When you’re preparing to run a marathon (and especially when you’re preparing to travel for a marathon), you’re probably a little nervous and have a million different thoughts running through your mind. You never want to be underprepared on race day when you’re running a distance as long as the marathon, and yet, in the chaos of race week, it can be so easy to forget something. I wanted to create a one-stop-shop packing list for all marathoners, and inclusive of whatever conditions you might be racing in. Some of the things on this list may seem obvious, but it includes literally everything you’ll need for race weekend. Print this out and use it as your check list to make sure nothing gets left behind.
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For race weekend
- Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash (if needed)
- Make-up (for women, if you wear it)
- Hair brushes, hair products, and a blow dryer (if needed)
- All outfits – Running and otherwise. Don’t forget socks, shoes, and underthings.
- A reusable water bottle – Hydration is so important leading up to a race. Wherever you go on race weekend, make sure your water bottle goes with you. Make sure you’re sipping all day long.
- Lots of snacks – On race weekend, I want to keep my fuel stores as topped-off as possible and never like to let myself get too peckish. Some of my favorite snacks to pack: portable fresh fruit (bananas, grapes, apples, oranges), nuts, trail mix, dry cereal, popcorn, homemade energy balls, healthy energy or snack bars, protein shake packets (it can be hard to get healthy, adequate sources of protein while traveling).
- Any compression and/or recovery gear – Compression socks, sleeves, foam rollers, stretching ropes, lacrosse and/or trigger point balls, etc. – to keep your legs feeling fresh and healthy before and after the race.
For race day
- Running watch and charger
- Racing outfit and any back-up options if you’re unsure – Make sure you have at least one of each: (1) top, (2) bottom, (3) socks, (4) underwear, (5) racing shoes (if not racing in trainers), (6) sports bra (for women)
- Any accessories you like to race in – Headbands, hats, sunglasses, arm sleeves, compression gear
- Hair ties (for women)
- Band-aids – For blisters and/or for covering any sensitive areas. Also just a good thing to have on hand.
- Warm up gear – If the forecast isn’t super hot, you’ll likely want to wear something over your race outfit while warming up. Make sure to do your research ahead of time and figure out what your options are for either storing, handing off, or discarding your warm-up gear… you may need to buy cheap or second-hand ‘throwaway’ gear you can dispose of just before the start.
- All your race-day fuel – (1) Breakfast (if making in your hotel room), (2) electrolyte packets or tablets, (3) enough gels/sports drink/chews to get you through 26.2 miles (plus a few extra, just in case), (4) anything special you may want for recovery afterwards
- Any storage solutions you may need to carry your gear – Hydration belts, SPIbelts, Koala Clips, etc.
- Headphones (if using, and permissable on the race course)
- Body Glide or your favorite anti-chafe lube
- SPF that you’ve tested – AKA, one you know won’t run into your eyes while sweating
- Garbage bag – For collecting sweaty clothes afterwards
- A clean, dry outfit to wear after the race – Don’t forget an extra pair of socks! (Clean socks = heaven after a marathon.)
- Slide-on shoes – For after the race, when you’ll want to be wearing anything but your running sneakers
- A towel, body wipes, and body spray or deodorant (optional) – For transitioning to your amazing and well-deserved post-race feast
- A gym bag for storing your post-race clothes and gear – Plan to either bag check this or leave it with a friend/loved one. DO NOT leave this in your hotel room. Your body temp will take a nosedive after finishing a marathon, and it’s very important to get you in clean, warm, dry clothes ASAP.
For rainy marathons
- A waterproof outer shell – If under a certain temperature
- A few garbage bags – One for wearing to the race start (best pre-race poncho, and you simply toss it in a trash can once at the starting line), and one or two more for collecting wet clothes after the warm-up and race
- A hat and/or sunglasses – Nonnegotiable for rainy races. It will help keep the rain out of your eyes and prevent you from squinting/wincing the entire time. If wind is also a factor, you may want to either slip ear warmers, or a headband, around the top to hold your hat in place.
- Extra warm clothes for after – Remember to pack a little more warmly than you think you’ll need… running a marathon in the rain will drop your body temp even more severely than normal.
For cold marathons
- A hat and/or earwarmers, and gloves – Really important for keeping your core body temp up. If you’re unsure you’ll want to wear them the entire race, you may want to choose ‘throwaway’ options. If it’s really cold, consider two layers of gloves. Mittens will keep you warmer, but you’ll want the tactile control of gloves for taking your water stops well.
- Hand warmer packs – For keeping you warm in the starting area and on your warm-up (if needed)
- Thick socks – To put on over top your racing socks and keep you warm in the starting area and on your warm-up.
- LAYERS – Preferably some of which are throwaway and which you can discard as you go along (should you choose)
- Extra warm clothes for post-race
Marathoning gear I love
- My all-time favorite race day short: The Oiselle Race Day Short – Sadly, these are either out of stock or have been discontinued, but I found a limited number of (small) sizes left here. If you like racing in short spandex shorts like me, you’ll love these, and they have tons of waistband pockets for all your gels.
- Oiselle Toolbelt Roga Short: Another favorite short for those who like a shorter short (but maybe not a compressive one). They have a 4″ inseam and super flattering cut that gives you plenty of room in the quads. They’re also very lightweight and dry quickly, which means you’re not carrying around a ton of stored water if you get wet.
- Lululemon Fast & Free 6″ Short: If you like a longer compressive short, you won’t find anything as buttery and comfortable as these. Big, stretchy pockets on the sides let you store lots of gear (gels, and even your phone), AND they’re slightly high-rise which makes them super-flattering for most.
- Megababe Thigh Rescue Anti-Chafe Stick: I first tried this product after seeing it everywhere on the internet. It definitely lives up to the hype. It’s super effective, leaves no residue, and is made with nontoxic ingredients (unlike Body Glide), like aloe, grapeseed oil, and pomegranate seed extract.
- GRID Foam Roller: My favorite foam roller. I have the full-size version that I use at home, as well as the shorter one (linked), which I bring with me to travel. It doesn’t take up a lot of space and does such an effective job at getting at tight muscles. Also, this brand is super sturdy and you never have to worry about the foam denting like with cheaper models.
- CEP Compression Socks: I’ve been using compression socks for years, and this is by far my favorite brand. I like a tight compression (to feel like they’re actually doing something), and these give the perfect amount – without also making your calves feel like sausages. They stand the test of time and have lasted me years and years without getting holes in them or becoming dingy-looking.
- Ursa Major Essential Face Wipes: My favorite nontoxic face wipes for post-workout. I buy the 20-pack bag and throw it in my gym bag. They come individually wrapped, so they never dry out, they smell amazing, and they truly leave you feeling clean (with no weird residue after).