Sunday, October 18, 2015

Project Runway: Marine Corps Marathon Edition

One week until the marathon! I'm planning my clothes and gear. The earlier I plan, the better prepared I feel as the race nears. Here's a look at my plans.


Currently, forecasts are for a high of 66, low of 44, and partly sunny skies. This is completely meaningless, because we are still a week out. That forecast will change every day, multiple times a day. 

You should have outfit modifications in mind for unexpectedly warmer, unexpectedly cooler, and raining. If you are traveling, bring all of these modifications with you. I've run several races in DC where the forecast on the morning of the race was different than it was the night before when I went to sleep. Check the forecast the morning of the race.

Race Outfit

This is my core race outfit. I have modifications in mind if the weather forecast changes. Let's walk through the details:

Although I feel a bit unpatriotic straying from the traditional red and blue that many runners will wear, I've chosen a green/aqua theme. Why? I want my friends and family to be able to spot me so we can connect during the race and I can get that lift in my spirits from seeing them. 

I've been a spectator at MCM the last two years, and it is hard to pick people out from the crowd. It helps to mentally prime your mind with the colors you are watching for, and it is mentally exhausting to scan every blue or red person you see heading towards you.

I'm wearing a personalized foam tiara. Why? It gives you a shot of energy when people cheer for you by name. The tiara also stands out as unusual and inspires cheers of "happy birthday" or "go princess". Those cheers help keep me going. Want to make your own tiara? It's easy and it's comfortable to wear. Directions are here

If you aren't the tiara type, you can still personalize your outfit by putting your name on your shirt with duck tape or even iron-on letters.

I like to wear a hat to help protect my face from the sun. I burn easily. A hat means I don't have to put sunscreen above my eyes, and that means no sweaty sunscreen dripping into my eyes. I usually prefer a visor when it is warm, but a hat gives me the flexibility to run in the rain more comfortably, should it happen to rain (don't worry, it won't rain).

Sunglasses are key in the sun - don't waste any of your energy squinting. They can even help keep the rain out of your eyes (don't worry, it won't rain). A good sports bra is a must (did you know your bra shouldn't have a birthday?), and a tank will keep me comfortable in the warmer weather (I have alternate tops in mind if the weather changes). 

These Saucony swift arm warmers have mittens in the cuffs so they can do double duty at keeping me warm in the earlier part of the race when it is still cooler. When I warm up, I will take them off and stow them in my hydration vest. 

The only tricky part is relocating my Garmin - it will be on top of the arm warmers and I will take it off before I pull them off and then put it back on my bare wrist, being careful not to hit the "stop" or "lap" buttons. I put BodyGlide on my left wrist before putting on the arm warmers because sometimes the Garmin rubs my wrist and causes chafing.   

The polka dot cloth is a rundana. My nose can run like a faucet during races so I like to keep this handy.

These are my trusted Saucony Guide 8s. I have 3 pair that I have been training with. One pair is close to 300 miles and about to be retired. This pair has 200. The third pair has 50. Common wisdom would have me running in the third pair - slightly broken in but with most of their useful life ahead of them. That was my plan, but they just don't feel right yet. So I'm sticking with the ones that feel the best on my feet. 

I have lock laces on my shoes to give my toes extra space and keep my neuromas from flaring up. These shoes also have the cherry blossom charm from Lynn, which is very special to me.

I switched socks a few weeks ago when I started getting blisters on the tip of my second toe during my longest runs (18+). These are Thorlos micro mini-crew and they have some extra padding, but aren't so thick that they drive me crazy.

I've chosen an aqua sparkle athletic skirt. They are fun, comfortable, and will help my friends & family spot me.

I'll put my bib on my shirt with the special MCM-themed RaceDots (full disclosure: I won these from RaceDots). They are strong magnets and eliminate safety-pin holes in your shirts. I had to watch the video to learn how to use them properly - those magnets are really strong!

I've been training in 2XU compression shorts all summer, and it will likely be warm enough that shorts would be my pick for the race. However, if my left hamstring/knee keep feeling twitchy, I may switch to my 2XU compression capris for the extra support. I also may use KT tape for even more support (not pictured).

Body glide is an absolute must for me before a long run. I know the spots where I chafe and I apply it liberally. I also carry it with me in my hydration vest in case I need it on the run.

I use my Garmin Forerunner 220 to track my run/walk intervals, pace, and heart rate (heart rate strap also pictured above). I connect it to my phone via bluetooth and will send live tracking of my run to friends and family through the GarminConnect app. Lynn tested the live tracking last week during the Army Ten-Miler and I was able to see her whole run.

Race Gear

I like to be self-sufficient during a race and carry what I need. It gives me the option to run past a water stop and ensures I don't run out of fuel. I also keep some core essentials with me, just in case they are needed by me or another runner.

I'll carry water (with ice cubes) and supplies in my Nathan Intensity vest

I will have nine gels with me. I can hear some of you now - "You are going to eat all that during the race? That's too much. I would be sick." Yes, I will probably have eight gels during the race. I am a slower runner and I take a gel about every three miles. This is how I trained and this works well for me. 

I am bringing an extra gel (probably two), just in case (sometimes you drop one or find you need more than you thought). I will also plan to take a Clif Shot and Jelly Belly Sport Beans on the course to have some options. I know both work well for me and they are safe choices during a run. I will not take oranges (they are too acidic and upset my stomach) or munchkins (I suspect I would feel sick afterwards) or anything from a bandit food stop.

I bring my own wipes, and a little bag with band aids, mini body glide, sunscreen, salt stick caps, nuun, biofreeze, safety pins, bobby pins, a hair elastic, and KT tape. Not pictured, but definitely a must, is a backup battery for my phone with the right cord (I have brought the wrong cord before - test it out before you pack it).

I keep lip balm with sunscreen and a tube of lube handy in the front pocket. My phone goes in the other pocket. I may play mixes from the RockMyRun app during the race on my phone. If I do, I will use the speaker at a soft setting and no headphones. It is important to be able to hear the other runners on the course, especially the hand cyclists who may need you to move to the side quickly.

Throwaway Clothes

It will likely be cold before the race. As a back-of-the-packer, I will be in my corral standing around for a long time. I want to stay warm and not waste energy shivering. I need that energy for the race! I have throwaway clothes to keep me warm. Throwaway clothes are collected by volunteers and donated to those who can use them.

The pants used to belong to my nephew. They have zippers at the bottom so they are especially easy to take off without removing your shoes.  

The shirt and jacket are from two races that prepped me for MCM - Revenge of the Penguins 20-Miler and Navy-Air Force Half Marathon (click for race recaps). Both are too big for me, despite being the smallest sizes offered. They helped me get to MCM, and they will help me stay warm before it.

I also have gloves (no story there), and a hat (from a "Frozen-themed" PR Training run last winter). And thanks to Susan's tip in the comments below, I will also bring a large garbage bag.

I feel prepared...what am I forgetting?


  1. I love your outfit - we are the same way, I like it to be coordinated throughout :) I'll look out for you Sunday morning!

  2. I would add a trash bag just in case you need an extra layer to stay warm or if wet stuff is falling from the sky (but that isn't predicted and won't happen). Not sure if you are planning to put some of the clothes over your hydration vest but a trash bag would definitely fit and could be shed at the last second.

    1. Great point, especially that it will fit over my vest. Thank you!