As you probably already know, Ultra Marathons start from distances of 50k up to 100 miles plus. To cover these sorts of distances you need some fairly specific gear for your race day. So in this post, I’m going to cover ultra-marathon gear race day essentials and other gear you may want to consider for the race.
Now I don’t plan to go through every single piece of kit you might use during your event.
There are so many variables, like distance, terrain, weather, do you have a crew, distance between checkpoints etc.
I will start from Head to Toe, or Toe to Head and run through the basic essentials I think you will need. So here Goes.
Obviously Ultra Marathons are long, so you need shoes that are built for the distances and time spent on your feet.
In other words, they need to be comfortable, supportive and well-cushioned. Believe me, if you buy shoes that are not built for the distance or terrain you are going to struggle. Potentially injuring yourself.
Consider the size as well – I like to have shoes that have a little bit of room because, after a few hours, your feet are likely going to swell. The last thing you want is for that to start getting uncomfortable.
After many different shoe trails, I finally settled on the Altra Lone Peak which has turned out to be a very reliable and awesome shoe. I have slightly wide feet but these offered great comfort and stability over a 100-mile race.
I am a UK Size 9 to 9.5 (US 10 – 10.5) and I wear a UK 9.5 (10.5) in these shoes and they fit wonderfully. No heel issues, no squashed toes and the foot is held firmly in place.
If you have ever been on a long run you will know that socks are important. In my view, they are almost as important as your shoes.
Pick the wrong type of sock and you could end up suffering from major blisters at some point during your run.
Believe me, I didn’t take care during one of my long Ultras and spent the last 20 miles at slow walking pace with feet that were in bits. It isn’t fun, so take care.
There are many types of socks and different ones will suit different people – just make sure they are moisture-wicking.
My personal choice is Runderwear Socks – they are twin layered and I find they just work for me. Just be aware if you do try them out that they are slightly thicker than the normal sock you would wear.
Another important one. Picking the right shorts can make or break your run.
It’s not funny if you start to chafe that’s for sure. If it gets too bad you could even have to pull out of a race.
They should be breathable, I shouldn’t have to tell you why, and comfortable during a long run.
Another key function of Trail Shorts is pocket space. Always handy for carrying gels (if you use them), small nutrition and even your mobile phone.
This is especially useful when you are out on a training run and going light with your gear.
That’s right Ladies and Gents, you need to have the right underwear on your long run.
Thrown on your standard everyday underwear and you will suffer badly. Without going into too much detail, you will likely start getting sore in places you don’t like.
This also stands true if you decide to go commando – don’t do it.
If you are going to be out for hours on the trails, I strongly advise that you invest in good running underwear.
It needs to be comfortable, hold everything in place and have great moisture-wicking properties.
As with my trail socks, I use Runderwear products. I started using them about 2 years ago and I can honestly say I have never had any uncomfortable issues when wearing them.
This is both brief or boxers. Sorry Ladies, I haven’t tried the bra.
Not a great deal to say about this one. Get something that’s comfortable for you and will wick the moisture away.
Nothing worse than the temperature dropping and getting cold because your sweat is getting cold on your skin.
This is a must on race day and shouldn’t ever be overlooked.
You will find that a lot of races include having a waterproof jacket with taped seams as part of the mandatory kit (I will leave a list at the bottom of the post).
So, even if it’s a lovely sunny day, you might find that you have to have a waterproof with you at all times.
If the weather does turn, you will appreciate having one believe me.
Make sure there’s enough room to put it on with all your gear underneath – you want to keep that dry too.
I have been using the OMM Kamleika Race Jacket for the past 2 years and it has everything I need.
Highly waterproof, taped seams, very light and one of the most breathable jackets I have used to date.
It also has 2 huge pockets which can come in very handy. You can check out my review on some awesome jackets right here.
Hydration Pack or Race Vest
This is down to a personal choice for me. Some people like the hydration packs whilst others like the race vests.
The hydration pack basically holds a bladder, normally up to around 2 litres and is very streamlined and close-fitting.
On the other hand, the race vest generally holds 2 bottles around the chest area and has other pockets and storage that can store your essential kit.
They often have the option to store a bladder as well, so this would be my number choice of race pack to use.
My personal choice is the Ultimate Direction SJ 3.0 Ultra Hydration Vest. I’ve been using it for 18 months now and it has done me proud.
Lightweight but carries everything I need for those really long days out on the trail. You get 2 free soft flasks with it as well.
This is down to the individual for sure.
I have tried various types, from proper running hats to buffs. However, I tend to just run in a trucker cap now.
The reason for this is that it obviously has a peak to shade your eyes from the sun, but it also has mesh around the top and back of the head which allows it to breathe.
I would just see what your most comfortable with and use that. But I would suggest making sure you have something.
Mandatory Kit List
Races differ depending on the climate, terrain, time your running etc.
I am just listing the sort of gear you might be expected to carry on an Ultra Marathon – some races check and won’t let you run if you don’t have the kit so beware.
Whatever race you have entered, always check the website for the mandatory kit list.
- Waterproof Jacket with Taped Seams
- Waterproof Trousers with taped seams (I’ve only had to carry once)
- Headtorch with Spare Batteries
- Mobile Phone (normally pre-loaded with emergency numbers)
- Water Bottles or Bladder
- Spare Base Layer with Long Sleeves
- Emergency food
- Foil Blanket ( I always carry)
- First Aid Kit (I always carry)
- A map of the course
As you can see, the list isn’t extensive and a lot of it you would probably already carry anyway.
However, there are a number of items that I would recommend that aren’t on the list. Just my own preference, but they are useful.
Other Important Items
- A Buff – very useful for many situations
- Sunglasses – I wouldn’t be without them.
- Vaseline – for obvious reasons
- Anti-Chafe – just in case you get caught out.
- Tissue or Toilet roll – You never know!
- Spare Cash
- Some Music – I don’t do it so much for races but definitely on my long runs
- Blister kit – don’t ignore hot spots believe me.
- Compression Gear – sometimes I will use shorts during the 2nd half of a race.
- Drop Bag – On the long races you normally get the chance to have a drop bag for the halfway point. Fill it with clean gear, socks, food etc. You won’t believe how good fresh socks feel after 45 miles.
And that’s about it, this is my list of ultra-marathon gear race day essentials. What’s your favourite piece of kit for race day?
Drop us a comment below.
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