When running a half marathon, whether it’s your first or your fifteenth, it is important to make sure that you’ve got everything you need for race day. This is why using a race day checklist can be so important because no one wants to realize they forgot their gels or their headphones while standing in the starting corral.
Below is a list of the most important items to remember on race day, and if there are ways to around forgetting them, those will be listed too. At the bottom is a complete checklist to use on race day to make sure you don’t forget anything.
Half Marathon Checklist
- Running shoes
- Running shirt
- Running socks
- Sports bra
- Race bib & safety pins
- Watch (Charged)
- Headphones (Charged)
- Energy Gels
- Fuel belt or pack
- Anti-chafe cream
Weather Dependent Items
- Rain jacket (or disposable poncho/trash bag)
- Throw away clothes (old sweater, gloves, etc)
- Sunscreen and/ or bug spray
- Extra socks
- Traction aids (Yaktrax, etc)
- Recovery drink/ shake
- Change of clothes
- Change of shoes (Something loose and comfortable)
- Foam roller
- Massage gun
- Massage ball
- Muscle scraper
- Compression socks, sleeves, pants, etc
- Electrolyte drink or tablets
- Epsom salts
Half Marathon Essentials
Shoes are incredibly important to a runner, especially since the advent of carbon-plated race shoes. It would be a waste of a training cycle to train for a new personal best, go out and spend the money on shoes specifically for race day, and then run your half marathon in any old pair of running shoes. Some runners aren’t too picky with the shoes they race in.
However, more and more runners are starting to wear a specific pair of shoes for race day. If that’s you, put “Race Shoes” as #1 on your checklist!
Race day clothes are pretty specific to each runner, but you want to wear things that you are most comfortable in, and that is appropriate for the weather forecast.
Obviously, this will vary greatly depending on the climate that your race is located in, so this will likely change from race to race. Make sure that you are wearing clothes that you’ve worn before; race day is not the day to be trying out new clothes.
Your race bib is one of the most important things to remember on race day. Without it, you more than likely won’t be allowed to run your event, and even if you are allowed to run without a bib, you won’t have any chip times from your race, as the chip is usually located on the back of your race bib.
For this reason, a lot of runners prefer to choose the shirt they’ll be running the night before, and pin their bib to it beforehand. This way, you’re a lot less likely to forget it. If you don’t pin it on the night before, don’t forget to take your 4 safety pins (or race number belt).
Energy gels are very particular to runners. Some can use any energy gel and be fine, and others can only use specific brands or flavors, otherwise, they will deal with stomach issues or bonking. Making sure that you’ve got the gels that you know work for your body is paramount to having a successful race day.
If you do forget your gels, or don’t bring enough, the aid stations at almost all races will have an energy gel of some kind. It is a good idea to check which brand the race is offering before race day, and try it out, if possible.
This way, you’ll know whether you can grab an extra gel on your way through the aid stations, or if you’re best to avoid them altogether and stick with the nutrition you brought with you.
A Way to Carry Your Hydration, Gels, Phone, etc
Some runners use their pockets, others prefer belts, and others prefer a pack of some kind. Whatever you’re preferred method of carrying everything you need is, make sure it’s on your checklist! You don’t want to have to carry all your gels, and water, and a phone, or have to decide between leaving something behind if you forget it.
Also make sure whatever you’re planning on using on race day has been tried out on at least a few training runs so that you know that it holds enough for your needs, and also that it’s comfortable and doesn’t chafe.
The weather is the item on the checklist that you can’t just check off and forget about. Knowing what the weather is going to be on race day can mean the difference between success and failure.
Check the weather a few days out, again the night before as you’re making your final wardrobe decisions, and again the morning of the race to make sure that nothing has changed. If it looks like the weather could change, or, or if it’s a bit of a mixed bag of weather, bring everything you may possibly need, just in case.
If you are traveling somewhere for a race, it is very important to research the climate where your race is, and bring the clothing and items that you’ll need for any possible weather scenario. If not, you’ll either have to go without or scramble before the race to locate and buy an item that you already own at home.
If you are the kind of runner who can’t run without music, and if your race allows headphones, add them to the list! Running a half marathon is a huge mental undertaking as well, and if you use music to help get you through long runs, not having it on race day can really crush you mentally. If they are Bluetooth, don’t forget to charge them the night before the race.
A Plan for Race Morning
The last thing you want on the morning of your race is to feel rushed, get lost trying to get there, or be late for your start. Planning everything out the night before is very important so that you’ve got lots of time to get prepared, stretched, go to the bathroom, etc before the race starts.
Plan your route and where you are going to park the night before, especially if your race is in a place that you aren’t familiar with. Remember to check road closures if your event is being run on roads, as the roads will often be shut down hours before the event to get the course ready. Leave yourself extra time just in case you do run into traffic, or if your planned parking spot is already full.
It is always a good idea to have a little bit of cash with you on race day. Whether it’s for a snack after the race, or a taxi or bus to get back to your car, getting stuck without money because you aren’t carrying your wallet can really ruin your day, no matter how well your race went.
Slipping $10-20 into your race kit somewhere can be very helpful just in case. (This is a great rule for any run, not just on race day)
These days, it is possible to have your debit and credit card on your phone and even your watch, but sometimes cash is still the best option.
Odds and Ends
The little things you won’t want to forget are the really small things that can make a huge difference. Items such as anti-chafe cream, sunscreen, bandaids (just in case), and sunglasses can all help you achieve your best results on race day. Also, don’t forget to print out a pace chart and keep it on hand during your race to stay on pace to hit your goal.
Post-Race Recovery Items
After a big race, it is very easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to do your normal post-run routine. After a race is the most important time to get in a good recovery, as your body will have just been pushed harder than it has throughout all of your training.
Bring anything that you can that you usually use for recovery (Foam roller, massage gun, electrolyte drink or tablets, etc) so that you don’t have to wait until you are back home later in the day to begin your normal recovery routine.
Frequently Asked Questions
The most important thing to do is not to panic and throw off your whole day. Depending on what it is you’ve forgotten, you may be able to find a replacement before you get started. But if you can’t, don’t let it ruin your whole race day.
The checklist below is quite comprehensive, so don’t worry if there are things on there that you either don’t use at all or just don’t use for a half marathon. If there are things you don’t use, cross them off the list so that you don’t worry about them as you’re getting ready.
As long as your race has sufficient aid stations, and they’ll be open for the full length of the race, then you can run a half marathon without carrying your own water. However, some runners do still prefer to carry their own water in their own bottles so that they don’t have to rely on the aid stations on race day, or so they don’t have to deal with the crowds at aid stations in larger races.
No matter what it is that you’ll need for your race, the most important thing is to make sure you have it with you on race day. The easiest way to make sure that you don’t forget anything that you’ll need for your half marathon is to create a list at least a day or two before your race. Check out the full checklist below and make sure you show up for your half marathon with every single thing you need to succeed.