Ultra marathon Gear Race Day Essentials

ultra marathon gear

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 and what you might want to consider for the race.

ultra marathon race day gear

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.

Trail Shoes

Trail Running Shoes

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 Columbia Montrail Bajada III. 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 but the foot is held firmly in place.

Trail Socks

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.

Trail Shorts

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.

Underwear

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.

Running T-Shirt

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.

Waterproof Jacket

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.

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.

Running Hat

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
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Spare Base Layer with Long Sleeves
  • Emergency food
  • Foil Blanket ( I always carry)
  • First Aid Kit (I always carry)
  • Whistle
  • 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, hope I haven’t forgotten anything. If I have let me know.

What’s your favourite piece of kit for race day?

Drop us a comment below.

Happy running,

Mark.

9 thoughts on “Ultra marathon Gear Race Day Essentials”

  1. Hi Mark!

    What a great article and a website!
    Great explanation of the reasons and equipment needed for successful ultra marathon runs. Since I come from sports environment, and a professional one, playing on various surfaces and under various weather and other circumstances I understand pretty well the importance of the proper equipment. I’ve never run for more than 20 miles. Mostly between 6-15 miles. Still, the proper equipment is important as well.

    It can safe your health!

    Thanks for sharing your tips and the guide!

    Wish you great running,
    Best regards,
    Igor

    Stay well, market better, convert best!
    Stay healthy, run better, succeed best!

    Reply
  2. I have done a couple of marathons, and boy, I have mad respect for those that can do the Ultra Marathon distance! I’m retired from full marathons now, but I hope to get back into halfs someday. Trail running has always interested me, but I’ve been mostly a blacktop runner.

    Does the Bajada trail shoe have a women’s version? Do you know if it has arch support? I will definitely need a new pair of shoes to start running on trails. The snow is finally gone–this spring is the time to start!

    Reply
    • Hi Holly, thanks for the feedback.

      To answer your questions first – yes the Bajada shoes also come in ladies versions. They have very good arch support indeed. I have become a little flat-footed and have just started to recover from Plantar Fasciitis and these shoes have been amazing. I also ran an 86 mile trail race in them with no real issues – they are very comfortable and supportive.

      If your thinking about doing trail running I would say go for it. I really don’t like running on the roads but the trails are something else. Every run feels like an adventure out in nature.

      All the best,

      Mark 

      Reply
  3. Hi Mark,

    I am so glad that I came across your article about essentials in preparing for a marathon.

    I am not a big runner but planning towards for a run to raise some money for a charity. I think your article raises everything I need to know in preparation. So, thanks heaps.

    Kind regards.

    Reply
  4. Honestly, I really never realized how much went into the preparation for running a marathon.  My husband and his friends have been running, and now they’re starting to grumble about possibly trying a marathon.  Eeeks!  You make some great suggestions of things he may need to get, from the Columbia Montrail Men’s Bajada III Trail Running Shoes to Brooks Mens Sherpa 7″ 2-in-1 Shorts to Brooks Mens Sherpa 7″ 2-in-1 Shorts and even underwear!  I’ve got my work cut out for me.  I’m so glad I came upon your article to help him to succeed if they do decide to go for this!

    Reply
    • Hi Babsie, thanks for the feedback and comments.

      Good luck to your husband if he decides to go for the marathon distance. However, remember that a marathon is 26.2 miles and generally run on the road so you don’t need any of this kit really apart from the clothing of course.

      If they decide to run a trail marathon or ultramarathon then this is the list they want.

      Many thanks,

      Mark

      Reply
  5. Hi Mark,

    This is a great informative and educative article about preparation for running a marathon. Honestly, I really never realized how much went into the preparation for running a marathon. Some of my friends have been running, and now they’re starting to participate a marathon. I believe that your article will be helpful for them with a great explanation of the reasons and equipment needed for successful ultra marathon runs. I have no doubt that they will understand pretty well about the importance of the proper equipment. I am going to share it with them. Thank you for writing this excellent article.

    Reply

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