What to Wear for Marathon Race Day

When you are running a marathon it can be easy to want to dress to impress with your newest pair of running shoes and that flashy new sports top.

However, have you ever heard of the phrase “nothing new on race day”? This phrase is not just a throwaway saying, but something that you should take note of and ensure you abide by. If you have ever made the mistake of running in shoes that are fresh out of the box then you will know exactly what we mean - imagine that feeling for a full marathon!

That is some worst nightmare material, right? The thing is though, even the most elite runners have made this mistake before, and certainly beginners around the globe do this frequently. That is why we thought it would be a great idea to dedicate this article to telling you all about what to wear for marathon race day. 

It can be a really daunting experience when you are running a marathon, whether it is your first marathon ever, or even if it is your third of the year.

Add in the fact that what you wear directly influences your comfort levels as you run, your energy, and even your actual run time and you can see how daunting even the task of finding an outfit can be!

After all, you are going to be running for a total of 26.2 miles! Keep on reading to find out exactly what we recommend wearing for your marathon. 

Train in your chosen outfit 

Plan, plan, and plan some more. The secret to having a good race day outfit is to plan what you are wearing well in advance and do some trial runs (literally!) in that outfit.

Of course, many factors will influence what you choose to wear on your race day such as the weather on the day, the climate, and perhaps even the terrain.

However, this does not mean you cannot plan for all eventualities. It is a good idea to have the main components of an outfit that you will wear regardless of the weather, and then to plan in some additional, suitable extras that you may want to wear on the day depending on the weather. 

It is a great idea to start planning these outfits as soon as possible. This will give you the time you will need to adequately experiment with different garments to see what is most comfortable for you.

We recommend doing a number of runs in each garment to properly assess your comfort. The reason for this is that a pair of shorts may feel fine for the first 30 minutes of a run, but can quickly start to chafe you after you have been wearing them for several hours over a week.

This gives you the chance to really get to know your needs when running, as well as allowing you the proper time needed to ensure the clothes will be comfortable. As soon as you have these down you can stick with it, and then ensure you practice in that exact outfit at least once a week. 

Once you have chosen the core outfit components for your run that you will be wearing whatever the weather, it is a good idea to then practice with some of the additional extras that we discussed a little earlier in the article that you may want to add depending on the weather on the day.

It is important that you allow yourself time to practice running with these, too. Even though you may not end up wearing them, in the event that you need them you will want to ensure that you have done at least a few practices with them and know that they are comfortable.

We will be discussing these additional weather-dependent extras a little later in the article so stay tuned if you want to learn about those! 

Marathon Race Day: Dress Rehearsal 

As well as training in your chosen outfit and practicing wearing your additional gear, it may be a good idea to factor in some time during your training to have a full ‘dress rehearsal’ of marathon race day.

By this, we mean that you should try your best to emulate the conditions of the run on a number of different occasions to see how you can expect your actual run to go.

When you are doing this practice dress rehearsal, it is a good idea to incorporate all factors that you will be experiencing on the day. This means that if you plan to have hydration breaks during your run you should factor those in, especially if you plan to drink from a water cup as you are running (this in itself is something that needs to be mastered, and you should work out early on whether you can drink and run, or if you would need to walk whilst you are drinking).

 If you think that you may be cold starting off on your marathon but will get warm during it, you could practice tossing your additional clothes as you run. If you will be running your marathon in a colder or hotter climate than you are training, it may be a good idea to start your runs at different times of the day so you can experience colder or warmer temperatures - generally speaking the earlier in the day (think early hours of the morning) the cooler the temperatures and the closer to midday and early afternoon, the warmer the temperatures. 

You should also plan well in advance what sort of foods you will be eating in the build up to your marathon race day. The seasoned runners among us will know all too well the importance of marathon race day nutrition levels - even being a little bit off your nutrition plan can cause havoc for our energy and comfort levels.

This will, of course, be very particular to you, but whatever your personal nutrition plan and needs are, be sure to practice your marathon with the exact amount of nutrition and hydration in all of your dress rehearsals. This will give you enough time to adjust and make any necessary changes for the big day.  

Race Day Clothing Essentials for All Weather 

There are some items of clothing and accessories that are suitable for all types of weather when you are running your marathon race.

These garments should make up your core outfit for the day and will remain in use whatever the weather.

In this section of the article, we will be exploring some of these garments with you and letting you know our top choices for each of them. 

A sports bra or anti-chafing garment for nipples 

Having a great sports bra that supports your breasts is so important when you are running. This is especially important if you have particularly big breasts that could possibly put a strain on your back.

Choose a sports bra that is high impact, breathable, and designed with runners in mind. Our favorite is this bra by Enell as it is very supportive, comfortable, and keeps the breasts bounce-free. 

If breast discomfort is not really an issue for you, it may still be worth trying out some nipple chafing garments to stop that painful, common problem.

It is more common than you think, amongst both men and women, and can easily be solved. Try out these nipple covers by NipEaze to see if that improves the issue for you. 

Your most comfortable running outfit 

What is comfortable to one person may not be comfortable to another, and so your marathon race day outfit will differ depending on who you are. For this reason, it is hard to advise exactly what to wear.

Commonly people will wear shorts and loose-fitting vests or running shirts. However, some people may feel more comfortable in tighter sports garments.

The main thing to ensure is that you are comfortable, that the clothes are breathable to allow sweat to evaporate, and that they do not cause chafing, dig into you, and fit well. 

Sunglasses 

Running for a full marathon can mean that the sun changes a lot from the time you set off to the time you finish. If you begin your marathon very early in the morning, then you may be running as the sun is coming up.

This means conditions will be very bright and your eyesight can be affected. This has a knock-on effect for your whole run and it can leave you disorientated. Even on a cloudy day the sun can still shine through and be quite strong.

For this reason, we think that sunglasses are essential. However, this is not the time to break out those Ray Bans! Choose a pair that has ventilation features so that they will not get fogged up by your breathing and sweating. We like this pair by Native because of their protective anti-fog lenses. 

Breathable, waterproof running shoes 

Choose running shoes that will ensure that your feet are comfortable whatever the weather. They should be waterproof to ensure the rain doesn’t dampen your feet (and your spirits), as well as being breathable to let sweat out to evaporate.

Ensure they are properly broken in and you have had many practice runs in them already. Never wear a pair straight out of the box for a marathon!

Ideally, they will be a good-quality, trusted pair that you know will be durable and will not cause issues such as blisters on the day. If you do need a new pair, then you cannot go far wrong with a decent pair of road running shoes.

Some popular models are the Escalante 2 by Altra, the Under Armor Charged Assert, and the Asics Gel Venture to name just a few. Remember to break them in properly first though, buying them a few months in advance to ensure they are comfortable for the big day. 

Non-chafing underwear 

There is nothing worse than getting everything right, only to find that your underwear has let you down! Finding the right underwear for running, especially for a marathon, is so important. This is to ensure that it will not chafe you.

Of course, underwear is a personal choice, and whilst there are a few popular brands, ultimately what you find comfortable is what you should go with.

Ensure they are breathable so that your sweat can just evaporate right off you and that they fit you well so that they will not rub or dig into you. These boxer shorts by Adidas are a popular choice, as are these seamless briefs by Balanced Tech

Warm Weather Race Day Clothing Checklist

Marathons in warmer temperatures require even more consideration when it comes to clothing and outfit planning.

This is because there may be some of those additional garments that we talked about earlier in the article that need to be considered. 

These additional garments will make you a little more comfortable in these hotter temperatures and should be considered very important if you know the climate will be hotter than you are used to. 

A sun hat 

A sun hat is a really important consideration to make if you are going to be running somewhere where the sun is strong. This will reduce your risk of sunburn, heatstroke and will keep you and your skin protected.

Of course, running with a hat seems like a lot of pressure, after all, you may understandably worry that it will be distracting. However, there are lots of options out there for running hats. We like the Running Sun Hat by Outdoor Research as it is lightweight, protective, and easy to put on. 

Anti blister socks 

Provided your shoes are adequately broken in and fit properly, blisters are not usually that much of an issue if you are an experienced runner.

However, warmer temperatures make for hotter legs and feet. This, in turn, makes for more sweat which can have a direct impact on friction levels within your shoes.

Wearing anti-blister socks can help to counter this and ensure your feet stay protected even in hot weather. This pair by Balega is a popular choice, and they even feature moisture-wicking material so that the sweat does not cling to them. 

Moisture-wicking clothes 

As with moisture-wicking socks, moisture-wicking clothes are also important. In fact, we would argue that they are worth considering for all temperatures because you will still sweat even on a cool day.

However, warmer weather indeed means more sweating, and so if you are running in a warm climate then moisture-wicking clothes are not just preferable but they are essential.

There are countless brands and types of clothes that can provide you with this feature, and so what you choose is totally down to your personal preferences. However, we wanted to let you know some of our favorite garments.

We like these grey, men’s shorts by Baleaf and this pair of shorts for women by Under Armor.  

Cold Weather and Rainy Race Day Clothing Checklist

Cold weather means different things to different people and like the warm weather we discussed above, it will vary from person to person depending on the climate that they are most used to.

Someone in California, for example, may find 50-degree temperatures very cool, whereas, for someone in Alaska, 50-degree temperatures are a warm luxury.

However you define cold, there are some additional garments that you can incorporate into your running outfit to ensure that you are as comfortable as possible. 

The weather is unpredictable, and whilst you may start the race with a relatively warm temperature, it is not unlikely that this may change part way through the race.

This is especially true of Fall marathons. You will need to ensure that you have rainy-day and cold temperature gear ready for any eventuality. 

A hat or earmuffs 

Cooler weather can mean a cold head or ears. One way to combat this is by wearing ear muffs (also known as ear warmers) or a hat such as a warm beanie. What you choose is your choice.

Many people find a hat too bulky and uncomfortable, especially since most warm beanies are made from wool or a knitted material. However, ear warmers will only keep your ears warm compared to a hat that keeps your whole head warm.

There are plenty of hats to choose from that are designed for running with a moisture-wicking material.

One of our favorites is this one by French Fitness Revolution. It is thermal retaining to keep you warm but wicks moisture away so you are not left sweating. 

Tight fit, long-sleeved clothes 

This may not be everyone’s preference, but some people prefer to wear tighter clothes in colder weather. This is because it provides your skin with more protection from the cold, especially in windy conditions.

You may want to consider full-sized running pants or long-sleeved running shirts that cling to the skin. Ensure they are breathable and moisture-wicking if you choose this type.

Alternatively, you can stick with your normal tank and shorts outfit, but invest in ones that stick tighter to your skin for the cold weather.

You may even want to consider clothes lined with fleece in extremely cold conditions such as in wintertime. We like these by TSLA for women and men, the Baleaf fleece-lined pants. 

Gloves 

If your hands are like blocks of ice when it is cold then it is definitely worth investing in a good pair of gloves or mittens for your running training.

Of course, there may be gloves given out at the beginning of your marathon if it is a particularly cold day, but it is always good to practice wearing them when running first, just ensure that you will be comfortable with them on. 

Again, there is no real right or wrong choice here. The best option for you would be to choose gloves that will keep you warm but still not be so warm that you cannot bear them. Moisture-wicking gloves are a good choice, perhaps a pair that is fleece-lined or thermal to ensure they stay warm.

Another thing to consider is the fact that you may not want or need the gloves for the whole duration of the marathon. In which case the last thing you want is to be lugging around a spare pair of gloves. Instead, you will want to toss them to the side or to a marathon official.

In this instance, it is likely that you will not want to be throwing away an expensive pair of gloves, so it may be best to choose a cheap but comfortable pair for the purpose of your marathon. We like these by Simari as they are simple, get the job done, and are relatively inexpensive. 

Thick socks 

Feet sweat a lot when running, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get cold. Take it from us, there is nothing more distracting than cold toes when you are running a marathon!

The trick is choosing socks that will still be comfortable and breathable whilst still providing some thermal comfort. That’s where the Smartwool PhD socks come in.

They are made with Merino wool and have warm insulation to keep your toes warm, whilst still being moisture-wicking and breathable to let out sweat. 

Final verdict 

We are sure you can see by now the importance of getting your marathon race day wear right.

Provided you follow our advice and allow yourself plenty of time to decide what is most comfortable for you, along with many dress rehearsals, you will be able to focus on enjoying yourself on the day and the run itself, rather than your outfit choices. 

Remember, if you think you may need to toss anything such as gloves or a hat then you should choose as cheap garments as possible whilst still ensuring they are good quality.

Consider the climate in which you will be running your marathon carefully, and plan your training accordingly. Above all, enjoy yourself. Thanks for reading, folks! Happy running! 

Suzie
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