the $35! I like them because they are short (mid thigh), have a small pocket for GUs, and have an anatomical fit and Minerale™ liner that dries super faster. These rarely chafe.
Top – I have run in a Brooks Versatile Singlet for I don’t know how many races, which is to say a lot. It wicks well and clings close to the body – the less fabric flapping around, the faster I run! During colder races, I throw on a pair of arm warmers. I tend to race just on the edge of cold and comfortable.
Head – I wear a headband I bought at the TCM Expo several years ago. Some lady was selling them for $5, and I think its handmade. Since I have longish hair, the headband keeps back my hair and profuse perspiration.
I also wear a $15 pair of Ironman sunglasses that I purchased at Target. They are cheap, indestructible, and shield my eyes from the sun.
Fuel – I’ve tried every type of energy gel on the market. Power Bar PowerGel, Tangerine flavor is my favorite. It has 2x caffeine, and all of the same carbs and sugars as other brands. The main reason I like them is because they taste good, go down smooth, and are easy on my stomach.
I always bring five on race day. I take the first about 15 minutes before the start. Then, since I don’t carry water, I coordinate with an aid station map and take one every 40-45 minutes.
Garmin 220 – I can’t run without my Garmin! Make sure it’s fully charged the night before; find the satellites and go!
Right Before the Race
You may want a few things in the limbo time between when you put your gear bag in the gear check truck and when the race starts.
This may go without saying, but make sure you have your race bib and timing chip!
Old Sweats – If it’s chilly on race morning, head to the Goodwill and find some old sweats that you can throw on over your race kit. Right before the gun goes off, toss them to the side (don’t worry, most races collect and donate back).
Bottle of water – I usually have some water on hand that I sip gently, then use to wash down my first GU.Don’t drink all of it or you’ll be making a pit stop in the first few miles! Make sure to throw it away when you’re done.
Garbage bag – If it’s raining, bring a garbage bag to wear while you wait to start, no one likes to start a marathon soaking wet. I don’t’ recommend running in the garbage bag, so be sure to toss at the start.
Vaseline – If you need this, I don’t need to tell you what it’s for, and if you don’t need this, consider yourself lucky!
Right After the Race
A common rookie mistake is to neglect packing weather appropriate gear for after the race. When you finish, you will want a few key items. Make sure you include your cell phone, ID and/or some cash or credit card.
Flip Flops – After a race of any distance, I can’t wait to throw on a pair of flip flops. It feels so good to get out of those running shoes after a hard effort!
Clean Clothes – Pack a clean tee shirt, and anything else you might want to throw on after you finish. There is often a changing area near most finish lines, so getting into a pair of soft, clean shorts or light sweatpants feels like heaven. Check the weather to determine if you’ll want something heavier.
Re-Fuel – I have found that it’s difficult for me to eat after a race. I force myself to consume whatever they have in the finish chute, but it’s nice to have your preferred snacks, too. I like to bring a shaker bottle filled with ice, then throw a bottle of juice and a travel pack of my favorite protein powder in my bag. I easily drink this, it tastes good, and I get much-needed calories and hydration.
What’s with the Boston Red Socks Hat?
The thing about running a marathon is that no matter what happens, you can go home and sleep in your own bed at night. Will you be sleeping knowing you’ve achieved your goals, or not?
During the whole race, I have to decide, “do I want to slow down because I’m getting tired, or do I want to put on that hat?”
I’m also thinking about my son and his matching hat. I do about half of my weekly miles with him in a baby jogger, so, we’re in this together. Anything in life worth achieving takes hard work. Pushing yourself beyond what you thought was possible is something I want my son to one day understand.
I don’t know what’s going to happen before my next race. Will the weather cooperate? Will I forget something from the above list? Will I accidentally fall into the lake? I can’t answer these questions, but I do know that I will be on the starting line knowing I’ve done everything I can to to have the best race possible.
When you have a big audacious goal, control what you can control, and don’t worry about the rest.
What else do you pack in your marathon race day bag?