Dressing for a marathon (and roughly 80 training runs) is no easy feat – and I have the chafing scars to prove it. It took a lot of trial and error, but I eventually I found the magic combination that worked perfectly for me.
Here’s what I wore to run 42.2 (or 26.6 if you’re from the States).
By far, the most important piece of gear for running a marathon is a good pair of running shoes. I have been wearing the same pair of road running shoes forever: the Mizuno Waverider. I debated trying out a new brand or style, but eventually I realized if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
A few weeks into my training, I noticed that the heels of my feet felt a little sore. I decided to see if a new pair of shoes would fix it – and it did! I wish I could say that I alternated two pairs throughout my training to preserve the quality of my shoes and allow the foam to decompress and all that – but I didn’t.
A couple of weeks out from the race, I felt a dull sensation in my heels again – not an ache, but just a bit of pressure that hadn’t been there before. I debated whether I should get new shoes or just ignore it to see if it would go away. I should have gotten new shoes right then and there – instead, I waited a week before pulling the trigger. By the time I got the pair, I only had one (measly 2.5 km) run left before the big race.
It’s common marathon knowledge to not try anything new at a race – including new shoes. I contemplated what would be worse: running 42.2 km on old shoes and having painful heels the entire time, or wearing brand new shoes that were identical to the ones I’d trained it. I took a risk and went with the latter, and thankfully, it turned out just fine. Toenails lost = 0. Blisters developed = 0.
I have strong opinions about running undergarments.
As the layer of clothing that is closest to your body, they play a huge role in your comfort. My undergarment challenges can be categorized into two types:
- Sweat retention
(The two have some correlation.)
When I do anything active, I sweat a LOT. I don’t mind regular sports bras for activities of one hour or less, but anything over an hour and I find they get too sweaty, which can make me feel cold and uncomfortable.
This is particularly an issue when snowboarding. I might sweat doing a bit of hiking, but then I cool down quickly when I head down the mountain. My sweaty sports bra stays wet and makes me super cold.
A few years ago, I had an epiphany: somebody must make a merino wool sports bra. Merino wool is the only material that I have found actually fulfills the “moisture wicking” qualities promised by so many fabrics. Indeed, I found one: Icebreaker’s Sprite Racerback Sports Bra. At $65, these are EXPENSIVE, but they’re awesome for snowboarding. I thought it might make sense to wear them on my runs, too.
The model on their website appears to have improved upon this issue, but the two pairs I own have a terribly placed seam that I never noticed until I tried running in them. CHAFE CITY. I tried wearing it inside out, but it was not a perfect solution.
During my training, I received an email about Boody, a line of loungewear made out of yarn spun from bamboo. Although it isn’t marketed specifically for sportswear, I enquired as to whether it might be suitable for running. Here’s what they told me:
Definitely! Bamboo is naturally moisture-wicking and antibacterial/anti-fungal, so it doesn’t hold sweat or odor. You can wear it all day, or even multiple times, before it starts having a “dirty” feeling. Everything is seamless so there’s no friction [Editor’s note: !!!!!!], it moves with your body. We’ve had a lot of customers buy us for marathons or hiking expeditions, because of the bamboo qualities.
They sent me some gear to put to the test – and it was amazing. Some notes:
- The underwear is perfect and only $10. It truly is chafe-free (although I didn’t wear it multiple times without washing it – ha ha.)
- The bra (called the “shaper bra“) is only $17 – compare this with the $65 merino wool one! Now, it is not really a sports bra. In fact, the website says “This bra is pure comfort and provides gentle support – we’d say wear it around the house or out running errands, but not on a jog.” Rebel that I am, I ignored the disclaimer and wore it on many jogs – I don’t require a ton of support, and my running vest is like wearing a sports bra on top anyways. I LOVED IT!!!!! No seams, no chafing, no sweat holding. I adore it and will definitely be ordering more.
- Boody is awesome and send me a tank top and some leggings, too. The tank top is magical and I’m trying to buy one in black because I like the white one so much, but they’ve been out of stock for awhile now [note: I just checked and it is back in stock]. The leggings are cozy but are more like pajamas or bumming-around-the-house-wear. They’re a little on the thin side to be worn as actual pants. (Which I do, much to the chagrin of people who say leggings are not pants.)
In short, I have become a huge fan of Boody, and this might be the longest thing I’ve ever written about underwear.
Bottoms were a real struggle for me (see chafing complaints above). I wore Lululemon shorts in the summer months combined with heaps and heaps and heaps of BodyGlide. The struggle was real.
The cooler autumn months brought refuge in the form of running leggings. No more thighs rubbing against each other. No more chafing. No more struggle.
To keep things consistent, I wore the same pair of Salomon leggings on all of my long runs and they worked like a dream. Much as I love my Lululemon WunderUnders, they are way too thick for running and I would overheat instantly if I wore them.
Tops were the easiest component. I varied between Oakley and Lululemon tank tops, t-shirts, and long sleeve shirts, depending on the weather. They were all good, except the neckline on some of them wasn’t high enough and my running vest (see below) rubbed against my collarbone. You guessed it: CHAFE. To be 100% safe, I put bandaids over my collarbone for the marathon itself, and it worked wonders.
Three key accessories played a role on my runs.
You might remember my Salomon running vest from my favourite things post. It really, truly is a favourite thing.
The running vest’s main purpose was to carry fuel and hydration. I’ve already mentioned that I sweat a lot; accordingly, I need to drink a lot on my runs. Plus, in Squamish, there are very few outdoor water fountains, so I had to be self sustaining. This was good practice anyway, because the Boundary Bay Marathon website suggested that marathon runners carry their own water/Gatorade in case they ran out at their water stations. It turns out that they didn’t run out, but I like being able to drink whenever I feel like it as opposed to waiting for the water stations. Plus, it was a good investment for my future trail running goals.
The vest was also good for stashing my headlamp after the sun came out and for carrying bear spray. Let’s talk about wildlife sightings for a moment. Throughout my training, I saw:
- 2 sets of 2 deer. One pair was in the Squamish estuary and they ran ahead of me on the road for 30 seconds or so. It was pretty cool.
- 5 bears! One was on the trail behind the McDonald’s – I turned a corner and it was just a few metres away from me. That was surprising for both of us. The other four encounters weren’t as close – though the bear crossing the road in Paradise Valley was unsettling because it disappeared into the bushes beside me and it was eerily foggy and spooky that morning.
- Several bald eagles and herons.
- 2 elk. This was my most exciting sighting because I didn’t even know there were elk in Squamish. They were down by the water behind the high school (sort of close to the McDonald’s bear).
Back to the vest. I learned two key things about it. The first is that is has to be worn relatively tight, or it will shake around and cause collarbone chafing. The second is that once you add the flasks in the front two pockets, it gets front heavy (I don’t have the bladder for the back – I can’t find it anywhere in stores!). This made my ribs hurt, probably because my core was weak, so I just hit up the gym to work on those rock hard abs (or something like that).
The hat was necessary on rainy runs, of which there were many. It serves as an umbrella for the eyes, if you will. I have two hats I got ages ago that I wear on an alternating basis.
Finally, I invested in a few good pairs of running socks to round out the gear repertoire. This was money well spent, as combined with the shoes, they prevented me from getting any blisters. Success!
Put it all together, and I looked like this: