Hey there! As a Part II to my post Tips to Training For Your First Half Marathon I wanted to go over the essential gear for a half marathon so that if you're getting ready or thinking of training for your first half marathon you're prepared and have confidence from someone that has been there before you!
If you haven't had a chance to read it, you can catch my story experience of training for and running in my first half marathon at 37 years old, catch the post here.
I've also created a FREE Checklist you can download of all the essential gear you'll need for your half marathon training and for race day!
So the first 2 pieces of "gear" that I want to cover are supplements that I can't live without in my regular fitness regime and I used them also during my training for my half marathon.
I have started my workouts for the past oh probably 10 years with some kind of pre-workout supplement. When I drink a pre-workout supplement 30-45 minutes before my workout I get a slight flushed tingly feeling (that's likely the Niacin/B3 that's kicking in that may cause your skin to literally flush a bit and you may feel a little itchy or tingly) and it's like code for my brain that it's go time.
I usually feel like I have more energy (most of the pre-workouts have some kind of caffeine and/or vitamin B combination formula which gives you energy) and an increase in focus and endurance. It may sometimes be mind over matter, but I can really tell a difference in my workouts that I miss having my pre-workout which honestly is probably less than 5 times in the last 10 years so I am a definite believer in the effectiveness that it has for me. I don't like to miss it because I feel so much better when I do have my pre-workout prior to my workout and I am a planner so I have a canister in my workout bag with an empty shaker bottle which is always in my trunk and one at home so there's never a reason for me to miss it which is why my success has been so good over the past decade even if I'm hitting the gym after work. 🙂
The one I've been using for the past 3-4 years is this one and I really like it, there's a few different flavors that are good. Raspberry Lemonade is my favorite but the Cherry Limeade is good too. I don't feel jittery or have a crash after it's run it's course which is a complaint that some pre-workout supplements have. In my opinion (I'm not a doctor here so just my opinion) I'm comfortable with the ingredients that this formula contains and it's formulated for women which I like.
When I am about to run, I drink my pre-workout about 15 minutes prior to my run which is about 15 minutes later than I do for a regular workout because you figure if you warm-up of a few minutes and get your first mile in, I prefer having my pre-workout kick in around mile 2-3 so that it gives me that extra energy and focus a bit further in my workout versus it kicking in at the very beginning. When I do a regular HIIT workout I want my pre-workout to be kicking in right at the beginning of the workout so it's just a little strategy that I use before a run.
Ok, so moving on to the second supplement that I really like are BCAA's. BCAA stands for Branch Chain Amino Acids and when you take them as a supplement they can help athletes improve athletic performance, reduce exercise fatigue, improve focus/concentration, improve lean muscle mass, and decrease the percentage of body fat...
Holy Moly that's a lot of positives! So the main reason I stumbled onto BCAA's was I wanted something to drink during my HIIT workouts like a sports drink that wasn't loaded with sugars or carbs or just plain crap ingredients for my body. This hit the spot and with the added benefits I couldn't pass it up so I started adding it to my water bottle during workouts to hydrate.
The BCAA's that I drink are here and I prefer the grape flavor. They have a watermelon flavor that's good it's just a really sweet for my taste.
I also sometimes sip on a water with some BCAA's in it during the day to change up my plain water so that I make sure I get my water in for the day.
Ok, so on to actual essential gear/equipment for a half marathon. First I would say get a runner's belt that has a place for your keys, cell phone and water bottle.
I toyed with an arm band for my cell phone and then was still needing something for keys and a water bottle.
They do have the hand-held water bottles and I did buy one of those and used it once on a long run and was like..."never again" but that's just me and my style.
I got my waist belt here and it has plenty of room for a smart phone, keys, water bottles, and snacks and it does come with the 2 water bottles shown in the pics.
I highly recommend getting this early in your training so that when you go to your event on the day of the race, you're not incorporating anything new. Honestly, it drove me NUTS the first 2 runs I went on because it did move around and adjust and I had to keep pulling it down but I did get used to it and if I ran without it it felt really weird to not have it so highly recommend this belt.
Most of the time I filled up the right water bottle with my BCAA water mixture and then the left one with regular water or nothing if it was a shorter run.
My phone went in the front pocket and keys in the back zippered pocket.
Even if you don't need your keys with you while you train or if you're training in the gym and have a gym bag with you, you have to think about the race as well.
I ended up driving 3 hours away and running my half marathon by myself so it worked out well because if I didn't have this runner's belt it would have been a pain to figure out where to put my keys for 13.5 miles so make sure to think ahead even if you don't need it during your training.
Another advantage of using it during training was on my long run training days, I was able to stash our neighborhood amenity center key in my belt pack so I could access the restrooms which ended up being really convenient. 8 miles in it was nice to have a potty break! It was also nice to not worry about my house key getting dropped/lost during my runs since it was stashed safely in my pack.
This is a non-negotiable for me even with regular workouts and thought it was worth mentioning as part of my essential gear for a half-marathon as well. I listen to some music and mainly podcasts during my runs and having comfortable wireless headphones that don't hurt my ears or slip when (not if! 🙂 I get sweaty is key. These wireless headphones have been in my gym bag for years and they are my faves.
While we're talking about getting hot and sweaty, a huge essential for a half marathon is some sport sunglasses. Trust me when I say this because I was not a fan of getting anything remotely close to these...I love my designer shades but there was no way they were going to work for 3 miles let alone 13.1 when I got sweaty.
My husband and I went to the sunglass store and he helped me pick these sport sunglasses out and I absolutely love them. They stay in place and do not move around at all.
Supportive Sports Bra
For the ladies out there, this needs very little explanation. 🙂 A supportive sports bra that will keep everything in place is key when let's be real, you're bouncing up and down the road or treadmill. It's also important to get one that for your long runs won't rub your skin when you get sweaty. I personally love these sports bras that you can get at Target
They don't have underwire which is nice to not have that digging into your skin and have good support but with thinner straps. I personally don't care for the really thick straps but I don't have the largest chest either so it's all personal preference and what works best for your body.
I have a few sports bras that have a really tight band at the bottom of them (the band that goes around your body) with this plastic almost grippy material and I avoid wearing those during a long run because they rub too much against my skin. Those are better for walks or HIIIT training when my workouts aren't as long.
I love wearing yoga leggings/capris and when I run tend to stick to them even when it's warm outside in lieu of shorts, so my legs chafing weren't an issue but if you like wearing shorts and you are concerned about your inner thighs rubbing on long runs, you can either throw on some longer bike shorts under your running shorts or just go for some yoga capri leggings and you should be fine.
Running Shoes & Socks
Running shoes and good padded socks make a HUGE difference when you train and run any kind of distance and especially for a half marathon. I have tons of athletic socks and shoes so when I first started training for my half marathon, just wore those during my first 2 weeks. Then my feet started getting sore so my husband bought me some true running shoes and some padded socks from a running store. Turns up the shoes and socks I had prior were fine for working out and cross training but to really log some miles I did need some true running shoes and padded socks.
He bought me a pair of Asics like this and then bought me a few pairs of Brooks like this and this. I rotated them out after each run because I knew if I only trained in one pair they may not last till the race - (a pair of running shoes last around 300-500 miles).
They made a HUGE difference in the way my foot felt. We went half a size up so when my feet got hot and expanded a bit they didn't feel too tight. I also made sure to keep my toenails short so they didn't hit the end of my shoes.
I also got a few pairs of socks at a running store like these and they were like running on clouds - they were cushier than my normal workout socks and wicked away sweat so I didn't get any blisters.
Another essential gear for a half marathon and really any other workout is a tracking watch. I currently use this one and I love tracking my heart rate, distance walked/run, calories burned, etc. I am super analytical so it's great to keep track of where you are at on a run and it's also nice to see your time as it compares to other runs to track your progress.
One thing to note is I do not have my phone connected to my watch. I had it connected for a while and disconnected it because I wanted to manage all the distractions, etc from mobile devices. It's a personal choice and I can always switch it back but for now it's disconnected from getting texts/alerts and still syncs to my phone.
Another supplement that I like for hydration are these tablets that you can mix with your water instead of drinking a sugary sports drink. I often drank these after a long run to replenish lost electrolytes (ie: salt) from sweating. I bought a 4 pack off Amazon and only went through 2 of the packs for my training so they do last a while.
When you are on a long run, sometimes you do need a quick pick-me up and I train on a low carb diet so there were times that I did mid-run want a quick burst of energy. I researched some options and bought a box of these on Amazon and only used a few packets during the entire 8 weeks. I bought the Cherry Blossom flavor and they tasted like cherry gummy bears.
I often would have a few gummies during a long run and save the rest versus eating the entire package on one run because they do have a higher carb count (I try to stay under 30 carbs per day) but when you're running a lot it's fine to increase your carb count because your body burns it all off.
That being said I still wanted to limit the sugar and carbs I was getting but these were a life saver on a few long runs that I got out and started either starving or getting low energy or both. Sometimes you just have those days where you need a pick me up!
Before AND after EVERY workout and/or run, I foam roll. I have been through about 3 foam rollers and a high density one like this is the best because it's really firm and doesn't have too much give which basically means it's really hard and it hurts when you roll on it with sore muscles but it's SO important for your recovery. I've had ones that are softer and they aren't as effective. I also foam roll on my rest days to relieve sore muscles in my back, shoulders, glutes, legs, etc.
Foam rolling is a non-negotiable for me and it makes a huge difference when your IT bands are super sore.
Epsom Salt Bath
After all my long runs I ran a hot bath and added Epsom Salt to the water and then soaked for 15-30 minutes to loosen up my muscles. Epsom salt is great for sore muscles and you can find them infused with essential oils like lavender or eucalyptus which makes the experience even more relaxing.
This stuff is my jam when my muscles are really sore or tired. Usually after I run 8+ miles my knees get a little sore so after a bath I rub in some blue emu cream where it's sore and it usually feels a lot better.
That's a wrap of the essential gear you'll need for a half marathon!! This should help you decide on the must-haves if you're trying to figure it all out! Trust me, you want to make sure you don't over complicate it but also be intentional about what you do purchase and use so that you are setting yourself up for success both in training and for your race!