What do you need for your first half-marathon or marathon
I remember my first race…
The North London Half 2015….
Got there late…
Was a total nightmare getting to the start line….
Preparing my electrolyte drink…
Trying to pour a sachet of powder into a drinks bottle…
With the wind blowing everywhere.
Thankfully, I had just enough time to return to the bag drop and get everything ready properly. I had however learnt a valuable lesson when attempting to have everything ready for the big event.
So here’s my little checklist for when you have to take part in a race for your first time without stressing so much:
- Yourself. Getting yourself there on time is the most important thing. Booking a hotel is a great idea. Hotels are very aware of these events and even hike their prices up. If the venue has an airport (like Liverpool) you may well find a great deal there with free-parking and an early breakfast (triple whammy). Busses will regularly go in and out of the city so you just have to factor in the travelling time for the bus/train journey.
If travelling by road you need to check traffic and parking. Definitely not my favourite method of getting to the race.
You can imagine baggage drops being very hectic within an hour of the race start time so get there well before that. Read the race notes very thoroughly as sometimes there can be fairly long walks between baggage drops and the start line. And of course, you have to legislate for the warm-up.
Bottom line, really do your research well in advance.
Now that getting yourself there and on time is dealt with we can get back to checking off your important items:
2.Running shoes. Yes we call them that now because Nike Air Max are not suitable ones. You should have taken care of this months before. Many who thought that they could get away with something cheap and cheerful realise that once the mileage went beyond a certain limit their feet started to hurt. Anyhow, hoping you do have the correct footwear be sure to pack them before leaving.
I currently run in Brooks Glycerin 14s. This is a great shoe for long runs but it is only recommended for people with a ‘neutral profile’. Go to your local running store to find out your profile. This querky little design can be purchased at a very good price. Click here to find out more.
3.Running socks. ‘Curse your cotton socks! ‘Cotton is rotten’ when it comes to running socks as it holds moisture and makes the feet overheat. Nylon, polyester, Lycra, elastane, polyamide and even wool all wick away moisture and keep the feet breathable. Running socks are stitched and woven uniquely to fit each foot individually. The extra elastic reduces vibration and helps maintain a better connection between foot and shoe. Again, once you make the effort to get the right socks, be sure that you have them packed away.
My favourite brand of Running Sock is Hilly. They feel so comfortable on the skin and take moisture away fast.
4.Sports Bra. Almost forgot this one (being a guy). Just as important as the shoes in terms of the injuries it can protect against. Proper bounce-tested brands like Shock Absorber and Moving Comfort should be your choice and not simple crop tops. Moving Comfort is actually part of Brooks and their premium Juno Bras boast anti-odour material so you don’t have to wash them so often.
- Race number. Another essential item without which you won’t even get as far as bag drop. Equally important is your fastening method. Safety pins (grab them from your local Taylor). Other options include magnets and Special belts.
- Clothing. Tops and bottom. Look at the forecast, in case you need a cheap shower-proof jacket, maybe a baseball cap or visor. Sunglasses can be added to the mix here. Again, avoid cotton and I recommend baselayers in the colder weather, as well as hats, snoods and light running hats.
- Nutrition: obviously you are issued this at various drinks stations but they are never that practical and very wasteful even. The best water bottles from companies like Salomon and Nathan have bite-and-suck nozzles which do not drip at all. I am a big fan of the Salomon pro-sense lab hydration system. The trouble is that the water may get warm and hot on warmer days so you may have to stop at the occasional station.
Electrolytes are lost through the sweat so it would make sense to use the electrolyte solutions. Tablets which are added to water work best for me rather than sachets as they are a bit awkward to prepare when it‘s windy.
Energy gels are commonly used to elevate glucose levels once they get depleted. Take your first one as required then one every 45 minutes. I wouldn’t take one before as your pre-race nutrition should be energising you at that moment. I’m a fan of Gu gels because they do non-citrus flavours like salted caramel. Sounds disgusting but these flavours make sure you do not get more thirsty.
A ready-made protein shake is good for after the race as the body is crying out for food. Taking it liquid form allows it to assimilate more swiftly.
Obviously nutrition requires a lot of thought but once you have your bits put it all in a bag and pack it away. Of course you will also need a pouch to put them in.
Optional items (without any elaboration)
-Mobile phone and carrier
-Earphones for your music
-tennis ball (for massage)
-Kinesiology tape and scissors (in case you’re going for the mummy look.
Hope that’s everything. Make a comment if you think there’s anything missing.
Good luck in you race.