Marathon + Half Marathon Gear Checklist: Race Day Essentials

Everything you need to take to the start line

There’s nothing that will add to race morning anxiety more than realizing that you do not have all of the necessary half marathon gear or marathon race day gear in your bag.

You might try to scramble around at the last minute to grab what you need, but race day morning has arrived (and let’s face it, races usually start really early in the morning!), and you have little time to pack.

Failing to bring everything on your marathon or half marathon gear checklist to race day can result in many problems, ranging from blisters and chafing to dehydration and bonking. 

So, what should you pack in your gear bag to run a marathon? What is the best half marathon race gear bag checklist for running a successful race?

In this marathon and half marathon gear checklist guide, I will give you tips on what to bring to a race based on my own 25 years of racing and professional experience as a certified running coach.

A person packing their half marathon gear bag.

What Should Be On My Marathon or Half Marathon Gear Checklist For Race Day?

There are two different ways I suggest packing your race day gear bag or setting up a marathon or half marathon gear checklist to ensure that you don’t forget anything at the last minute.

Some runners prefer to pack a sports bag for a race based on the type of gear that they need.

They break it up into categories such as clothing, running shoes, extra socks, etc., as one category, nutrition and hydration as another category, and any rehab products such as a foam roller as another.

You can set up your race day checklist with these different categories and then write down the necessary items.

This type of marathon race day bag packing checklist can work well for some people, but I personally like to think through what I need in my marathon or half marathon race packing list in a temporal fashion.

In other words, I think through everything I will need before the race as one section, during the race as another, and then the post-race items I will need.

I have put together some suggestions for a marathon or half-marathon gear checklist that you can use or modify based on what you need for your own race-day experience.

Running gear including clothing and running sneakers.

Pre-Race Marathon and Half Marathon Gear Checklist (for the Warm-Up and Before the Race)

  • Running shoes
  • Running socks
  • Running tights or running pants to layer over my racing kit, particularly if it is going to be a cold-weather race
  • Vaseline or body glide to prevent blisters and chafing
  • Toilet paper or baby wipes in case the Porta-potty has run out
  • Poncho or trash bag if it looks like it might rain
  • Plastic grocery shopping bags to put my wet stuff in and keep other running gear dry if it is damp out
  • Running hat, earmuffs, or running visor, depending on the season
  • Running gloves if it is an early morning half marathon or a marathon in cool weather
  • Water bottle with plenty of water and/or electrolytes, depending on whether I am running a full or half marathon
  • High carbohydrate pre-race snack to have at least 30 to 60 minutes before heading to the starting line. Examples include a banana, dried fruit, energy gels, sports beans, a high carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink, or maple syrup packets such as UnTapped
  • Foam roller to help loosen up before the race.
Running clothing.

Race Marathon and Half Marathon Gear Checklist

  • Running shoes or racing flats, depending on what you will race in. I recommend wearing your regular trainers if it is your first half marathon or first marathon
  • Fresh moisture-wicking running socks to change into after the warm-up for the race itself
  • Running shorts or running tights
  • Running singlet or T-shirt, depending on the projected race day weather. I usually bring a couple of options for running tops in case it ends up being windy or cold, particularly for spring or fall half marathons where the weather is less predictable. Having a long-sleeved running shirt or light running jacket can also be helpful
  • Sports bra
  • Safety pins and race bib number (I usually put all of the safety pins onto my race bib and wait to attach the bib if I am changing into my race shirt so that it doesn’t stretch and pull the pins out when I put it on, but check, double-check, and triple-check that you have your race number and timing chip in your marathon running gear bag before you leave the house if you are not picking up your race packet on site!).
  • GPS running watch and heart rate monitor if you use one. Make sure your running watch is all charged up!
  • Fully charged earbuds if you are going to run with a special race day playlist or podcast
  • Running hydration pack or running belt if you are carrying your own water or fuel.
  • Energy gels, sports beans, or whatever running nutrition you will use during the race if you use your own fueling
  • Sunscreen 
  • Mosquito repellent if you are doing a trail race
A person pointing to their running watch.

Post-Race Marathon and Half Marathon Gear Checklist

  • Recovery sandals (like flip-flops or OOFOS) or an extra pair of shoes if it is going to be wet or you are going to be in the post-race finish line area for a long time
  • Extra plastic bags
  • Another pair of running socks
  • Sweatpants or more running tights if the weather is wet
  • A towel to dry off
  • An extra water bottle in case there isn’t enough water at the finish line area (I usually pack my post-race water bottle with my favorite electrolyte replacement drink just in case the finish line area doesn’t have hydration options that work well for me.)
  • Long sleeve shirt or (water-resistant if there is rain) running jacket so that you don’t get chilly

For your first half marathon, the above list might look overwhelming.

However, in my many years as a running coach, I tend to find that beginners are best served to overpack so that they have everything they might possibly need rather than feeling stressed out or without the essentials they need once it is time to head to the starting line. 

A person opening a running gel.

Especially if you are not going to a big race, it can be hard to get what you need at the last minute on race day.

After you have put in so many months of workouts, pouring hours of time, energy, and dedication into your training plan, you simply don’t want to arrive on race day or get to the starting line unprepared, such as being overdressed, underdressed, or without your race number!

That said, we all make mistakes and forget things on a running race packing list occasionally.

If you get to the starting line of your first half marathon and find that you are missing something essential, you might be able to ask fellow runners if they have anything extra.

Even if you fall short by forgetting a helpful piece of running gear, try to stay positive and focus on all of the workouts you have done in your full marathon or half marathon training plan and all of the empowering runs that have gotten you to the starting line. 

Running clothing and shoes.

Surely, those very same training runs and workouts will help you get to the finish line. 

Try to enjoy your race and soak up the experience.

Particularly if it is your first half marathon or your first marathon, it will be a learning experience. 

Check out our free training plans for all ability levels, and let us help you prepare for your next race!

Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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