What to Wear for a Marathon

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 biggest thing that happens during our first 26.2 is unexpected chafing and running blisters.

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.

Marathon Gear List

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.

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.

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! Checkout my favorites to see what’s best for different temps.

Swiftwick Socks
Listen any GOOD running sock will work, but I recommend these 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.

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!

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.

What to Wear for a Marathon?

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.

Checkout bonus items for handling the start line!

What to wear for a marathon in 40-50 degree weather?

As you start running it will feel up to 20 degrees warmer than the current temperature.

And 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 or a tank 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.
  • 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. I HIGHLY recommend dry fit underwear if you aren’t going commando.
  • Sports Bra – ladies I CANNOT stress enough that you want to try and find seamless 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 or 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.

If it’s raining at these temps then:

  • 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

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.

Trucker hat
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!

Wet towel
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!!

Hydration hand held or vest
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.

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.

Running gloves
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

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. So an ear band that covers your ears might be a better option.

Long sleeve shirt and possibly a short sleeve under – again you don’t want to over dress and get too sweaty

Running tights
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 and can be worn under your fleece layer. Usually made of wool it truly will keep you warm and be very light.

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.

Winter running tips

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. I

f 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


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:

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Marathon Gear

What to Wear for a Marathon is written by amanda for

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