Each time I have run a marathon, I have learned something new. Either I discovered the new information from reading a blog similar to this one, or I learned the hard way by suffering for hours during a run to learn what not to do.

If you want to train for a marathon, you know that planning begins 16-20 weeks in advance. The registration. The commitment. The training. The gear. I am searching for a marathon to run in the fall. So, of course I am starting the planning process myself.

With 5 marathons under my belt I have made my share of mistakes. I decided to compile a top 10 list to try to share some of my best tips for race day. Read it now, everything on here needs to be incorporated into your training. 

Oh, good luck!


10 Things You Need for Marathon Race Day:

  1.  Properly fitting and sufficiently broken in shoes. You want shoes that have lots of life in them, but NEVER new shoes. You don’t want it to be the last run you do in those shoes, but NOT ever the FIRST. This is not the time to discover hot spots in your shoes, or that the heel slips, or the tab rubs…Give them plenty of practice, especially on longer runs.
  2. A wicking sock. NEVER cotton. Cotton will retain moisture and will cause friction in places your feet never felt friction before. A hot spot in your shoes will give you a nasty, nasty blister.  Personally I am not a fan of wool, but wool sport socks are rising in popularity. If you aren’t sensitive to wool, you might give them a try. But train in them. Don’t try them out on race day for the first time.
  3. Compression socks. I use compression calf sleeves. That’s just my personal choice. I love my running socks. You use whichever you prefer. Due to their popularity you can now pick from a selection of fun colors and patterns. You can even choose a theme that will make your race more fun (stars and stripes near the 4th of July, St. Paddy socks, etc).
  4. Properly fitting shorts, capris or tights. Never underestimate even the smallest seam. That seam that is almost imperceptible during a short run, will be deadly during a long run. Think about waistbands, crotch seams, even where the bottom of your pants fits on your leg. If your cropped tights cut off your calf it could cause cramps around mile 22, making the last 4.2 miles the longest miles of the whole race! Too loose and you could have chafing, too tight and you could feel like you are being sawed in half, slowly. Test out your preferred pair on your longer runs to make sure you don’t have any issues.
  5. The perfect fitting jog bra. Girls who are blessed with smaller chests have less to worry about in this area. However, girls who are busty have a few issues to think about. First of all, you want the ladies to be held firmly in place. 4-5 hours of bouncing leaves them feeling bruised and sore. If the bra is too tight around the ribs, it might restrict your breathing, preventing your ribcage from expanding and allowing deep breaths. Too loose and your bra slides up and down leaving a raw spot. I liberally apply a friction control aid (like Body Glide) under the band in the front of my bra just between the ladies. This spot tends to stay wet throughout the entire run and slides up and down. If the bra is too tight the straps can dig into the shoulders creating cramps around your neck and shoulders. It really is the Goldilocks of women’s marathon running apparel. Not too tight, not too loose. Really you want it juuuusst right.
  6. Tops, like your bottoms need to be fitted properly. If your top is too loose it can cause chafing. Too tight it will cause chafing. Too short and you will spend the entire 26.2 miles pulling your shirt back down over the top of your waistband. Try different cuts, shapes and lengths. When you find one that works in your long runs, wear that one on race day.
  7. Correct amount of layering. The rule for race day is that you should be cold at the start. You will warm up even on the coldest day. Leave any jackets, sweatpants and extra layers at the start in one of the bags they provide. Avoid cotton sweatshirts, or cotton t-shirts as once those get wet they will stay wet which can make you colder in cold weather and feel heavy and weighed down in hot weather. Choose wicking fabrics (even in the cold). Try out different fabrics during your long runs and stick to the best choices for race day.
  8. Gels and shots. Plan out how many gels you need for the race. Bring your own gels or energy bars. Often races will provide energy products during the race. Unless you have trained with that particular product, bring your own. You don’t want to discover you have an intolerance to a product when you have miles ahead of you and limited port o potties until you get to the end. Figure one packet for every hour of exercise. I like to take the product every 50 minutes of exercise. That allows a buffer of 10 minutes to allow the product to begin to absorb to prevent a lapse in my system.
  9. Music. A marathon is more mental than physical. You might ask what I mean by that. Well, when the physical you goes south and you begin to struggle it is the mental you that actually forces your legs to keep moving and get to the end. Music of your choice might be the distraction you need. I actually have a collection of songs I call my angry songs. I save this list for mean and nasty hills or the last grueling miles of a marathon. Angry, bitter Alanis Morissette can always bring me home.
  10.  Sunglasses. Even in the winter, sun can be glaring and bright. I like glasses, but a hat with a brim or a visor might work for you. Make sure you consider what works best for you. 4-5 hours of sun in your eyes can give you a headache. No one needs that.

 You may have noticed a recurring theme throughout all the items. Comfort. Annoyance.  A marathon is a long race. You may find that parts of your body you rarely think about will hurt in a marathon. Little things can annoy you slightly, but 20 miles in they will annoy you tremendously.

 Whatever you plan to wear, (and you do need to plan) make sure you have tried it out on one of your longer runs. Try out your socks. Run in your shoes. Practice with your method of carrying your gels.  Test out your playlist. Once you find your sweet spot, keep things the same for race day.

 That way you can put all your energy into enjoying the journey that a marathon really is.