One of the remarkable things about running is months of training can culminate in a day of glory or one that goes sideways for no particular reason. And of course, we don’t get to pick the weather or the conditions, so having the right marathon gear can help to mitigate some of those potential issues.
The combination of sweat, additional friction and going for longer than you have before means you have to PLAN AHEAD and know which gear really works and what’s truly most important.
So let’s dive in to what I’ve learned over the last two decades of running marathons!
What to Consider When Picking Marathon Gear?
First things first, let’s consider what the most important thing is when picking a marathon gear.
The thing that influences all your choices is the weather conditions when you’re running a marathon.
Here’s what you need to think of in terms of weather:
1. What Will the Temperature Range Be Like On Marathon Day?
First of all, you’ll need to know the general weather conditions of the race you plan to run. Is the weather cold or hot? Figure out the general temperature ranges to expect to start selecting your gear accordingly.
We know that running in hot humid conditions is going to lead to a slow down in pace, but your gear is also going to change! We’re going to talk more specifics below, just a reminder that all the little details add up.
2. Are There Any Other Weather Conditions That Will Affect Me During the Race?
Next, consider other weather and environmental conditions that can affect you. Things to take into account include level of humidity, whether or not it’ll rain, wind chill, blowing dust or sand, snow, etc.
All these elements can and will affect what you should wear on that day.
My guide today will help you figure out exactly that, but it’s important to keep this in mind so as not to miss out on any necessary marathon gear for your race.
3. Don’t Forget to Check the Weather Forecast
As if I need to tell you this… runners are notorious for checking the potential race day weather every hour in the week leading up. But just in case, a reminder!!!
You might have done your initial research, but make sure you check the weather forecast for the race as it comes closer to adjust your gear accordingly.
This is especially true nowadays with changing weather patterns across the country. If it’s going to rain or there is any other unexpected weather condition, make sure to grab those items for race day.
So now that we’ve got the foundation down, let’s start considering what the marathon essentials are for all weather conditions:
Marathon Gear Checklist: For All Weather Conditions
For starters, I created a printable marathon checklist to help ensure you forget nothing! Now let’s move on to the initial set of do not forget items and work from there to the expected stuff with some tips.
✅ Running Shoes
Of course, it all starts from the feet. Having a pair of the right marathon running shoes is, by far, the most important part of your marathon gear checklist.
If you’ve been training for your marathon, then you’ve probably know what your favorite marathon running shoes are. But if you’re just getting started, it can feel overwhelming to figure out which shoes are right for you.
I recommend reading my complete guide to types of running shoes to figure out which one will suit you the best, and then checking out my post on the 7 best marathon shoes I recommend according to a running coach.
And if you already have your shoes all lined up, then learn more about how to rotate shoes and why it’s important.
✅ Quality Running Socks
Listen any GOOD running sock will work, but I recommend this particular brand because they’re thin and your feet will swell which can lead to blisters. Additionally, they dry fast and fight odor, so that’s a win.
If you just aren’t sure, the shake out run the day before the marathon is a great last chance to make sure things feel ok and see what the temps feel like.
✅ Anti-chafe stick
I personally like this brand above others, it just glides on soooo much easier and works.
The key is to lube EVERYWHERE. In between your toes, under your arms, places you never considered before because something happens on race day and everywhere can chafe.
✅ Running Sunglasses
You waste energy by squinting in to the sun, which means your brain starts to fatigue and we’re doing everything we can to avoid that, so for a sunny race bring them!
And remember you might start in the dark, but the sun rises fairly early in most races.
Here are my tried and tested best running sunglasses to avoid fog and that stay in place.
✅ Running Sunscreen
The general rule of thumb is that if you’re heading outside, then you need to apply some sunscreen.
And this is because even if its cloudy outside, it doesn’t stop harmful UVA and UVB rays from penetrating your skin. The last thing you want is to be sunburnt on race day!
Even if you feel cooler on a cloudy day, your skin will still absorb the majority of UVA and UVB rays.
Check out my picks for the best sunscreen for runners to find the one that’s right for you.
✅ Running Hat
If you’ll be dealing with rain then a hat helps to keep some of it from hitting you in the face and can make the day more comfortable! Meanwhile on a hot day it can protect your face and on a cold day it’s that final piece of warmth.
Bonus in all situations for controlling crazy baby hairs.
Checkout my favorite running hats to see what’s best for different temps.
✅ Running Belt
Many of the major marathons now ban hydration packs, so if you’re looking for ideas to carry your nutrition checkout these great running belts.
✅ GPS Running Watch (Optional)
Honestly, some runners prefer to leave it at home on race day to really focus on how they feel. I like checking it occasionally to make sure I’m not going out too fast at the start!
Let’s move on to some of the bigger gear!
What to Wear for a Marathon (By Temperature Ranges)
Now that we know what the essentials are when running, let’s figure out how to customize your what to wear running list for a marathon (or even a regular run) by looking at what other gear you’ll need according to the temperature and weather conditions.
As I mentioned above, temperature is the biggest factor in selecting your race day outfit!
It’s CRUCIAL to remember that how you feel at the start line (i.e. shivering) is not how you’ll feel when you start running and not how you’ll feel after a few hours when the sun is up and temperatures are rising.
The general rule of thumb is you will feel 20 degrees warmer than the air temperature as you start running.
And if you know it’s going to be a soggy COLD day, then I highly recommend one of these rain running jackets. Truly more breathable than past options which means you won’t feel so cold.
How to Come Up with Your Personal What to Wear Running Checklist
When trying to come up with your personal checklist for what to wear when running, combine all the essentials from the ‘All Weather Conditions’ checklist above, and then look for the other list according to temperature ranges below.
So, if say the weather is 40-50 degrees outside, your marathon gear checklist will have everything in the list above (All Weather Conditions) and the one below for the 40-50 degree range.
And do check out bonus items for handling the start line!
1. What to Wear for a Marathon in 40-50 Degree Weather
This range is actually the ideal for a marathon PR, so embrace that slight chill at the start, it means your core body temp won’t rise as fast and your body won’t need to work harder to cool you down.
Short Sleeves T-Shirt or a Tank Top
Look for moisture-wicking material when picking a top. If wearing a tank top, make sure to apply the anti-chafe along your arms and sunscreen!
Shorts or Capris
Capris eliminate the possible issue of shorts riding up and for many taking away that one potential snafu is the best possible reason to wear them over shorts. (Check out my favorite running shorts with pockets for all your fuel)
Running Underwear (optional)
This is an ongoing debate so I’ll just say, again I’m a fan of less areas for potential chafing or sweat collection, but have now worn these in my last couple marathons. I HIGHLY recommend dry fit underwear if you aren’t going commando.
Ladies I CANNOT stress enough that you want to try and find seamless running sports bras when possible. If you have one that provides a lot of support test it out on long runs and again apply that anti-chafe like butter.
Honestly, that’s it!
Don’t wear too much gear or any cotton gear.
I’ve made the mistake of running in more clothing (and my first marathon was in a cotton shirt!) and the result is that the layers get saturated with sweat which then gives you a chill instead of keeping you dry.
What to Wear Running with 40-50 Degrees Temperature and Rain
If it’s 40-50 degrees outside but it’s raining as well, you’ll need a few other essentials when running:
- A running hat will help keep the water off your face, which helps with stress levels
- A waterproof running jacket will help to keep you a bit warmer if it’s cool or just less soggy
- Stick with the shorts and short sleeves. While they might feel chilly in cooler temps, longer gear that’s soaking wet will just make you colder and add weight to your run
2. What to Wear for a Marathon in 60 Degree Weather
Now we’re starting to trend in to the the tougher races because if it’s 60 at the start, you’ll be fairly warm by the end.
A hot weather marathon requires some pre-game planning about how to maximize your gear.
The main gear of shorts and short sleeves remain the same, but you might add a few things to help keep your cool.
You want a running hat that releases heat from your head. Keeping your face shaded could help, but also throw a wet hat in the freezer overnight and let it thaw on your head during the race!
Same idea as freezing the hat, only this you’ll keep around your neck. If it’s possible to have one of your spectating friends pass it to you at the mid-way point, what a treat!!
Once the temps start to rise, I often feel we need to take charge of our own hydration and not rely just on the aid stations. It’s much better for your stomach if you can sip every mile, rather than guzzle a bunch every 3 miles. This will prevent runner’s trots and other issues.
3. What to Wear for a Marathon in 32 Degree Weather (or colder)?
As noted, your body temperature will rise throughout the run, but because you’re working hard you may find that your extremities don’t warm up.
A cold weather marathon means a few extra pieces of gear will make you more comfortable and ensure you don’t waste energy trying to stay warm.
It’s not uncommon to see elites in tiny outfits and gloves the entire race. This is because your body is focusing all heat on your core first.
Checkout my list of running gloves for different temps >>
Ear band warmer
You may want to start the race in a dry fit beanie to keep in heat, but be aware it’s a very good possibility mid way through you’ll want to ditch it and now will have sweaty hair that could make you feel colder.
An ear band that covers your ears might be a better option or even this Trailheads Fleece hat that covers your ears.
Long sleeve shirt and possibly a short sleeve under – again you don’t want to over dress and get too sweaty
So subjective, many of you will still be great in shorts… me I’m pretty damn happy in my thinner fleece lined tights at this point.
I also LOVE a running legging with phone pocket because that means I’m not holding it.
Base Layer (optional)
If the marathon temps are going to be in the teens or below then it’s time to call in a base layer.
This is thin wicking layer that’s designed to keep you warm by pulling sweat away from the skin and can be worn under your fleece layer. Usually made of wool it truly will keep you warm and be very light.
You might be able to get by with just a base layer and an outer layer, depending on how cold it gets and your personal tolerance.
However, there will be those marathon race days when you need that extra layer of protection to keep you warm and insulated.
But be careful not to overdo it; as I mentioned earlier, after about 20 minutes of running, you may feel 20 degrees warmer due to the heat you’re generating.
Therefore, this layer is mainly for days when you need a little extra.
Outer layers are great and really useful. You can determine which choice is best for you based on the weather.
They are just what you need on windy days or when precipitation will reintroduce all the moisture you’ve been battling with your other layers. Truly a wind breaker running jacket can make such a difference! They are often very light weight to not trap heat, but also keep you warmer when those winds are whipping.
They prevent heat from escaping from your core, keeping it warm. In this manner, your body won’t have to use as much energy to heat up, giving you more energy to run during the race.
Vest or arm warmers (optional)
These are two layers you can start with and plan to hand off to a spectator around mile 5-7 if you decide you’re actually warming up and will be ok.
They work for Shalane Flannagan…just sayin’.
Marathon Clothing Features to Look For
There are a wide variety of running clothes available, so it’s important to know what features you should look for when shopping for marathon clothing gear.
I’ve listed here some of the top features you’ll come across that you might find helpful:
Moisture Wicking: Moisture-wicking fabrics move sweat away from your skin so that you stay dry and don’t get chafing while you run.
Quick drying: As you work up a sweat, fabrics that dry quickly, like polyester and nylon, keep you comfortable. You can stay warm and dry even if you get caught in a little rain shower because they dry out quickly.
Fabric types: Polyester, merino wool, and nylon are some of the most popular technical fabric options available. As noted above, polyester and nylon are both moisture-wicking and quick-drying, making them great for pants, shorts, lightweight jackets, and t-shirts. Merino wool is also moisture-wicking and quick-drying, and is a great temperature regulator. It’ll keep you cool on warm days and warm on cool days.
Chafe-free seams: Always check the seams to make sure they are flat or welded and not in the way of your stride or running motion.
Insulated: Lightly insulated designs add a little bit of insulation without adding too much bulk.
Compression: Some running shorts, tights, shirts, and socks feature compression for a particularly snug fit.
Mesh vents: Cooling mesh panels are added to many tops to reduce overheating in key places including the back, underarms, and sides.
Inner liner: Some running shorts contain an inside lining that functions as underwear. The liner is designed to reduce the risk of chafing by absorbing excess moisture and drying quickly.
Thumbholes: Many long-sleeved tops for cool weather have thumbholes that cover and warm your hands more, so you might not even need gloves. As you run, they also help keep your sleeves in place. Some styles have mittens built right into the sleeves.
Sun protection: Products having a UPF rating have been shown to block a certain percentage of harmful UVA and UVB rays from the sun. The higher the number, the greater the level of protection.
Packable: In order to save space, some running jackets and vests can be folded up and stored inside their own pockets.
Frequently Asked Questions for What to Wear for a Marathon
Many of you have messaged me on Instagram or commented on my posts there asking these questions. So here are all the answers in one place.
If you have any other questions regarding what you wear for a marathon, make sure to comment down below with your questions and I’ll reply there and also add it to the list here.
Can You Run a Marathon Shirtless?
I’ve seen it plenty of times, so I think in the majority of cases the answer is yes. A lot of male runners prefer this to prevent nipple chafing and more women feel comfortable rocking their sports bra than ever.
There are two things to consider:
A. Making sure your bib is still pinned visibly to the front of your shorts.
B. Some say that the shirt actually helps wick away the sweat making you in fact feel cooler
Elite runners aren’t running shirtless for a variety of reasons: sponsors, brand partners and team colors.
Should You Wear New Shoes for a Marathon?
Ideally you’ll want to buy a new pair of marathon shoes about 4-6 weeks prior to the race.
This gives you enough time to put in a few longer weekly runs or even a weekend long run in them and ensure everything fits the way that you want, but not so many miles that you’ve started to break them down.
Do NOT wear your marathon shoes walking around the day before the race. Just like you, shoes need to “recover” so that the cushion is in full form.
Checkout my best marathon shoes if you’re still trying to find the best pair!
How Much Water Should I Carry for a Marathon?
If you have practiced running with a hydration pack and prefer to have your own electrolytes then I do recommend running with a pack (also trail races for sure). Otherwise, for most runners we recommend you utilize what’s on the course.
It means less weight to slow you down. It means less potential for something to chafe or bother you as the miles add up.
Don’t spend too much time worrying about not drinking enough water, it’s actually fairly uncommon. If you start the race well hydrated and even take water at every other aid station, that’s enough to get you happily to the finish line (under most conditions), where you can again get fully re-hydrated.
The downside to a handheld is:
- It can change your arm swing, causing it to go across your body which works the hips very hard
- As you get tired, trust me that handheld gets annoying and starts to feel like a million pounds
Top 4 Tips for the Picking the Best Marathon Gear
There you have it, that’s all the gear you’ll need for a great finish to your marathon.
But before I share some bonus gear with you, here are three tips to make sure you pick the best marathon gear:
1. Do Your Research
As I’ve mentioned throughout this article, the most important thing when picking your marathon gear is knowing the weather conditions and dressing accordingly.
So make sure to do your research to know what you’ll be needing on that day, and check the weather forecast during race day to make sure things are going according to the plan.
2. Comfort is Key
What may work for your running buddy, may not work for you. Remember to focus on what’s comfortable for you and what works for your body.
The last thing you want on race day is to be distracted by the seam on your shirt or pants. Make sure whatever you wear is comfortable and won’t cause any chafing or irritation during the race.
3. Practice with Your Marathon Gear
Once you’ve got everything you need for the race, it’s important to train in the exact outfit and gear you’re planning to wear.
I recommend using that gear for your long runs and recreating the same conditions you expect during the race. This type of ‘dress rehearsal’ will help you adjust anything you weren’t anticipating.
While you’re at it, follow your marathon nutrition and hydration plan as well to see if anything doesn’t feel right.
4. Pay Extra Attention to Your Running Shoes
This is, arguably, the most important marathon gear you can own. And for this reason, it requires some extra attention.
Don’t forget to not only practice in your running shoes, but also keep rotating them so they’re not worn out by race day.
This way, your feet will be acclimated to the running shoes but you don’t have ones that have worn out too much by race day. But simultaneously, make sure to not buy a fresh, new pair of your favorite running shoes.
Even though it’s your favorite brand and make, absolutely new shoes Can result in problems on race day that you absolutely want to avoid.
Bonus Marathon Gear
A few more little tricks, I’ve learned over the years that will improve race day.
Small water bottle
You know how hotels and maybe even the expo you’ll find those itty bitty bottles of water. Snag one! The morning of the race fill it with your pre-workout or electrolytes.
Then you can sip it at the start line and even for the first few miles of the race before tossing it in the trash after an aid station.
Throw Away Gloves
Wasting energy at the start line by shivering is a no go. I bought a pack of the stretchy cotton gloves for $10 and now have them ready for any race.
You can toss them before you begin or wear them for the first couple of miles and then drop them at an aid station. If it’s a super windy race, I will tuck them in the back of my shorts, just in case I need them later.
Did this help you to put aside some race day nerves?
Now you’ve got one more thing figured out and all that’s left is to have your best race!! A few more tips that could help:
- How to fuel a marathon
- Best marathon pacing strategy
- Marathon Pace Chart – find your goal pace
- What to eat before a marathon (week of)
- 4 Hour marathon training plan
- Why is a marathon 26.2 miles?
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