The Marathon Checklist

This marathon checklist has tips and advice to help you succeed in your 26.2 mile quest. It was compiled from years of lessons-learned, trial and errors, and multiple marathons experiences. With a little preparation, race day can be a great experience that you'll remember for a lifetime.

From the early days of training to race day, you’re going to want to have a plan of what you’ll need for each training run and the race itself. The good news is that marathon running is a cheap hobby…but there are some must have and many nice to have items that will help you get the most out of your training and do your best on race day (PR!). Use the marathon checklist as a guide and personalize it based on your own experiences and preferences….

  • Marathon Checklist Item #1: Shoes
    It’s where the rubber meets the road…as they say. Shoes are the single most important piece of gear for any runner, and their fitting, wear, and timely replacement can have a significant impact on your training. Check out the page on choosing a running shoe if you’re still looking for the right shoe. If you have a good pair of shoes, be sure to use them only for running. Track the mileage on your shoes and look to replace them every 400-500 miles. I can start to feel pain in my joints from the lack of cushion in my shoes when I exceed this mileage range. If you plan on wearing racing flats for the marathon, be sure to try them out for a least one long run and a week or more of your training runs. Don’t try new shoes out on race day…it’s not a good day to try new things ;-).
  • Marathon Checklist Item #2: Water
    Staying hydrated can be a challenge on your long training runs. Check out the hydration page for tips on fuel belts and camelbaks. With some forethought and planning, you can stay hydrated without too much inconvenience or discomfort. As you train, start to envision the race and the points where the water stops will be. Decide whether you’ll stop at the water stops or use your own water supply.
  • Marathon Checklist Item #3: Grease
    Any run over an hour can cause some nasty chaffing and rubbing due to friction. These can occur on your feet, underarms, groin, and chest. By applying some Vaseline, Body Glide, or Sport Slick on these areas, you can avoid these slow-healing injuries. It’s also very mentally distracting during a race when you rub an area of your body raw…it’s worth the 2 minutes to grease up!
  • Marathon Checklist Item #4: Clothing
    Training for a marathon can encompass 6 months or more of running. You’ll most likely have to deal with a wide variance in weather and temperature. The difference-maker is clothing. Check out the running clothes page for fabric reviews. You’ll also want to check out the forecast for race day. Many fall marathons are very chilly at the start only to warm up pleasantly by mid-race. I try to put aside some old running clothes that are worthy of being discarded for the first mile. Some runners run with a trash-bag to keep warm in the first mile. Plan ahead! You certainly don’t want to throw away any nice clothing…or worse…get stuck carrying it for 25 more miles!
  • Marathon Checklist Item #5: Area Information
    The weekend of the race can be a fun and exciting time. From the expo to the energy of the crowd, race weekends are really a blast. They can be miserable, however, if you’re stuck in traffic, lost on some city side streets, or circling the area looking for parking! Be sure to scout out the area ahead of time for parking, lodging, and alternate routes. Getting stressed out before the race wastes good energy that you might want back in that last part of the race ; -).
  • Marathon Checklist Item #6: Stopwatch / GPS
    While I’d admire those runners that seem to have an internal pace clock…I’m not one of them. I like knowing my time and pace of every run as it helps me take it easy on easy days and push it on hard days. I use a Garmin Forerunner 405 GPS with time, distance, and pace information. A regular stop watch can be just as handy if you know the distance and mile markers. Knowing your pace and effort levels will help you better predict your marathon time and stay on a steady, achievable pace.
  • Marathon Checklist Item #7: Race Day Snacks
    Most big marathons provide some bananas and snacks at the finish line, but I’ve always found my brown bag of snacks & bottle of water for the car ride home to be invaluable. Experiment with your long runs to see what post-run foods are the most satisfying and pack them for after the race. After you're done admiring that finisher’s medal…you’re going to be hungry.
  • Marathon Checklist Item #8: First Aid / Emergency Kit
    There have been some races where the post-run sunburn and blisters were almost unbearable. It’s fun to walk around the post race tent area and enjoy the atmosphere, and a few band-aids, ibuprophen, and aloe cream can make the stroll a lot nicer. It doesn’t take up much space and is worth packing…just in case. I’ve even packed some of these things on my fuel belt when running…a few pain-killers are nice at mile 20.
  • Marathon Checklist Item #9: Course Map
    Many marathons have detailed course maps that show mileage, elevation, water stop locations, and even landmarks. It’s worth the time to mentally rehearse some of these things, especially if it helps pull you through the tough spots. For example, knowing that Heartbreak Hill is coming up at mile 18 is a good thing (Boston). Picturing yourself at various points at the race will really help you. Create milestones (Ex: “I’ll take a 30-second walk break at the Mile 18 water stop”…etc…). Mentally prepare for the race and you’ll have a much more positive experience.

A marathon check list will vary from person to person and from race to race, but it’s well worth the time and effort. All great accomplishments were once just a good plan. A little preparation goes a long way…26.2 miles to be exact ;-). Best of luck in your marathon training and racing!!

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