What should I bring for a marathon?

Race pack

Running events are great for getting together with like minded individuals who share a passion for distance running and pushing their physical limits. What they’re not great for is catering logistically for every individual participant, especially in larger events where more than 10,000 runners are taking part. That’s why it lies mostly with the individual runner to ensure everything they need is tucked away safely in their own pack on race day. Below is a list of items that runners bring with them for the pre race preparations, race and post race wind down.

We’ve split the items into individual packs. It always good to split items by the period it is used so you have pre race, race and post race pack. Using waterproof sealed packs such as those from brands like Ziploc are always good. You can get in any supermarket and is also useful because it keeps everything dry from your mobile phone to your post race sweat pants.

Do note that not everyone will need everything and you may tailor the items in your bag to your own individual needs. This list is based on the experience of multiple half marathon, marathon and ultra-marathon runners.

Pack 1: Pre Race

pre race items
pre race bag
Lubricant – every runner has a different preference when it comes to methods of avoiding abrasions. Some more common methods are petroleum jelly, gels, powder, stick deodorant or the type you buy at the adult store.

Medicated Ointment – always useful to get the muscles warmed up in a flash

Snack – good for longer races, small snacks will keep hunger at bay and keep your focus on your running and not on that growling belly. If breakfast is not provided, these little snacks will be the fuel you use during your run.

Registration form – If you haven’t got your race pack and number tag prior to the race, then you’re going to need this to pick it up on race day

Identification – Always good for when you need to process above mentioned race pack and number tag. Organisers will always ask for identification documents

Safety Pins – Organisers will always provide these little pins that always seem to get lost somehow between getting the number tag and putting it on, bring a few extra and if you don’t need them, you will be sure to run (pardon the pun) into someone who does.

Dry socks – As important as good shoes in my opinion, good socks are essential for a smooth race especially on longer distances, but you never know what puddles you will be stepping in from where you parked your car or got off the bus to the start line and so an extra pair in your pre race pack is always a good back up plan

Sunscreen – Regardless of where you’re running or what the weather is like, you are going to need sunscreen. Even a half marathon means at least close to 2 hours without any shade in attire designed to allow your skin as much room to breathe as possible. Take the advice, spread it around. Aim for at least SPF 30.

Wet and dry tissues – For any unseen hiccups like spillages or if the nerves get the better of you and you need to unload that one last one before the race.

Trash Bag – Perfect for anything from sitting on a wet field during pre race to keeping your whole pack waterproof

Pack 2: Race Pack

Folded cash – You will never know when you will be needing a bit of cash, whether it be for that drink you really need from that store in between water points or the cab you are hopping into when it starts to rain at the halfway point and the lightning just seems to be going for you that day.

Watch – Everyone’s preference differs here once again, many don’t even want to strap one on during a race but the range of watches these days for runners goes from the staple apple watch to complex GPS gizmos with heart rate monitors.

Your running attire – Some prefer sleeveless, other prefer sleeves, some prefer inner liners in their shorts and some not. Whatever your preference, bring one set along unless you will be travelling to the start point in the attire already

Long sleeved sweatshirt – Some runs start in the wee hours of the morning when its chilling cold while others take place during winter, whatever the case, having a pre start shirt before the race to chuck into your bag at the very last minute is a good thing to have.

long sleeved sweatshirt

Can of isotonic drink – To keep the electrolytes up during the race, down one of these before starting the race and it should keep your electrolytes up until the water point with the isotonic drinks comes along in the race

Pack 3: Post Race

post race
Tight capped water bottle with water – You will never be able to get enough water in you after a long race and this will be a godsend when you’re finished and you’ve got you bag which is no where close to a water point. Best kept in a separate water proof bag for obvious reasons

bottle for runner
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Cap or Sunglasses– Finish points are rarely indoors and by the time the race ends the sun would be well out and shining right down on you. Keep this handy to limit that oh so scrunched up look we all get when we’re exhausted, hot and sweaty

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Towel – Let’s face it , you’re going to sweat. If its hot, the moisture is going to feel like a layer of plastic around your skin. If it’s cold and windy, the moisture is going to feel like an ice pack. Keep a towel, microfiber or not, with your post race pack and it will make the prize collecting ceremony a lot more comfortable

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Spare attire: shirt, shorts and socks– You are not going to want to get into your car in a race soaked shirt and shorts and no cab nor bus driver is going to let you in looking like that. So just bring a fresh set of clothes and change up before going home.

Post race snack – If you’re a big eater post race then some good sandwiches or pre made pastas will be good. If you’re not then a simple energy bar will keep you satisfied until the next mealtime.

Slippers or flip flops – Always good to let the feet breathe after they’ve been working so hard for those long kilometres. Also, research has shown that the foot expands during runs and so getting into some slippers will be much needed relief for your tired feet.