Registering for a race is a great way to get in shape (a point that I cover in this piece on AskMen.com). It focuses your training and drives you to workout or run when your natural willpower just isn’t enough. A half marathon is also a great distance, because you need to put in the training hours to get it done, but you don’t need to start scheduling your life around your training as you would for a full marathon or something like a half/full Ironman.
A half is still a battle of attrition, and you want to make sure that you are as comfortable as possible as your body inevitably starts to make things uncomfortable. You want to avoid being too hot or too cold, too hungry or too blistered. There is also the little matter of bloody nipples (please proceed at your own risk to the bloody nipple gallery at the bottom of the page).
The moral of the story is that you (may?) have spent months training for this event, so you might as well prepare to be as comfortable as possible by getting the right gear.
Half Marathon Gear
1)A Soft, Flat-Seamed Running Shirt
Still haven’t recovered from the idea of bloody nipples? Let’s deal with that first. Over 13 miles of repetitive movement, your shirt will rub constantly against parts of your torso that protrude and unless you are a dude with a dorsal fin, that means your nipples. You are going to want as soft and smooth of a fabric as possible to avoid chafing.
On top of this, you want to a shirt that is light weight with great moisture wicking properties. Pearl Izumi makes great running shirts, but there are other more affordable alternatives that can also do nicely.
2) Body Glide
A soft running shirt is not enough, you will need a personal lubricant (the boring kind). Body glide looks like a stick of deodorant and can be applied everywhere you are prone to chafe. It goes on clear and dry and does the job it’s supposed to do. Pick up a stick and apply liberally before a race. If you aren’t convinced please visit the gallery below.
3) Quality Running Shoes
Shoes are the most important purchase you are going to make for your half marathon. Don’t skimp on research and if you are going to spend a bit of extra money on any piece of half marathon gear, spend it on getting the right shoes. Running shoes won’t necessarily cause a fortune, but be willing to invest in the ones that are most comfortable and best suited for you. There are a bunch of considerations that go in to choosing the right shoe including your running biomechanics (neutral, pronation, supination) and your arch shape (high arch, normal arch or flat footed). We suggest that you go to a proper running store and work with an expert to determine the right shoe for you and then price the shoes online to make sure that you are getting a fair deal. Click here to learn more about the considerations involved in choosing a pair of runners.
Just remember that doing your half with brand new shoes is a sure way to get blisters, so be sure to buy them well in advance of the race and break them in during training. Also remember to cut your toenails short before the race so that your toes don’t bruise. We won’t show pictures of that, just take our word for it.
4) Running Socks
The right running socks are very important: it’s the difference between a run that is blissful or blisterful.
Choose socks that are snug, moisture wicking and keep your feet at a temperature you like. You may need to try a few different makes/types before you find the ones that suit you best. That said, double-layered running socks are great choice to avoid blisters. Wrightsocks are a great value and have an anti-blister guarantee, so you can angrily mail bloody socks back to the company if they fail you….something you probably never thought you would do in your lifetime.
5) Running Shorts
Again the simple idea here is to be comfortable and unchafed at the races end. Some people like very light minimalist running shorts, others like plenty of pockets and built-in linings. It’s really personal preference, but since you are going to need to eat something during a half marathon, you will need at least one pocket somewhere. Whatever you choose, go for something flat seamed, breathable and moisture wicking. If you fall in the linings and pockets camp, Lululemon Pace Breaker shorts are a good bet.
6) Running Hat
Running hats are straightforward: Choose something cool and light. Hats are not always necessary, but a huge plus at high noon in the blazing sun.
In any rigorous and continuous physical activity that lasts over an hour, you will likely need to eat. This is not eating because you feel hungry, this is eating because at a certain point your energy levels will drop and you will start to bonk. During the process of training and running longer and longer distances you will begin to know your body better and have a sense of when you will need an energy boost.
There are a lot of different energy gels, bars and chews out there, and you should try a variety before your event to get a sense of what you like. I personally don’t like gels or bars as I find them hard to swallow if your throat is a bit dry. Gu Chomps chews are easy to eat, and are my favorite race food.
8) Running Sunglasses
Sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun and serve the secondary purpose of shielding your eyes from the wind. Depending on the temperatures you are running in, wind can be more or less of a big deal. A cold wind directly in your eyes for ~2hrs is a definite annoyance.
Make sure that your running sunglasses are snug enough so they don’t easily fall off/move around while you are running but that the nose pads, temples and temple tips (the parts that hold the glasses to the sides of your head) aren’t too tight.
Running glasses vary in price, you can spend a lot or a little. Optic Nerve Omnium glasses offer some premium features that won’t break the bank.
We hope this guide was helpful, and that you enjoy your half marathon. If you have some other running gear you swear by, or some exceptional brands that make exceptional products other runners should know about, please drop us a line in the comments.
And now for the bloody nipples…