Packing Your Marathon Kit: What to Wear and Bring with You on Race Day

Well done, you! You trained for months and clocked hundreds of KMs. You picked up your marathon race kit. 

Next stop: the starting line on race day! 

You’re probably excited and nervous and might be concerned about forgetting something. No worries, we’re here to help with this list of what to bring with you on the big day.

Ready, set, pack!

1. Your favourite race day running shoes

This one may seem obvious, but it can be easy to forget your most important item in the whirl of race day morning. Make sure you have the right shoes for your event, and if you can avoid it, don’t wear the shoes you’ve been training in for the past four months – they should be worn out by now!

RELATED: When to buy new shoes before a race.

Pack your race shoes the day before and triple-check that you have something to run in before leaving the house. 

2. Race bib, timing chip, and safety pins

Usually, your event will provide safety pins to secure your race bib to your running shirt, but double-check that you have some on hand before heading out the door. 

The bib will likely have a timing chip attached to it, registering your race time when you cross the special mats at the start and finish lines. So it's obvious that without your bib, you won’t have an official race time and may not even be able to start the race. 

Before leaving the Race Expo, make sure your bib is indeed YOURS. They usually have your name on the back, so a quick check to be sure you’re running as yourself never hurts. 

3. GPS running watch

If you’ve been training for a while, you already know that a great way to achieve your goal is pacing yourself, and your GPS running watch will help keep you on track. 

A quick glance at your wrist every so often during your marathon will tell you if you’re running too fast, too slowly, or just right. Just remember to have your watch fully charged for race day!

4. Water

We lose fluid daily by breathing and sweating, and we’ll lose more by running a marathon. 

That’s why it’s important to have quick access to water during the race to prevent dehydration and keep you going. Your race will likely have water stations along the route, but when you bring your own bottles or a hydration vest, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’ll have enough for you. Especially if you’re running on trails or an unfamiliar route. 

5. Fuel (Carbohydrates and Electrolytes)

Your body will burn energy like a furnace when you run a marathon, and it will need a steady supply of carbs and electrolytes to get you across the finish line. 

Almost all races provide runners with sports drinks and sometimes even gels on course, so it’s worth finding out what your race will have available. Then you can determine if and how much gel, gummy bears, or electrolyte tablets to bring along.

RELATED: The Science of Sweat: Running and Electrolytes

6. Pre-Race Clothes

Check the weather forecast for the morning of race day. Many marathons start early when it’s likely to be cooler outside. Don’t stand around shivering at the starting line. 

Get some throw-away clothing from your thrift shop to wear over your race clothes that you can remove and discard once the race begins. This clothing is usually donated to local shelters after the race starts. 

7. Sunglasses, Hat, or Toque (brrr!)

If you’re running in an eastward direction, you’ll be glad to have sunglasses to help you see (and protect your eyes from UVA and UVB rays), or a hat with a visor, once the sun starts to climb higher in the sky.

If you’re heading out while it’s still dark outside, leaving these items at home can feel natural, so be sure to pack them in your bag ahead of time. If your race is going to be very early in the morning, late in the fall race season, or you live in a cooler climate, you may opt for a toque to stay warm.

8. Headphones

Lots of runners listen to music or podcasts when they run. If you’re one of them, ensure your playlist or podcasts are downloaded and your headphones are in working order. 

However, do check your race’s rules first. Some marathons allow racers to wear headphones, and others don’t, usually for safety reasons.

9. Post-Race Clothes and a Towel

You’ll welcome being able to wipe off sweat and slip into dry, warm clothing after running 42.2 KMs. 

You can leave a sweatshirt, sweatpants, and a hand towel in your car, in the race area that will hold your personal items, or with a loved one who’ll be waiting for you at the finish line.

10. Cash

Having a few dollars on hand is always a good idea. You may find out there’s coffee at the starting line, and you’d like one to help warm (and wake) you up, or they’re selling race merchandise at the finish line that you would like.

Or, worst-case scenario, you suffer an injury during the race, have to bow out, and take a taxi home. While nobody likes taking shoe or bra cash (store it in a ziplock bag to keep sweat away), they will understand if you’re in a pinch.

11. Basic First-Aid Kit

While your race will likely have a first aid station, carrying your own basic first-aid kit (think antiseptic wipes, adhesive bandages, petroleum jelly, and antibacterial gel) can help you tend to any minor chafing, scrapes, or blisters yourself, so you can quickly continue the race. 

Again, trail marathons can get especially gnarly, so it helps to have a quick fix in your pack if you’re wearing one. 

When to Pack Your Marathon Race Day Essentials

Rest easy knowing you’ll have all your race-day essentials by using this marathon checklist.

We recommend packing your running gear bag the night before your marathon, so you can avoid a frenzy the next morning. You’ll be able to spend that time instead of getting enough sleep, having a good breakfast, and setting your mind on smashing your race!