T-minus one week until I run my first marathon and I've learned a few things along the way. The biggest thing I've learned is that it takes a lot to run a marathon... It takes a lot to even train for a marathon: mentally, physically, and yes, even financially. I'm not sure how much I've spent these past 20 weeks of training (and I'm not sure I want to know at this point) but I know it's been a lot.
But I gotta tell you, figuring out what you like and don't like for race day was probably the best part of training. If there was one thing I learned when I was reading about first time marathoner mistakes, it was to never try anything new on race day. So, check out my list of tested gear that I'll be bringing or wearing on race day.
Cliff Energy Gels
If you're planning on running for more than an hour, it's best to bring some sort of nutrition so that you don't hit what runners refer to as "the wall." Your body is designed to keep a store of about 2000 calories at a given time. You burn about 100 calories every mile run (give or take a few based on weight, speed, elevation, etc.) so by the time you reach mile 20, if you haven't been replacing those calories, you'll be fresh out. There are a ton of different products runners use to refuel. Most gels have around 100 calories and it is recommended you consume 100-200 every hour. Cliff chocolate and vanilla are my favorite gels (they taste like frosting) and when you peel off the top, it has a little extra arm so that it stays attached and you don't have to litter. I start fueling with one of these bad boys about 45 minutes into a run, and then every 30-40 minutes after that, I'll do another one.
Cliff Energy Bloks
I also usually take a sleeve of the Cliff Energy Bloks. These taste sort of like a fruit snack. I usually get the ones with caffeine and will only pop one in between gels if I'm feeling like I need a little extra boost. I'm a big fan of the blue raspberry. They come in packs of 6 and there's about 100 calories in every 3. They also contain electrolytes like sodium and potassium which your body will lose the further you run.
Nathan Water Bottle
I'm obsessed with my Nathan water bottle. It holds about 10 oz of liquid, which wasn't enough for a run over 14 miles (I usually used a water belt in addition to this water bottle for those long ones) but with all of the water stations along the course, it will be perfect for race day when I need some extra fluid or when I need to wash down a block or a gel. The strap makes it comfortable to wear on my hand and I can cram a bunch of nutrition gels and blocks into it. Plus the cap makes it super simple to sip while running. It's my favorite.
You figure out pretty quick in your training what parts of your body chafe so much they rub you raw. I think I have scars on my chest where my sports bra rubs up against my skin. Body Glide is super cheap and works great to prevent chafing. You can also just use vaseline.
A Nice Pair of Broken in Shoes and Socks
I bought new shoes about 10 weeks into my training so they got a nice 10 weeks of breaking them in. I also highly recommend going to a running store to get your feet fitted. Running specific stores usually have a knowledgeable staff that will help make sure you get the perfect shoe that fits your foot. The person who helped me even made me run around outside a bit before I bought them so I could make sure I liked how they felt on my foot. You'll also want to get a nice pair of running specific socks. They're not cheap (mine were like $15 for one pair...) but they're engineered to support your feet in all the right places. I get the ones with the little lip too so they don't slide down into my shoes.
Throw Away Cold Gear
Since The Cleveland Marathon is going to start at 7 AM and Cleveland weather is super unpredictable, I'm planning on bringing a long sleeve shirt that I can throw away once I get running. I stopped at TJ Maxx and picked up a white, moisture wicking thermal long sleeve running top for $5. I was tempted to keep it just because it's such a score but I plan to ditch it a few miles in and run in my tank top so I don't get over heated. You can also try a GoodWill for a sweatshirt or other cold gear you can throw away.
A Great Supportive Sports Bra
I've been a runner for quite some time now so I have a nice collection of sports bras. But I have found that some work better for long runs than others. This royal blue one has been my favorite. It even got me through a 22 mile run with no problems so I'm confident it'll be great for 26.2.
Easy to Spot Clothing...
...because let's face it, everyone will be looking for you come race day! I'll be in a hot pink Under Armor cap, matching hot pink dry fit Under Armor tank, and my favorite pair of patterned tights from Victoria's Secret Sport. Make sure the clothing you'll be wearing is moisture wicking material to repel the sweat and that you've tried it out in other runs. I once wore a pair of leggings for the first time during a race and spent the whole race pulling them up because they kept falling down.
Post Marathon Gear
Don't forget your gear for after the race! I'll be bringing a nice big bottle of Gatorade to replenish my electrolytes, a change of dry clothes, some deodorant, and comfy post race shoes. Oh and money for the post race meal, which I plan to be fit for a king.