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Even for the best athletes in the world, training for a marathon is no simple feat. In any given training block, it takes months of consistent, deliberate, and flat-out hard work just to make it to the starting line.
On September 25, I will be running my fourth 26.2-mile race at the infamous Berlin Marathon. (That’s right, I’ll be following–albeit a bit further back–legends like marathon world record holder Eluid Kipchoge, American marathon record holder Keira D’Amato.) It’s my first marathon in more than three years–working toward my ultimate goal of running all six Abbott Major Marathons–and it’s been as exciting as it has been exhausting to step back into the routine of preparing to go the distance.
Even if you’ve run a marathon before, you inevitably learn a lot of lessons over the course of a 16-week training program. Like, what socks not to wear when running in crazy-high humidity (hello, blisters!). Or what happens when you absentmindedly don’t eat and drink enough before running (hello, bonk!). There’s a lot of trial and error, all with the hope that you’re dialing in on what helps you perform at your very best. While I still feel like a relative newbie to the marathon distance, I have found a number of things that have been essential to helping me stay on track with my training. Here are the products I could not get through marathon training without this summer.
10 Must-Haves For Marathon Training
If I had to pick one single shoe that has made the biggest difference in my training, it’s this one. (And I’m in good company: Sara Hall has repeatedly stated how these shoes have been a game-changer for her training.) I’ve been running in this model since the first iteration and this latest one might be my favorite. Thanks to its bouncy, lightweight foam–Flytefoam Blast+–it makes running feel easy, and my body simply doesn’t feel as beat up as I remember it feeling in some marathon builds in the past.
When it comes to crunching numbers around running, I sit somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Technological advances like wrist-based heart rate have come a long way but still are far from perfectly accurate, so I take all metrics with a big grain of salt. That being said, getting points of feedback to consider and plot as you train is incredibly helpful–especially if you’re someone like me who doesn’t train with a coach or a team. This model gives me everything I need–plus a few that I probably don’t but I like to have anyways–all in an easy-to-use interface and app. I feel confident in the GPS info I’m getting and never have to worry about battery life (genuinely, I might charge once a week); plus I can see when my sleep has been really off, or when my resting heart rate is starting to rise (an early sign of overtraining).
It’s been a hot, sweaty, very sunny summer here in Colorado. Even when I’m getting out the door for an early-morning run, I need a pair of sunglasses by 7am. These have been the ones I’ve been grabbing more than most. Insanely lightweight thanks to the brand’s UltraCarbon technology, I sometimes forget I’m wearing them.
To be honest, I’m not really a shorts person. I’ve always preferred running in capris or leggings, but even thinking about capris in these summer temps makes me feel flustered and a little grossed out. I recently tried these from DAEHLIE Sportswear and have been solidly impressed. Developed in partnership with some of Europe’s top long-distance runners, the goal was to create the feeling of wearing nothing during long runs–and boy do they deliver. The waistband is snug but flat and doesn’t budge as you move; the super-light, quick-drying microfiber is crazy soft, and doesn’t chafe or bunch even on my longest, sweatiest runs.
I find myself pretty confused when I see people sharing photos from their long runs with just a small handheld water bottle. How do you do it? Do you have places to fill it up on your route? Do you have someone handing you new bottles along the way? Are you genuinely drinking less than 16 ounces during 16-plus miles? The out-and-back route I use for my weekly long runs is perfect aside from its lack of regular access to water fountains, so I’m on my own. Which is fine, because I have honestly never minded wearing this hydration vest. It took a few runs to adjust the straps just right so there was absolutely no bouncing or chafing, but now that I have it dialed I barely notice it’s there.
Finding intra-running fuel that works for your body (and more importantly, your stomach) is crucial to getting through a marathon. Knock on wood, but I’ve never had an issue with gels, so this training block I’ve stuck with a brand I’ve always enjoyed. Salted Watermelon Energy Gel and Sea Salt Chocolate Rocktane Energy Gel have been longtime favorites, but I’ve recently tried their newer Liquid Energy Gel and wow do I love it as a subtle way to switch things up. It’s less thick and sticky as their standard gel–I also find it to be less sweet–and goes down so easily thanks to its more water-like consistency. (For any triathletes out there, the Cola flavor tastes like flat coke, and it’s awesome.)
This summer has been hot. Like really hot. And I am not one of those fortunate few who merely glisten when they work out. I sweat–buckets. Being mindful of the electrolytes that I’m losing through that sweat has felt like a very critical piece of the equation in keeping my body operating like it should. There are a handful of electrolyte options that I like–Nuun, Liquid IV, and Skratch Labs have always been staples in my pantry–but in the peak of summer heat, I’ve been reaching for LMNT Recharge. The salty flavor may not be for everyone, and it can take some adjusting to find your personal ideal water to mix ratio (sometimes I just use half a packet), but this refreshing low-cal, no-sugar option has been clutch for rehydrating throughout the day post-run.
Speaking of electrolytes: Because I do my long runs with just water and not any kind of sports drink, I’ve been keeping a pouch of these in my running vest. I use them in between gels if and when I feel like I need a little boost, especially in the later miles when I know I’m getting more depleted. They’re like a slightly chalkier, not so sugary Sweet Tart, and their dose of sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium are said to help stave off cramps, dehydration, and heat stress.
While I’ve always practiced good nutrition habits before long runs, I have definitely been guilty of doing some of my shorter morning runs fasted in the past. I noticed a few running coaches touting graham crackers on social media recently and decided to give them a shot for pre-run fuel one morning. Let me tell you: I have been sleeping on graham crackers! Easily scalable based on the mileage you have scheduled–two sheets for shorter runs, four or five for longer runs–the biggest benefit I have found is that I can eat them even as I’m warming up and have no stomach distress. (Which, I could not say for a bagel or toast with peanut butter.) Now I never have an excuse to miss my pre-run nutrition–and honestly, after seeing how much better I feel day after day, I wouldn’t want to.
Any time you’re not running you should be recovering, right? Or at least that’s how I think about it. Wearing supportive and highly-cushioned shoes like these outside of my runs has made a big difference in helping to ease the little aches and pains that come with training for a marathon. The brand’s foam technology is fantastic at absorbing impact and their proprietary footbed noticeably reduces stress on knees, ankles, and joints.