The Ultimate Marathon Checklist: All You Need To Know To Succeed

You’ve trained for months, rearranged, upended your life, and said no to late nights for early morning miles. Now is not the time to get lax with planning and training by not packing correctly for your marathon. We are here to help with your Ultimate Pre-race Marathon Checklist and all of your marathon day essentials!  

The key to preparing and packing for your marathon is to think through all the logistics and prepare for any variables. In short, you need to do your homework! You’ve worked too hard to mess it up with an oversight. 

Related: Marathon Training Plans: Don’t Make These 9 Mistakes 

In this article, we will go through the questions you need to ask yourself to prepare for before, during, and after your marathon. We will also supply the ultimate pre-race marathon checklist and packing list, so you are ready for anything!

We will cover:

  • What you should wear for your marathon
  • What you should bring to your marathon
  • Marathon race prep questions
  • Pre-race marathon checklist and packing checklist
  • Marathon checklist and race day essentials
  • Post-race marathon checklist

So, let’s roll!

Related: Marathon Training: How Long Should Your Longest Long Run Be?

A pink suitcase, packing checklist, headphones and a passport.

What should I wear for my marathon?

You want to wear something breathable, moisture-wicking, light and makes you feel fast on race day. While it can be motivating to wear a new special race day outfit, you want to do a dress rehearsal first to make sure it can go the distance. 

If you buy a special race day outfit or super-fast race shoes, try them out on at least one of your long runs. Otherwise, you risk things like unwanted chaffing from the seams of your new singlet or pinching from the super-tight laces of your new shoes. 

Also, think about what throwaway clothes you want to wear before the race. Many marathons are early in the morning in the winter, fall, or spring when it is chilly or downright cold. Pack a hat, gloves, sweatshirt, and sweatpants to throw away at the start. 

These clothes will likely be collected and donated, so don’t worry about the ethical impact of discarding them! 

A running top, running sneakers, shorts, and a phone, all pieces of the marathon checklist.

What should I bring to my marathon?

When preparing what to bring to your marathon and what to add to your marathon checklist, you want to think in three stages, before, during, and after.

  • Before: make sure you know where and when you are supposed to be for the race. Have handy whatever you trained with during your long runs, including clothes, fuel, and hydration
  • During: be sure you have your race outfit, shoes, and fuel. Think through where you will keep all of those gels!
  • After: comfort is the name of the game. Bring easy-to-put-on clothes and yummy snacks and drinks that are easy on the stomach so you can kickstart your marathon recovery

Now, let’s get into the details of how to prep for your big day!

A runner with a racebelt.

Marathon Pre-race Prep

Before your marathon, you need to think through how you’ll get your race bib, get to the start line, what you’ll need to pack, what you should eat, and more. 

Here are 17 questions to ask yourself before you line up at your marathon start:

  1. Where and when is the race bib pick-up? How will you get your bib in plenty of time to eat a solid supper and get to bed early?
  2. Where is the start line, and how do you get to it from where you are staying?
  3. Where can you park to leave plenty of time to get to the start?
  4. If it is cold or hot, where can you warm up indoors until it is time to line up at the start?
  5. What will you eat the night before and the morning of the race?
  6. What is the course like? Do you want to drive it beforehand?
  7. What will the weather be like? 
  8. What will you wear? (Be sure to lay everything out the night before, including pinning your bib on).
  9. What can you pack to prepare for any of the possible elements?
  10. What will you use for fuel and hydration for your race? 
  11. Where will you store your fuel and hydration?
  12. What will you wear for your warm-up, race, and post-race?
  13. Where are the bathrooms for before the race?
  14. Where will you meet family members after the race?
  15. Is there a bag drop? If so, how and will you use it?
  16. Where can you recuperate after your race (bed and hot shower)? Does your hotel have a late checkout option?
  17. How will you celebrate your accomplishment, and with whom?

Related: Ultra Marathon Checklist

A crowd of marathon runners on race day.

These questions have hopefully helped you get the juices flowing and excitement brewing, so you leave nothing up to chance for your marathon. 

Now it’s time to take action with this Ultimate Pre-race Marathon Checklist.

Ultimate Pre-race Marathon Checklist

  • Be race-ready. Study your race information, including bib pick-up times and location, start and finish locations, race amenities, pacer groups, course, and race rules. 
  • Check the weather…and then recheck it! Get your race gear ready for the predicted weather but also have gear for the elements on hand in case Mother Nature does a last-minute pivot (e.g., it rains or is colder than it was supposed to be!). 
  • Plan out meals. Think through everything you are going to eat and drink. Prepare to be self-reliant. Don’t assume Starbucks will open at 5 a.m. when you get up. Bring everything so that you leave nothing to chance! Don’t try any new foods and only bring foods you’ve been used to training with. 
  • Pack throwaway clothes. Bring extra clothes to keep your muscles warm that you can throw away at the start. 
  • Secure your recovery. If you’re staying at a hotel, get a late checkout. If you’re running a local marathon, secure time to take a hot shower and a nap after the race. 
  • Pack ahead of time. Pack all of your race gear ahead of time so that as you think of more scenarios, you can throw your items into your bag and be ready for whatever the day may bring!

Related: What’s The Optimal Marathon Taper Length?

Now, it’s time to go through the Ultimate Pre-race Marathon Packing List. This marathon checklist is divided into three sections (before, during, and after the marathon) and suitable for local and destination races. 

An open suitcase, toy airplane and passport on a rug.

Pre-race Marathon Packing Checklist

  • Race confirmation 
  • Bib pick-up information
  • Directions to the race and bib pick-up
  • Foam roller and/or massage gun
  • Safety pins (in case race doesn’t provide them)
  • Water bottle for constant hydration
  • Granola, bagels, and other simple carbs for snacks
  • Sharpie to write your paces or mantras on your arm
  • Playlist to listen to the morning of to get you excited for the race

Related: 28 Funny Marathon Race Signs: The Best Race Sign Ideas

If traveling:

  • Area maps
  • Late hotel checkout
  • Directions from the hotel to bib pick-up, race start, and finish
  • Extra cash, credit cards, and ID
  • Plane tickets 
  • Clothes for after the race
  • Toiletries
  • Earplugs
  • A book about running to pump you up!
  • The food you usually eat at home, coffee, and drinks
  • A restaurant that serves simple food for lunch and dinner the day before
  • Toilet paper (just in case the porta-potties are full!)
A running bib, neon race shirt and shorts, running shoes and energy gels, all marathon checklist essentials.

Race Marathon Packing Checklist

Here is a marathon gear checklist for all of your marathon day essentials.

  • Your racing shoes 
  • Orthotics, if you wear them
  • Arm sleeves, hat, headband, and gloves, if needed (throwaway ones if it is going to warm up)
  • Hot hands if it’s really cold at the start
  • Throwaway top and sweatpants for before the race
  • Singlet or racing top
  • Sports bra
  • Tights or racing shorts
  • Anti-chafing balm or Vaseline and nip guards 
  • Lip balm
  • Foam roller
  • Hat or sunglasses (if you run with them)
  • Pace tattoo (or marker if you need to remember race strategy)
  • Gels or preferred fuel (and figure out where you will store them while running!)
  • Fanny pack or running belt if you run with one
  • Headphones if you run with them (and they are allowed)
  • Water bottle and electrolyte drinks
  • If it is going to rain, bring a throwaway trash bag or poncho, a rain jacket, and a Ziploc bag for your phone if you’re running with it.

Related: How to Carb Load

A collection of running gear including a rain jacket, bottles, shoes, cash, plastic bags, and backpack.

Post-race Marathon Packing Checklist

  • Comfortable clothes that are easy to put on, like sweats
  • Comfy socks
  • Comfortable shoes such as Oofos or dry running shoes
  • A towel
  • A blanket
  • Compression socks for recovery
  • Snacks like granola, bagels, peanut butter, bananas, and protein bars
  • Hydration, including electrolyte drinks to replenish
  • Plastic bag for your stinky race clothes and shoes
  • Epsom salt for a nice, warm, relaxing bath
  • Ibruprofen in case you are in pain
  • Street clothes if you intend to look nice
  • Travel plans home

If you plan to use the bag drop, here are some suggested items to add to your marathon checklist and put in your post-race bag:

  • Warm, comfortable clothes
  • Wet wipes and deodorant
  • Phone charger
  • Compression socks
  • Some cash and ID (or picture of an ID)
  • Your phone, unless you run with it
  • A snack like a protein bar and a drink like Gatorade

There you have it! Everything you need to be included in your marathon checklist to ensure you have all of your race day essentials.

If you need help training for a marathon, check out our marathon training resources!

A group of marathon runners on a slick street.
Whitney Heins
Whitney Heins is the founder of The Mother Runners and a VDOT-O2 certified running coach. She lives in Knoxville, TN with her two crazy, beautiful kids, pups, and husband. She is currently training to qualify for the 2024 US Olympic Trials marathon.

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