10 Products That Helped Me Survive My First Marathon
The offer came in 2018: “How’d you like to run the New York City marathon?” Without thinking I blurted out “YES” and immediately began Googling training plans. This would be my first marathon…ever.
Now, something like 365 days later, I’ve completed said marathon just hours before writing this and am still reeling from what felt like the longest, hardest, most humbling day of my life. Prior to this, I’d run a handful of half-marathons. Some with training, some on a whim. Some steadily tracking my pace, some without my watch at all. I had assumed my cutoff was 13.1 miles—a distance I could run without really worrying about nutrition, hydration or the anatomical construction of my socks (more on that later).
Don’t get me wrong; I’m by no means immortal. It just wasn’t ever something I had to think twice about or strategically plan for. Twenty-six point two miles, on the other hand? This is where we get back to being humbled. My first 16-mile long run left me nauseous and shaky, crying alone on a curb in Central Park while my boyfriend hoofed it uptown to bring me a Gatorade. I quickly realized that this wasn’t going to be like every other race I’d done before. If I was going to run 26.2 I had to get smart. Do my research, be more mindful and invest in the products that would help me get to the finish line.
So that’s what I did. Eighteen weeks of training and multiple energy chews later, these are the ten products I couldn’t have survived my first marathon without.
1. Powerbeats Pro Totally Wireless Earphones
I wish I could be that person who doesn’t need music to work out, but I’m just not. When the run time exceeds the length of an episode of Succession, I can no longer stand to hear the sound of my own strained breath. Enter these ridiculously expensive wireless headphones. They’re like the AirPods of running (minus all the subway fatalities). The battery power is unbeatable (hello, nine-hour playback time), the sound quality is top-notch, and no matter how much I bounce around they do not budge. If you’ve yet to find running headphones you love, add these to your wish list stat.
2. ASICS Cooling Seamless Sports Bra
OK, listen up. If you have boobs, you need this sports bra. It is the softest, most supportive, most comfortable running bra I own (in fact, I own multiple). It is the ONLY bra I’ll wear on a long run. After suffering through chaffing that no amount of Vaseline could fix, I found my ride-or-die support system. The longer fit sets the band at my waist rather than my rib cage, and the high neck keeps everything locked and loaded for a seamless fit that feels more like a second skin than a suffocating corset. It’s a game-changer; go buy it.
3. GU Energy Chews
I’ve tried a lot of mid-run energy boosters and by far my favorite is the GU Energy Chews (or Chomps if you want to sound cool). You’ll find most energy chews are made up of the same things: carbs, sugar, sodium. Basically, everything your body loses while exercising. My advice is to find one that actually tastes good and helps you feel less fatigued. I’m obsessed with the GU watermelon flavor. It’s soft, easy to chew and doesn’t leave me craving water immediately after consuming.
4. SPIbelt Running Belt
There’s a reason you see this belt on most long-distance runners. It’s super lightweight, easily adjustable and holds a shoot ton (including your giant iPhone 11) with little to no bounce. In the colder months, I cannot complete a run without ChapStick and tissues, so those—along with my energy chews, spare hair ties and packets of Biofreeze—came along for the 26.2-mile ride.
5. Koala Clip
Unless it’s a short run, having my phone with me is a non-negotiable. Up until the marathon, I always ran with an armband that would either be too tight and constricting or too loose and annoying. That is, until I discovered the Koala Clip. This simple, unassuming little carrier changed everything for me. It’s a portable zippered pocket that magnetically clips onto the back of my sports bra and is big enough to hold my phone plus an apartment key, ID and credit cards, if needed. It’s waterproof and machine-washable, meaning my stuff won’t drown in sweat or forever smell like a locker room. It’s never slipped, bounced or chaffed. Once you find that sweet spot for it to settle into between your shoulder blades, you’ll completely forget it’s there. I’ve even noticed that it’s helped me run a little taller, subtly forcing me to stand up straighter and maintain proper form.
6. Apple Watch Series 5
When the miles exceed double digits, a running watch is a must. I’m a big fan of the Apple Watch because it’s idiot-proof and pairs easily with my iPhone. It allows me to simultaneously catch up on text messages while monitoring my pace and controlling my Spotify playlist. In case you’re new to the long-distance league, a large component of marathon training involves tracking your weekly mileage. Having a watch with me on every run (even the two-mile shake-outs) helped me stay in line with my goals for race day.
7. ASICS Cushion Single Tab Socks
Yes, you need running-specific socks. No, this does not make you a diva. The multi-pack no-show version your mom got you at Costco is not going to cut it on a 14-mile tempo run. Look for a pair with strategic cushioning, arch support, blister tabs and breathability, like these from ASICS. Money-saving tip? Invest in just one or two pairs that you dedicate to your longest weekly workouts.
8. AmazonBasics Foam Roller
You don’t need to get fancy with your foam roller (unless, of course, you want to). This one from Amazon was all I needed to sufficiently warm up and roll out my legs. The 18-inch option was the perfect size for me and my tiny studio apartment. I bought this one specifically for the marathon, and it was $15 well spent. Add it to your cart now and your muscles will thank you later.
9. Bedgear Performance Pillow
Confession: I am a self-diagnosed insomniac. I rarely get more than five or six hours of sleep a night and am addicted to melatonin past 9 p.m. But as we all learned in health class, sleep is important, especially while training for a marathon. This performance pillow helped me fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer because it was made just for me. I found my perfect fit by taking the Bedgear Pillow ID assessment quiz. With questions like, “Are you a stomach sleeper? Side sleeper? All over the place?” (raises hand), I was able to find my perfect match (I’m a Storm 2.0, by the way). Sleep and I will always have a rocky relationship, but this pillow made prepping for those early morning speed workouts way more manageable.
10. Nuun Sport Electrolyte Tablets
I’ve been using these dissolvable hydration tablets ever since my first failed run test in college (I played soccer). They’re an easy, quick and portable way to prep for and recover from a workout, without all the useless sugar found in most sports drinks. It enhances any plain old glass of water to an electrolyte-rich supplement that tastes great and is easy on the stomach. I’m embarrassed to admit that I'm horrible at remembering to drink water throughout the day. So when 3 p.m. hits and I’m still on my second cup of coffee, it’s time to break out the Nuun.