While you need to be prepared on the starting line for any race, you can more easily make or break a marathon by what you bring bring (or forget to bring) to the starting line than at a 5k. By being properly prepared for before your race and for the starting line, you can make your marathon experience that much more enjoyable and will help to keep yourself from detracting from your race or worrying about something that you forgot.

Here is the quick list (in order) of what you will need:

  1. Race bib and/or chip: If the race is chipped, you will need to remember yours or else you will not get a time. Wearing the race bib lets volunteers and race officials know that you are a legal runner and will entitle you to any and all race services, including the right to be on the course.
  2. Race Uniform: The clothes that you want to wear during the race. For example, you will want:
    • Running Shoes (trainers or racers)
    • Singlet or T-Shirt
    • Running Shorts and/or Pants and/or Tights
    • Socks (I recommend against cotton)
  3. Gel Packs: If you plan on using Crank or Gu or any other type of gel during your race, you need to remember to have it with you at the starting line.
  4. Weather-Dependant Accessories: Gloves, ski caps, baseball hats, jackets, and sunglasses that you plan to run in all fall into this category. Your list will vary depending upon where you are running, at what time, and what the weather is like.
  5. Band Aids and Vaseline: Vaseline or body glide is useful if you are prone to chafing or if it is really cold out. Feel free to apply it liberally, or keep an eye out on the course. Many races will have popsical sticks with vaseline on them around miles 16 to 18 or so. Band aids are more useful for men than women, but a pair of them over your nipples will keep your shirt from getting bloody. Even if you don’t think you will need them, I recommend wearing them anyway.
  6. Water and Snacks: Having your own water bottle and anything you want to snack on before the race can make a big difference. A disposable water bottle may make it easier if you will not have a chance to get your bottle back to your post-race bag or vehicle, and having a bagel or power bar while you wait for the start can help ensure that you do not run out of fuel too early while calming your nerves by giving you something to do.
  7. Weather-Dependant Accessories: Gloves, jackets, ski caps, baseball hats, jackets, pants, and sunscreen that you do not plan to run with all fall into this category. They can make waiting around at the starting line more pleasant, even if you do not plan to run with the items. Once you start running, you will often not need a jacket or shirt that you will wish that you had at the line. You may also want to wear items that are disposable, such as old socks instead of gloves or a t-shirt that you do not care if you lose. Most races will donate to charity any clothing that is left behind at the starting line or discarded in the first mile.
  8. A Race Plan: I considered ranking this higher. Knowing what you want to accomplish and having a plan about how to accomplish it will go a long way towards meeting your goals. This includes knowing what the starting line procedures will be, having everything in this list prepared, knowing what to do with anything you have at the start line that you will need at the finish or will not be carrying with you, and how you want to actually run your race. Having a list of splits memorized or written on your arm or an arm band can go a long way towards relieving the stress of figuring out how you are doing.
  9. Illegal Items: Most races ban their use as a safety concern, but if you plan on wearing a walkman or mp3 player, you will need to remember to bring it. Please keep it turned off and listen for any last minute race instructions, however, and consider leaving it off until a few miles into the race when the crowd has thinned a little. Personally, I prefer not to run with headphones between me, my competitors, and any stray traffic that might hit me again.

That’s my short list of what to bring with you to the starting line. One item that I left off of the list is what to bring in your finish line bag, which I will address this afternoon.

Do you have any other suggestions about what to bring with you that does not fit into one of the above categories? Do you need any clarification about something? Feel free to share or ask in the comments below.

Update:Adam Pash over at Life Hacker wrote an article about how to hack a marathon. He describes things that he wishes that he had known before his first race. One of the best tips that he offers is something that I have done and forgot to mention here: bring a trash bag with you. Cut a whole in the top for your head, and you will not have to worry as much about getting too cold or too wet before your race, and you can toss it aside after the race starts without feeling guilty.