Wearing the Right Gear for Your Marathon Walks

Gear up from head to toe for 26.2 miles

Race Outfit for Half Marathon
Race Outfit. Wendy Bumgardner ©

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 Races

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 Buff you can use in many ways. You may want to wear gloves or mittens or carry a disposable handwarmer packet.

Tips for Hot Weather Races

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. Don't forget to wear a sweatband. Look for a hat that's very breathable and one where you can pour water over your head to do a cool down at water stops. Be sure to set out a tube of sunscreen and pack your sunglasses when you arrange your race gear the night before the race.

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

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 in your 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.

Packlist

Here's what you need to pack to wear and use from head to toe:

  • CoolMax hat with brim
  • Earband, sweatband, or Buff
  • CoolMax t-shirt with short sleeves
  • Sports bra
  • Windproof warm-up jacket (may give to the gear storage before start)
  • Cheap gloves if starting temps are below 45F
  • Spandex shorts and underwear
  • CoolMax socks
  • Marathon shoes
  • Sunscreen factor 30 SPF on all exposed areas
  • BodyGlide or Sportslick on areas prone to chafing
  • Feet well-coated with petroleum jelly or another lubricant before putting on socks
  • Waistpack with water bottle
  • Small tube of petroleum jelly, BodyGlide, or another lubricant
  • Lip balm tube
  • Energy gel—two packs
  • Blister kit
  • Plastic disposable rain poncho if there's any chance of rain
  • Race number, ID, medical card
  • Watch and/or heart monitor and/or pedometer
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