If you have ever run a Marathon you know that racing is not only about training and nutrition, but also about your gear. Wearing the wrong outfit, getting blisters from the wrong shoes or chafing can not only ruin your Marathon goals but also take all the fun away. So I have compiled this list of the most important Marathon gear essentials. Proven in more than 20 Marathons that I ran, including the 12 Marathons that I did in 2018.
The most important thing to remember is to try all your Marathon gear before the actual event. Always remember the rule:
Nothing new on race day!
So here are my Marathon essentials, that I always pack into my bag when I travel to a race:
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Shoes are the first item on my Marathon gear essentials list. Some people might find them optional, as people have run Marathons without shoes. Like Abebe Bikila, who won the 1960 Olympic Marathon barefoot. But as a regular runner I assume you don’t want to even try running that distance without good running shoes on your feet.
Picking the right shoes
This could fill up a full blog post on it’s own. And there are definitely a few out there. How to chose the right shoes for you has become nearly rocket science. I would recommend a simple 3 step strategy to find the right shoe for your needs:
- Take your old running shoes to a professional running shop
- Have a video analysis done of yourself running in your old and various new shoes
- Pick the ones that looks right on video and that also feel good
Training in your running shoes
Even if you have picked the right shoes for you, you still need to train in them (aka run in them properly) before the race. This will break them in so you don’t get blisters or black toe nails on race day. I recommend running at least 100 km over a few weeks in them.
Unless you are up for a nudist race, or chose to run in a costume, a proper running outfit is part of your Marathon gear. It should comprise of running shorts or leggings and a running top depending on the temperatures. As with running shoes there are two important factors to consider:
The right outfit for the right temperatures
Your running outfit should fit the temperatures on race day. As you want to go fast, you should wear an outfit that you would freeze in at the start line. If you are not a little bit cold at the start, you are definitely wearing too much for later on.
But what if I am getting really cold at the start line? There are always options for that. Wear old clothing that you can toss away before the start. Most of it will be collected by charities afterwards. Another option is to wear a thick black trash bag to keep warm.
Another thing that I learned when it comes to Marathon outfits is to always have several options available depending on the weather. The same race can have extremely different temperatures in different years. So bring various outfits to the race in case the weather forecast changes.
Training in your race outfit
The logic is the same as for running shoes. You need to train in you race outfit (that includes costumes) before the Marathon. By running in your outfit you will find out potential problems like chafing or wardrobe malfunctions. You want to sort out these things before the race, and not be surprised during your Marathon.
Yes, some people also think underwear is optional. Especially if the undergarments are part of the running shorts. But I really disagree. First, the underwear in your running shorts might not be the right one for you. Second, if you are a woman you definitely need a good sports bra to support breasts. As with shoes and running outfits you need to test your underwear before race day. I personally am a big fan of Runderwear, a British startup that makes really soft and comfy running underwear.
Running socks are an often neglected, but very important Marathon gear item. With all the developments in recent years socks have become a major part of the running apparel industry. The options nowadays are endless: short, long, thick, thin, colorful or plain black. One of the most recent developments is the use of compression socks to enhance performance. If you want to keep your old socks, but still want to try compression gear, you can also wear compression calf sleeves.
GPS sports watch
If you want to run a Marathon for time and aim for a new personal best, a GPS sports watch is also a Marathon essential. In the past GPS watches were heavy, huge and fairly ugly, but recently the manufacturers have focused more on design. The options nowadays are also endless. Most GPS sports watches also include a heart rate monitor, either with a chest band or a visual one included in the watch. When choosing a sports watch you should look at the following factors:
- size and weight
- features like Wifi, Bluetooth, multi sport functions
Running belt or pouch
If you decide to carry various items during your race, like your mobile phone, gels or even just a tissue, you might find that the pockets in your running gear are too small (even if you are lucky to have some). So you might want to consider a running belt or arm pouch. The choice is completely yours, based on what you feel more comfortable in. I personally have chosen a running belt that not only fits my phone but also some gels and where I can attach my race bib. You can find it here.
Alternatively there are also pouches that you can wear on your upper arms. Some people find them more comfortable than belts, but usually they only fit a mobile phone.
Note: bringing your phone to a race is a controversial topic. Yes, listening to music with headphones is often forbidden at races. But even if it is I bring my phone to take a lot of pictures before, during and after the race. It is an essential part of my Marathon gear because I love to take pictures as a souvenir. Plus you get to see them on my blog later on.
Depending on the race you might want to bring a hydration kit. In some races, like longer trail races, hydration packs are even mandatory. In others like the NYC Marathon only bottles are allowed. As with everything, there are advantages and disadvantages when bringing your own hydration kit. Even if it could slow you down, it will keep you hydrated in hot weather. Plus it is good for the environment as you are using less plastic bottles or cups at the water stations.
Hydration kits come in various options and sizes. You can run with a water bottle in your hand, wear a running belt with bottles or even a hydration pack on your back. Just make sure that you cleanse and dry them thoroughly between runs.I personally use this race vest/hydration pack from Inov8 because of the 4 pouches in the front. (Yes, I always carry a lot of stuff)
Accessoires like hats, gloves or sunglasses
Depending on the weather you might need some accessories to protect you from the sun, rain, heat or cold. This could include sunglasses, hats, gloves, rain jackets or a scarf. I recommend investing in a few that have been especially designed for running. Yes you could wear your normal ones, but it is nicer if they are moisture wicking and light weight. My personal favorite are tube scarves, as they can be worn as scarves, beanies, headbands or wrist sweatbands.
If you have ever had a really bad blister, or chafing, or even bleeding nipples as a man, you know how painful it can get. Chafing can really ruin your race. So how can you avoid it?
I recommend applying a lot of anti chafing balm to all the potential areas affected, like between your thighs or around your armpits and even your most sensitive parts around your underwear. For feet I would either go with balm or special blister plasters. If you are a man, putting tape or plasters onto your nipples is also a good idea. Ladies: you don’t need to cover your nipples if you are wearing a good sports bra, but applying balm around and under the bra seams is a good idea.
I personally like these brands for blister plasters and anti-chafing balm. But there are also low cost options like normal tape and Vaseline. Whatever works for you is great as long as you stay chafe free!
Did you like this post? Then check out my Marathon race reviews!