The Right Gear to Wear on Marathon Walks

Walkers during a marathon in a park
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If you plan to walk a marathon, you should be regularly wearing any clothing, shoes, socks, gear pack, headwear, etc., during your walks that you plan to wear during the marathon. If you have an old race number, pin that on also while you practice so you will know where you want to place it on race day.

Think Sweat and Synthetics

Cotton kills—it doesn't wick the sweat and you could end up with thermal problems on such a long, strenuous event. Dress in CoolMax or other synthetics from head to toe. Know the climate you will be walking in and be prepared for five to eight hours out on the course.

Tips for Cold Weather

Shorts may work well for temperatures down to 45 F or when there's going to be rain, but tights or pants are best for colder temperatures. A long-sleeved tech shirt is a good choice, especially with sleeves loose enough to push up if you get hot. A lightweight windbreaker can prevent getting chilled in the wind.

For frigid temperatures, you may want to do a full three-layer system of a sweat-wicking shirt, insulating vest, and outer windproof jacket. Choose a hat that has ear coverings or a neck gaiter that you can use in many ways. You may want to wear gloves or mittens or carry a disposable handwarmer packet.

Tips for Hot Weather

For marathons in hot weather, dress in sweat-wicking fabrics from head to foot, including your sports bra, underwear, and socks. Choose shorts because capris or tights can become uncomfortably hot after the first few miles. Look for a hat that's very breathable and has a brim to protect your face from the sun. Wetting your hat at water stops can help to keep you cool. And don't forget to put on sunscreen and wear sunglasses.

Layering

The walk will begin in the early morning and you will want a warm-up jacket. Many veteran marathoners bring along an old shirt and then simply toss it once they have warmed up. Don't litter, but if the event has a clothing donation barrel at the first water stop, this is an option.

Costumes and Bling

Many races encourage you to dress up and have fun. If you're on a charity team, this may get even more emphasis and peer pressure. Be sure to train with the costume and gear you will wear on the marathon. You may find that the tutu is scratchy on your arms or the tiara gives you a headache. You need to know this before you are at mile 14 on race day.

Shade and Sun Protection

At an endurance event, you will want to shade your head with a hat and wear sunscreen and sunglasses. Don't forget to put sunscreen where your hair parts on the top of your head if you're wearing a visor.

Pack and Water Bottle

Well-run marathons aim to provide for most of your needs at the aid stations, but you may want to carry your essentials along. A hip pack with a water bottle, blister kit, anti-chafing stick, and a place to store or strap on extra gear can be reassuring. You'll be glad you have your water bottle along if the aid stations run out of cups and/or water or close up by the time walkers arrive.

Always practice with whatever gear you plan to wear and carry at the event.

Raingear

For short races, you can simply get wet if it's raining, but on a long event you may end up chilled if you let yourself get soaked. Experiment during training with various options for rain. Waterproof, breathable fabrics are best if rain is certain. For an intermittent shower, carrying a light plastic disposable rain poncho is a good option. Umbrellas get heavy and tiresome for long distances.

Marathon Walking Packing List

Here's a list of items you may need to pack. Some items are specific to cold weather and some are to be used in hot weather so you may not need everything on each of the lists.

For Any Weather

  • Blister kit
  • CoolMax socks
  • Lip balm tube
  • Marathon shoes
  • Moisture-wicking shorts and underwear
  • Moisture wicking underwear
  • Race number, ID, medical card
  • Small tube of petroleum jelly, BodyGlide, or another lubricant for areas prone to chafing or blisters
  • Sunscreen factor 30 SPF on all exposed areas
  • Waistpack with water bottle
  • Watch and/or heart monitor and/or pedometer

For Hot Weather

  • CoolMax hat with brim for hot days
  • CoolMax t-shirt with short sleeves

For Cold or Rainy Weather

  • Cheap gloves if starting temps are below 45F
  • Earband, neck covering, gloves when cold
  • Plastic disposable rain poncho if there's any chance of rain
  • Windproof warm-up jacket (may give to the gear storage before start)
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