Everyone differs in terms of racing gear preferences, and many runners – like Kara Goucher and her titanium necklace – have a lucky item that they wouldn’t dare race without.

As I start to pack my favorite tried and tested gear for this weekend’s Portland marathon, I thought I’d let you know what I’ll be wearing on race day and any changes I have made since running the NYC marathon last November. For the most part, I am sticking with what has worked best for me in the past (golden rule – never race in anything new), but with some updated models and a few accessory changes.

Feet: Saucony ProGrid Omni 10 shoes and WrightSock CoolMesh II Quarter socks

Ever since I’ve had my gait analysis a few years ago, I’ve stuck with Saucony ProGrid Omni‘s for road racing (I currently use Brooks Adrenaline ASR 6 for trail – updated model here). I’ve debated switching to a lower profile shoe, and plan to do this at some stage, but for now this shoe has worked very well for me. In Portland, I will be using the newest Omni model (10). I purchased these recently because I’ve already logged 220M in my pink Omni 9’s (which is fine – I use shoes up to about 500 miles or until they just don’t feel right anymore – but I prefer to run marathons in shoes closer to 100M if possible) and, more importantly, the 10’s come in purple! I have only run about 60M in them as of today, but they feel good so it should be fine.

I will be using the type of socks as I did in NYC, the WrightSock CoolMesh II Quarter socks from REI, although I did buy a fresh pair for Portland! I find them very comfy – they are supposed to help prevent blisters and so far, so good.

Legs: 2XU Elite Compression Tights

I have run practically every race and long run (save for very hot days) in 2XU’s elite compression tights. They’re pricey, and I’m not sure I buy into how much they aid in performance (apparently they do help with recovery, but not so much with speed), but they’re extremely comfortable, they “contain the jiggle” as a running coach of mine once aptly said and they help me get into the racing spirit. At this stage, simply because I have run both marathons and most races in them, I almost feel like I need to wear them to race. It’s silly, and I need to get over it for racing in hot weather, but so far they have served me well. My first pair, which I bought when I started to train for Paris in January 2010, was getting a bit worn out so I treated myself to a shiny new pair a few months ago. I received a discount both times, fortunately, through the Purple Patch running camp I attended last year.

As for underwear, I recently discovered that many women don’t wear any when running in tights, and I can understand why after experiencing some serious butt chafing (TMI, sorry!) last year after NYC from wearing a thong. Nothing like hobbling into a hot shower after running a tough race and finding yourself screaming once the water hits your skin and reveals phantom chaffing – surprise!! I never got around to training commando, so I’ll be sticking with the same type of underwear I used last year (plain old Target seamless thong) but this time with some strategically placed Vaseline…

Torso: Patagonia Sport Top and Bra

Last year, I used a Nike purple dry fit tank top that I picked up at the SF Nike Town combined with a hot pink racerback Champion sports bra that I happened to find at Costco. Both were cute and comfy, although the top was quite long and tended to scrunch up at my waist. I found myself fidgeting with it several times during my run which was distracting. This year, I picked up a purple Patagonia top at the Santa Cruz outlet, along with a matching purple racerback bra, both in XS so they are very fitted but comfy. The top has a built in bra and has tested very well on my last three long runs. During my run yesterday, however, I decided to try wearing the bra under the top to see what that felt like – the top is supportive, but I thought greater support couldn’t hurt. I’m still deciding whether or not it would be too restrictive for so many miles (I felt some tightness in my shoulders at first), but it felt pretty good during the run and fits in with the idea of the compression tights and hat, which all make me feel extremely contained!! I will, of course, be transferring my purple, orange and silver CLAIRE patch to my new top.

Gels and gel belt: SIS black currant and orange, with SIS belt

I have been using SIS Go gels since I started training for my first half marathon in 2009. They’ve worked well for me and thus I haven’t bothered trying anything new – although unfortunately they do not sell them in the US (it’s a UK company) so I will have to either keep bringing them home when I visit London, order them from Canada or switch gels. The taste isn’t too bad and the consistency isn’t too thick, so you don’t need to take them with water. For my past two marathons, I have also used the SIS marathon gel belt. I tried switching to a different belt that I had picked up at the NYC expo for my 18-miler, after the SIS belt started to feel too loose during the Pacific Grove 10k. In the end, I decided it wouldn’t work well with the race number (since I was wearing the pouch in the front) and I was able to fix the SIS belt with safety pins and knots. Also, in the last two races, I have been able to get rid of my belt around mile 21 or so, since that is where my parents usually see me for the last time and I am able to carry my last gel in my hand if I haven’t already taken it. In Portland, I’m not sure where my relatives will be spectating so I may have to just get rid of the belt. It’s SO liberating to remove it – really gives me a lift when I’m desperate for one – and it has seen better days anyway.

Eyewear: Sunwise Breakout sunglasses (and contact lenses)

In my last two races, I used the older model of the Sunwise Breakouts. This year, they came out with a silver pair and I snatched them up – now I’m all purple, black and silver! Sunwise is a great brand from my experience – cheap, great quality, durable and extremely comfy/lightweight. I think they look pretty cool too. Like my compression tights, these sunglasses help me focus and get in the zone. I feel like a “real” runner with these on. In Portland, even if it’s raining or cloudy, they will be on my head – on top of my hat if not over my eyes – so I can pull them down when I really need to dig deep. The new model is ever so slightly less comfortable – I feel them a bit more on my nose whereas with the older pair, I would forget that they were there and they wouldn’t budge an inch, but it’s hardly noticeable.

Other accessories: 2XU hat, Asics arm sleeves (if it’s cold), handheld water bottle (to throw away when empty)

I always wear my hair up in a bun – a swishing pony tail slows me down and distracts me. I like to feel like one moving force – hence the compression tights and other attempts to contain everything (but without sacrificing comfort, of course). I always used to wear a headband in races, and still do for all indoor workouts. Goody’s StayPut line of headbands and hair bands work very well for me. One day this past summer, however, E and I were getting ready to do a long run in the sunshine, and he let me borrow one of his hats. I fell in love with it and refused to give it back – thankfully he didn’t argue. Since then, I have worn it on most long runs. It’s super comfy, protective from the rain or sun and like with my sunglasses, it helps me shut everything and everyone else out. It also means I don’t have to deal with my hair at all which is quite nice! So I will be wearing this hat in Portland.

If it’s really cold out, I may use my Asics arm bands again, which I picked up at the NYC marathon expo and used on race day (mine are plain black, no ING NYC logo). It was so cold I was forced to break the never try anything new rule – although they did chafe a bit (they are cotton/synthetic, so not ideal racing material), they looked pretty awesome and were relatively comfy. I have a feeling I won’t need to use them in Portland – and I’m also tempted not to because I don’t want to have to throw them away, should I get too warm – but at least I now know to slather the insides of my upper arms with vaseline!

Speaking of which – I use aloe vera Vaseline, which I buy at Boots. Technically this product is classified as lip care but I’ve found it great for use anywhere and it’s very portable. I sometimes use Body Glide but haven’t noticed any real difference between the two.

Lastly, I will be running with the same oval handheld water bottle I used in NYC to avoid stopping at water stations for the first 15 miles or so. It’s an old cheap bottle, so once the water is finished, I’ll toss it (and hopefully someone will recycle it for me). It was a good system last year, as I hate interrupting my rhythm by stopping to drink, and it just so happened that a friend of mine who was spectating was able to take the bottle from me so I could keep it for one more race. After that, I’ll use the stations.

Pacing: Garmin Forerunner 410 and races2remember pace bands

I recently upgraded my Garmin 405CX to the 410, and I love it. Looks prettier (black instead of blue, and of course brand new), and has been working far better than my older one (which is why I exchanged it at REI – man I love that place). I nearly went with the newly released Garmin 610 but then decided it was unnecessarily complicated for me.

I’m also using races2remember again for my pace bands – Molly & Al are super friendly and accommodating, and I really enjoyed using their product in NYC. Their 3:39 band really guided me through a tough race! This time, I have ordered one specific to the Portland course (they make adjustments according to the elevation profile), with 20 seconds and 10 seconds added to my first and second miles, respectively, and the 30 seconds made up in my last three miles, but otherwise pacing evenly. They make you three different bands for $7.50, so I chose 3:34:45, 3:38:59 and 3:41:45. I will most likely be wearing the first two, and probably sticking to sub-3:39 but we’ll see how I feel…

And now, let’s put it all together! Here are two recent shots – one of my racing outfit described above before doing my 18-miler, and the other of my last racing experience in the Pacific Grove 10k, showing my CLAIRE patch, gel belt and arm sleeves.


What’s your favorite racing gear? Do you have any lucky items that you can’t race without?