What to Pack for a Marathon

Dear Susan, I’m about to do my first marathon and it’s time to pack for my trip! My question is, what do I pack for the race? What should I bring? What should I carry with me during the race and what do I pack in my race gear check bag? As you can probably tell, I’m overwhelmed! I’d appreciate any advice! – Lynn

Dear Lynn,

This is a very important question.

When packing for the marathon, it’s completely appropriate to over pack! You really do want everything with you that you might possibly need. Break your packing into three parts: pre-race, race day, and post-race. Lay everything out and try it on. Going through the motions will help you remember everything you might need.

Here are a few packing tips for you:

Tip #1 Pack everything – It is completely appropriate to pack any and everything. This means clothing for all types of weather – rain, cold, heat, wind. Don’t forget a running hat, gloves, or sunglasses too. Dress for comfort, not fashion. You will probably arrive early to the race and then wait until the start, so dress warm for the early morning chill and the wait time. Wear running clothes you know are comfortable and will not rub or chafe you. Layers are best so you can toss off clothing as you warm up. Just remember to layer in proper order so you can strip down relatively easily. You can tie shirts around your waist or toss them aside. Most races collect clothing left behind at races and donate it to shelters, so it goes to a good cause. Consider putting your name on the front of your shirt in large letters too so spectators can cheer for you. Hearing someone call out your name, even a total stranger, can give you a boost. It’s much better to hear “Looking good, Lynn!” than the generic “you’re almost there!”

TIP #2 If you’re flying, pack a carry on – Pack the running gear you think you will wear on race day in a separate bag that carry on to the plane. Keep that bag with you at all times. Pack all the clothing and items you think you will use race day like, race day clothing, running shoes, orthotics, socks, race information, contact lenses or glasses, sunglasses, nutrition, medications, body lubricant, wet wipes, etc. In other words, do not check anything you plan to wear or need on race day. Make certain this bag arrives with you. Things to consider carrying with you during the race are: your race nutrition, electrolytes, phone, car/hotel key, money, medications, wet wipes, and a sample size of body lube, and anything else you typically use on your runs.

TIP #3 Wear compression socks – When traveling, whether flying or driving, wear compression socks, preferably the full foot ones. Compression socks assist with the venous return of blood so they help prevent blood from pooling in your lower legs when sitting for long periods of time. Compression socks can help you avoid “dead legs” on race day. Wearing them while walking around the expo is also a good idea too.

TIP #4 Nothing new – By all means, shop the expo, it’s great to see all the newest, latest, and greatest gear, products, and nutrition but do not wear or use anything new on race day. Always try out anything new on a training run first before using it in a race. Also, if you have a sensitive stomach, avoid sampling the food items at the expo the day before the race too. You don’t want to risk an upset stomach on race morning. On race day, it’s “Nothing New, Only Tried and True!”

TIP#5 Gear check bag – Pack your race gear check bag with items you need post-race to hold you until you can make it back to your hotel or car. This includes a complete change of clothing, a towel, some wet wipes for a quick clean up, and some comfortable shoes. It’s common to feel chilled after the race, so include an extra shirt or jacket. Remember you may be walking quite a distance back to your hotel or car, or using public transportation, so plan your post-race wardrobe accordingly so you are warm and comfortable during this time. Items of value, like your phone, keys, or medication are best carried with you during the race because they may fall out of the gear check bags.

I hope you enjoy your race! All the best to you!

Susan S. Paul, MS


Complete Guide to Running

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