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Use This Checklist to Prep for Your First Marathon

Race bib, timing chip, sunscreen...worried you'll forget something on race day? Consult this checklist the night before to make sure you're all set.

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After months of training, you’re finally ready to lace up your shoes and head to the start line. With all the excitement and nerves, you’ll want to make sure you don’t forget anything on the actual day. (Because trust us, it happens!) Whether you’re worried about remembering to charge your watch or packing your running shoes, having a marathon checklist is key to helping minimize the race week stress.

Whether it’s a hometown or destination race, packing ahead of time is crucial to ensuring that nothing slips through the cracks. After all, it’s easy to make mental notes of things you need, but when the nerves and stress and excitement starts coming on full force the week before, those mental notes are as good as gone.

Your First Marathon Race-Day Checklist

Shoes and Socks

Okay so this one might seem obvious, but we definitely know a runner or two who have left behind their favorite pair of socks while they’re packing. An easy way not to forget them on your bedroom floor is to pack your race socks inside your race shoes. And if you’re flying to your race destination, consider bringing your race shoes in your personal (under the seat) bag or at least your carry-on. That way, if there are any issues with your checked luggage, you at least have the most important piece of the equation with you.

RELATED: Racing Shoes: What You Need to Know

Sports bra and/or Top

Let’s start with the ‘fit: what are you wearing on top? Just a sports bra? A sports bra and tank top? Make sure to check the weather ahead of the race. While you might have been training through brutal hot summer temps, it may be forecasting much cooler conditions–and you’ll want to consider whether that changes your plans at all.

Shorts

Same as above. Lay out what you’ve chosen to wear, and ask yourself if that decision changes at all if the weather changes. (For example, the shorts you love might be perfect if it’s dry out, but if it’s raining you know they aren’t as comfortable. You might want to consider packing a backup just in case.) And remember, even if you bought something new and special just for race day, you’ll want to run in it at least once to ensure there’s no uncomfortable chafing or rubbing.

Watch

Are you wearing a watch while you race? You don’t have to, the racing chip–typically located on your race bib–will clock your official time for you. But if you’re planning on using one, lay it out next to your outfit–and put the charger right beside it. You wouldn’t believe the number of times runners have their watch…but can’t use it because they forgot their charger. Don’t be that runner.

RELATED: 6 of Our Favorite Running Watches

Headphones

Are you wearing headphones during your race? Then you know the drill: put them next to your race day outfit, and place their charger right next to them. To get even more prepared, create your race-day playlist ahead of time and download it. (Editor’s note: Make sure to check any rules or regulations your specific race has on wearing headphones. Some don’t allow them or discourage them due to safety concerns.)

Sunglasses & Hat

Are you planning on running with either of these? As with everything else in your race day ensemble, try to get out for at least a few miles wearing the hat and sunglasses you plan to wear during the race. While there’s significantly less risk of chafing, there’s other annoyances that you may only notice while you’re running–like the sunglasses start to wobbly around your nose as soon as you get sweaty, or the hat isn’t very breathable and makes you feel extra warm during hot runs.

Hair Tie(s)

How are you doing your hair for race day? Leaving it down, putting it in braids? Whatever the plan, make sure you have the right kinds of hair ties packed and ready. (And bring a few spares, just in case they snap or break.)

Water and/or Sports Drink

What are you drinking during your race? Are you going to go with what’s on the course, or are you bringing your own supply? Make sure you map out exactly how much you’ll need (and don’t forget to include pre-race hydrating, which is just as critical as what you do within the miles).

RELATED: The 3 Keys to Race Day Fueling

Energy Gels

Every runner crossing the 26.2-mile finish line will have had some kind of nutrition out on the course. You should have hopefully been practicing with different types of nutrition during your training to figure out how much and how often to take them. (General advice is one gel every 30-45 minutes.) You might want to bring an extra just in case: We’ve seen runners accidentally drop a gel mid-race and not be able to stop to pick it back up.

Anti-chafing lubricant (Body Glide or petroleum jelly)

You know you’re a marathoner when you get your first really bad case of chafing. It’s almost a right of passage. Even if you haven’t experienced chafing during training, it’s not a bad idea to pack some petroleum jelly or Body Glide just in case.

Lip Balm & Sunscreen

You’ll feel your pounding chest and achy legs during the race. The thing you might not notice until the morning after? The sunburn and chapped lips. Even if it’s calling for overcast conditions, you’ll want to make sure to put sunscreen on your face, chest, arms, and any other exposed body parts.

RELATED: Here’s The Real Reason You Need To Wear Sunscreen All Year

Gloves and/or Arm Warmers

Remember how earlier we talked about how you’ve been training in one weather condition but you’re likely going to be racing in a different season? Depending on how you choose to adjust (or not adjust) your race day outfit, a pair of gloves or arm warmers could come in handy if conditions are expected to drop far below what you’ve been used to running in. Veteran tip: it’s even better if these items are “throwaways”–meaning you don’t care if you decide to toss them off halfway through the race once you heat up.

Throwaway Shirt and/or Pants

Speaking of throwaway items: For those first-time marathon runners, the starting line process can come as a big surprise. Unlike your local 5K where you might be able to show up minutes before the gun goes off, most large marathon races require runners to be in the starting area or their specific corral well in advance of when they’ll be starting. (New York City Marathon, for example, buses runners over to Staten Island as early as 5am–up to six or seven hours before their starting time.) If you show up in just your racing kit, you’ll likely be uncomfortable in the early morning hours, so a lot of runners will bring a pair of cheap outer layers that they ditch before the start of the race. (Typically races will have areas where you can drop your clothes, and they’ll donate them.)

Pins or race-number belt

Most races will give you safety pins with your bib when you get it at packet pickup, but it never hurts to bring extras.

Directions to the start and pre-race instructions

Again, most of the time any information you need will be provided at packet pickup, however, it can go a long way to calming your nerves and upping your confidence if you’ve printed out any information ahead of time and read through it in advance.

With this race day packing checklist, you can feel confident knowing you’ll have everything you need on race day. Creating a packing checklist helps take some stress away from race week, knowing you have a list of everything to pack when you’re ready for it.