First-Time Marathon Essentials

My First-Time Marathon Essentials Guide 

On January 7th 2018, I completed my first marathon. All the training, sweat and grit paid off. I’ve found that the running community is amazing, supportive and full of encouragement. Maybe that’s why so many people are joining the community (I recently joined myself).

Many people are being inspired to amp up their fitness levels and are signing up for half marathons and marathons. When I initially signed up for the 2018 Disney World Marathon, I wasn’t sure if I had all the gear needed to complete the run. I read several blogs and conducted lots of google searches. I found some decent information. However, I learned what I needed by training, running half marathons in preparation and joining the running community. I wanted to share my marathon race gear essentials:

1.) Body Chafing Stick

This will vary person to person, but I use a chafing stick prior to running as a precaution on my legs and chest area. For me, the friction of running and the fabric against your shirt can cause your nipples to chafe or worse, even bleed. Although I haven’t had extreme issues, for my first marathon I wasn’t going to take any issues. It seemed to work well.

2.) Apparel

The right, supportive running shoes, athletic shirt/shorts, and compression tights are essential to competing and performing well. If you’re unsure about what running shoes and brands to look at, do some research on Brooks, Altras, and Nikes. For shoes, part of it is personal preference. I look for a few things when selecting a shoe:

A.) Lightweight Running Shoe

Running a marathon is challenging enough, I don’t need a bulky, heavy shoe slowing me down.

B.) Highly Supportive

If it doesn’t offer support to your feet and ankles, it’s garbage.

C.) Comfort

I don’t want a shoe that bothers my feet, causes unnecessary blisters, etc.

I’ve heard great things about Brooks and Altras. Eventually I’ll check them out, but I’ve stayed consistent with my Nikes and have had success. (Note: I have now switched over to Brooks).

For the majority of races, I typically wear compression tights under my shorts. You don’t need this, but I find that it’s supportive, keeps my legs warm and flexible (I use Under Armour)

Any lightweight running shorts will work (if there’s zip pockets anywhere for your phone or additional items, that’s always a plus).

A nice compression shirt.

4.) Energy Gels

This is a big one for me. All races pass out water/Gatorade and most of the larger races will pass out additional fuel ups – bananas, gus, gels, etc. Personally, I don’t like using the gus/gels they pass out. I’ve done it multiple times and through trial and error have learned what works for me and what doesn’t work for me. Most gus and gels are thick. I don’t like eating something sticky and think when I’m running. Further, I’m not a sweet person – having Nutella flavored gels is not helpful for me.

I’ve found that the Apple flavored Go Isotonic Gel works the best. It’s between an apple sauce and water consistency, easily digestible and doesn’t make me feel sick. It’s packed with carbs, which is great fuel for long races. For the marathon, I packed 3 of these gels in my belt (see # 6 below).

5.) Phone Holder

Ideally, it’s best if you have a safe spot for your phone. I’ve used an arm band before and have also held my phone during races when I need to. However, additional zip up pockets, belts, etc. are good ideas for the phone.

6.) Belt

I used a snap on belt for my marathon. It had a back pocket (ok, it kind of looked like a fanny pack). But, I kept my gels in the pack. Depending on what you’re running with, it’s helpful to have a belt.

7.) Headphones

If you run with earbuds/headphones, make sure you have tested them on long runs. I’m still figuring out the best over-the-ear earbuds.

8.) Hydration

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. Start hydrating a couple days before the race, hydrate during the race and definitely hydrate after the race.

9.) Nuun

Instead of a standard sports drink to hydrate and push electrolytes after the race, I recommend Nuun products. They have electrolyte tablets (similar to an Airborne – just drop it in water), electrolyte + caffeine tablets, and vitamin tablets. It’s great because it’s substantially healthier than downing a few sports drinks. Each tablet only has 10 calories, 4gs of carbs and 1g of sugar. My recommendation is to take the electrolyte + caffeine tablets before or after hard runs. Besides that, I don’t take them daily since the sodium levels are high (16% dv in 1 tablet). However, the vitamin tablets only have 4% dv of sodium so that’s better for daily consumption.

Those are some of my race-day essentials to make sure you navigate your first marathon successfully. Of course, do what works for you. Test things out prior to the marathon. Don’t try new products right before the race or during the race. I like to keep my running routine as consistent and rhythmic as possible.

Let me know what you’ve found to be essential! I hope this helps and good luck with your first marathon!

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