Wearing the right marathon gear on race day has the potential to make or break your experience. Missing some essential running accessories or not selecting the best marathon running gear can make your experience miserable – both physically and mentally.
However, the right marathon gear has just a must potential to improve your experience. Using certain accessories and gear designed specifically for running a marathon can enhance your run and actually make the race feel easier.
What gear do you need to run a marathon?
The marathon gear you need will vary slightly from one individual to another, as well as from one climate to another, but the essentials remain the same. It’s important to plan your marathon gear early in training so you have a chance to test them out before race day.
Here are some gear essentials that you’ll need for any marathon – regardless of your pace goals or climate.
Marathon Gear Checklist
- Running shoes
- Shorts or running tights
- Running underwear (OPTIONAL)
- Running top à dependent on weather
- Running bra
- Running jacket (OPTIONAL)
- Hydration system à belt, water bottle, or flask
- Chafe protection
- Nutrition & fuel belt
- Sunglasses (OPTIONAL)
- Hat (OPTIONAL)
- GPS running watch
- Recovery gear
- Throwaway clothes (OPTIONAL)
>>Download the Marathon Race Day Packing Checklist PDF for free!
How to Select Marathon Running Gear
Choosing the right running clothes and gear will greatly enhance your marathon experience. However, many runners underestimate just how much thought goes into selecting the correct marathon gear. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you navigate the process of choosing marathon running clothes and gear.
Check the weather
It’s probably not possible to find the forecasted temperature for race day early on in your training; however, looking over weather reports from previous years will provide helpful insight when selecting your marathon running clothes.
The weather at the race might vary greatly from where you live, or be significantly different on race day than it was at the beginning of training. Because of this, it’s important to have a good idea of what the weather conditions typically look like to help select your clothes and gear.
Research the course profile
Having insight about other conditions that might affect your performance on race day is also helpful when determining what marathon gear you might need. Elevation profile, wind, rain, fueling stations, and so much more will all influence the type of marathon gear you need on race day.
Practice using your marathon gear
One of the main reasons it’s important to get your marathon gear and clothes ahead of time is to test them out during training. It might be tempting to save your new clothes for race day, but doing so might result in new chafing, discomfort or improper fitting clothing while you run.
Test out your marathon running clothes and gear during at least one long run leading up to your race. Wear the exact outfit and shoes you plan to use on race day, use the same fuel and practice using all of your gear for storage, hydration, recovery and more.
Evaluate the wear of your running shoes
While you certainly don’t want to wear brand new running shoes for a marathon, you also want to make sure you’re not running a marathon in worn out shoes.
Most running shoes last about 300-500 miles, so it’s safest to make sure your marathon shoes have significantly less than 200 miles on them (less than 100 if possible). Try your shoes out for a few long runs and then set them aside to keep them fresh for the race.
The Best Marathon Running Gear
Each individual will have different preferences when it comes to marathon running clothes, however, you’ll want to make sure that you have a specific piece of marathon gear that fulfills each of these purposes on race day.
Here are some of the best marathon gear options for every temperature and condition.
Marathon Gear: 32°F or Below
Running a marathon in below freezing temperature might sound crazy to many, but for some it’s inevitable, since these temperatures are common for nearly 6 months of the year. Finding the right marathon running gear is crucial in cold weather marathons – here are some items you won’t want to miss.
Warm running socks
You’ll need socks that are more insulated than typical running socks to keep your toes warm and toasty for 26 miles in the cold.
Gortex running shoes (optional)
Though they’re certainly not necessary with the right type of socks, investing in a pair of Gortex running shoes will ensure your feet don’t get wet – even in the snowiest conditions. In addition, this material keeps the cold air from reaching your toes during the marathon.
Hand and/or toe warmers (optional)
Many runners find that using hand and toe warmers for at least a portion of their marathon helps their entire body stay warm. If you’re not wanting to keep them in for the entire race, try using some hand warmers while waiting at the start and throwing them away just before you begin.
Warm running tights are a necessary piece of marathon gear for any race where the weather is below freezing. Try some fleece tights or those that are insulated for warmth.
You’ll need a base layer in your marathon running clothes for a race that is this cold. Something lightweight with a snug fit will help keep your body heat in for optimal warmth and comfort.
Long sleeve shirt
Top that base layer off with a long sleeve running shirt to stay comfortable and warm in those freezing temperatures.
Outer layers – jacket, vest, pullover, etc.
For colder marathons, two layers probably won’t be enough. In the case that your marathon takes place when it’s significantly below freezing, you’ll want to add another layer (or two). Try a running pullover, vest or jacket to stay warm.
Gloves or mittens
Another essential piece of gear for any cold weather marathon is running gloves or mittens. There are a wide variety of options and taste varies significantly from one runner to another, but ensuring that you have at least some type of protection for your fingers is key.
Headband or hat
Another key piece of gear is a hat or headband. For marathons that take place where it’s significantly below freezing, a hat is best to keep the heat from escaping your head. When the temperature is slightly warmer, a headband might be all that’s necessary to protect your ears.
Cold weather marathons often mean that there is snow on the ground – which can be surprisingly bright, even on a cloudy day. Sunglasses help avoid having to squint throughout the race as you run through glistening snow. In addition, they protect your eyes from the wind that so often accompanies colder temperatures.
Marathon Gear: 40 – 50°F
Many spring marathons take place in locations where the temperature falls within this range. While still chilly, weather in the 40s offers a great deal more flexibility when it comes to marathon running gear. These temperatures can be deceiving, as they often feel cold while you’re standing around, but quickly feel warm once you get moving.
Running tights or capris
You’ll likely warm up once you start running, but when temperatures are still in the 40s, it’s best to stick to running tights or capris as opposed to shorts. Selecting marathon gear means you need to remember that you’ll be wearing this gear for multiple hours in a row – which means you might cool down if you start to sweat in the beginning.
It might feel a bit chilly while waiting around in the starting corrals, but once you get moving you’ll be glad you didn’t wear long sleeves. Any technical running shirt will do for these temperatures.
Throwaway top layer (optional)
Some runners find it beneficial to bring along a top layer so they don’t get too cold before the race begins. Finding cheap top layers – such as sweatshirts or pullovers – that you’re okay with discarding along the way is a great option to cater to your changing body temperature once you get moving.
Depending on the weather on race day, sunglasses might be a good option to protect your eyes from sunshine or wind.
Marathon Gear: 50 – 60°F
Most popular fall marathons in the United States occur where the temperature falls within this range on race day. Many runners find that temperatures in the 50s are ideal for racing!
It might feel a bit chilly while waiting in the starting corrals, but these temperatures start to feel warm very quickly once your body is moving.
Running t-shirt or tank top
Short layers on top are key when it comes to preventing overheating in 50 degree temperatures. Bring along a throwaway outer layer if you’re worried about being cold at the start, but 50 degree weather calls for short sleeves on top.
Many runners believe that sunglasses are a key piece of marathon gear. There are quite a few options that are specific to running to help protect your eyes without bouncing or feeling heavy after a while.
It might be hard to believe, but sunny, 50 degree conditions can quickly feel hot during a marathon. Adding a visor to your selection of marathon running gear will help keep the sun off your face to prevent overheating.
Marathon Gear: 60+°F
If conditions on race day will be warmer than 60 degrees, you’ll need to dress to prevent overheating. Here are the marathon running clothes you won’t want to forget.
Shorts are a must when the weather is above 60 degrees. Be sure to test your marathon shorts out before race day to ensure they don’t rub in strange places and cause chafing when you sweat.
Wearing a tank top instead of a t-shirt will make a big difference in your body temperature in warm weather.
Warm weather is often accompanied by sunshine, making sunglasses a necessity for many runners when it comes to marathon gear.
In warm temperatures, a visor can make a big difference when it comes to staying cool. A visor keeps the sun out of your eyes without causing your head to overheat.
Marathon Running Gear for Rain
There’s always a chance of rain on race day, regardless of the temperature. If the forecast is looking wet for your race, it will be beneficial to bring some marathon race gear designed specifically for the rain.
Running hat or visor
The simplest and easiest way to keep the rain out of your eyes during a marathon is to wear a running hat or visor. Test out a few different options during train to see which you prefer.
Waterproof running jacket
Regardless of the temperature, a waterproof running jacket is a must-have piece of marathon gear in the rain. These jackets are designed to keep water from soaking through, and come in many varieties – from thick, heavy-weight jackets for cold temperatures to lightweight jackets for warm runs.
Gortex running shoes (optional)
If the rain is looking like it’s going to be exceptionally heavy, or there’s a chance for a lot of puddles, Gortex running shoes will help keep your feet and socks dry. This material repels water to prevent the rain from soaking through your shoes into your socks.
Marathon Running Gear for Snow
Many winter and spring marathons come with the chance that there will be snow on the ground or falling during the race. Running in the snow might sound like an inconvenience, but with the right gear, it can actually be enjoyable.
Gortex running shoes
Just as they do when running in the rain, Gortex running shoes will help keep your feet from getting wet. In winter temperatures, they also help keep your feet warm and protected from the cold air.
In the unlikely scenario that the course is not plowed or shoveled, you’ll likely need some shoe traction with your marathon gear. Devices like Yaktrax will help you avoid slipping and sliding on ice and snow.
Sunglasses can be surprisingly beneficial in the winter. Even on a cloudy day, snow can be incredibly bright. Sunglasses will help you avoid squinting and keep your eyes comfortable during the marathon.
When snow is falling, it will probably end up melting on your warm body. This can result in damp and wet clothing if you don’t have the appropriate gear during a marathon. Wearing an outer layer that is waterproof will keep you dry during your race.
Neck warmer and/or scarf
Adding some sort of scarf, mask or neck warmer to your marathon running gear when it’s snowing will help keep wind and snow away from your skin.
Marathon Training Gear & Accessories
In addition to this list of marathon running gear, there are few extra accessories that might be beneficial during your training. Most of these accessories are not necessary for a successful training season, but depending on your goals, they can be incredibly beneficial.
- GPS watch
- Foam roller
- Hydration pack or water bottle
- Fuel belt
- Heart rate monitor
- Training journal
- Safety gear
- Body glide
- KT tape
Selecting the right marathon gear is so important for your 26.2 mile goal. Luckily, most training plans provide plenty of opportunities to test out gear and find tune your selections before race day.
Taking the time to research, experiment with and adjust your gear before the marathon will help set you up for success on race day.