January 22, 2012

Marathon myth: Test your outfit before race day

In this weekend’s marathon, I had the chance to wear a brand new all-Athleta ensemble. I went a little nuts at their semi annual sale a few weeks ago, and at first I picked out the adorable hot pink PR tank and gray Quick Step capris that I’m wearing in my official Athleta profile. However, the more I thought about running in mid-60s temps (glorious!), I realized that I would probably be hot in capris, so I decided to pick up another outfit instead.

When I went shopping again, Athleta’s new spring line had just started coming in, so I ended up with pretty much the cutest running outfit I’ve ever worn: a purple ruffled Swagger skirt and the Pavitra tank, a black Y-back tanktop with an adorable flower paisley design on it. Now, conventional advice is that you shouldn’t wear something brand new when you’re doing a marathon (26.2 miles can cause a lot of pain if something chafes). While the idea is generally solid, I think this advice should really vary based on the exact item of clothing you’re considering. For example, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon wearing a Supergirl costume that I had never before worn to run in – but I used a favorite sports bra and tank top as my base layer underneath. So, starting from the bottom up:

Sneakers – These are pretty important, so I wouldn’t wear a new model to a race that I haven’t run many miles in before. However, I have frequently worn brand new pairs of sneakers to marathons – as long as they are the same exact model as a tried-and-true pair. Your mileage may vary (pun intended), but I don’t get any extra tightness of rubbing from a new pair of sneakers like I do a new pair of heels, so I don’t see the need to break them in.

Socks – Also critical to blister avoidance, it’s probably not the best idea to wear a new pair of socks to a race. Though on the flip side, new socks tend to be cushier than old socks that have been worn down and gone through the washing machine a few times. For this one, I say fine to wear new socks as long as you put plenty of Vaseline on your feet (prevents blisters) and if you’ve worn that particular type before (some socks can be hotter than others).

Skirt – I like to wear a running skirt for marathons (though for training, I always wear shorts or pants… go figure). I like that skirts are cute and fun, but the tight biker-style shorts that come under them can create a buffer to prevent thigh chafing (that’s right, let’s be honest, for most people running 26.2 miles, that is an issue). Assuming you’ve checked to make sure that there are built in shorts, the worst problem you’ll have is shorts that ride up a bit as you run – which isn’t a huge deal, so I was going to say that as long as you’ve tried the skirt on before the race and it’s not too big or too small, you’re probably fine. But then! On Saturday I tried the aforementioned Athleta swagger skort, and discovered, for the first time in my running career, shorts that don’t budge one inch while you’re running. I have no idea how they did it, but I am glad I went with a skirt I hadn’t worn before!

Sports bra – This is absolutely the most critical part of my workout gear. Seriously, when I used to do the Insanity program, I would sometimes do it barefoot, because I was on my Vibram Five Fingers kick, but as long as I was inside, I didn’t need protection from rocks/etc, so I’d do it straight up barefoot. And then because I got so ridiculously sweaty during Insanity, I would often strip down to just my underwear for the workout (sorry, gym peepers, I always did Insanity at home or in my hotel room). But the one item that I always made sure to wear was a good sports bra – because it is not at all comfortable to go without (not to mention it’s pretty bad for your girls). I used to just double up on cheap cotton sports bras from Walmart (3 for $10), until I tried a quality Moving Comfort bra… and I haven’t looked back since. Did you know that you can finish a marathon without any chest chafing at all? It’s a whole new world for me! A sports bra is definitely something to try in training before wearing it for a full marathon – and if you have any chafing, keep looking. A good sports bra is the best!

Tank top – Since I always wear tank tops with built in bras for marathons (a relic of the days when I had to do so because of my cheap sports bra), I’d put this in the same category as a sports bra – try it before you wear it. For my Pavitra top, I only wore it for about a 6 mile run, but that was enough for me to make sure it fit comfortably and didn’t have any annoying tags or other scratch points. I really liked the Pavitra top, and got a ton of compliments on it during both my training run in it and at the race. It’s a super cute design, is made from a material that does a pretty good job of wicking, and I particularly liked the length – it came down over my hips low enough that there was never any gap of skin showing, even by the end of a run when my top tends to ride up a bit. Only downside is that this top doesn’t have any pockets – unlike the PR tank that I also picked up recently. But to be fair – I’ve never before had a top with pockets, so this is just a bonus feature that I’m looking forward to trying in the future!

Jacket – I didn’t wear a jacket for this race, given how warm it was. But when choosing a jacket, I think that is another item that’s critical to try before you wear in a marathon. I’ve found jackets to be extremely prone to annoying features – pockets that are tough to get unzipped, hoods that fall off your head when you’re wearing it or that flail around when not on your head, and random tags and front zippers that scratch. Plus, it can be hard to gauge how warm a jacket is going to be until you’ve actually tried it on a run. You could probably get away with wearing a new jacket during a race, but I just think there are too many things that could go wrong in trying to do that.

So in short? Test your sports bra and your tank top beforehand, use a tried-and-true pair of socks and sneakers (but if they’re a brand new pair, as long as you’ve tried the model before, they’re fine), and wear whatever you pick up at the last minute for your skirt. Another marathon myth, debunked!


4 thoughts on “Marathon myth: Test your outfit before race day”

  1. I did a 10K last year with new socks. I thought that since it wasn’t a long race (and I also knew I’d be walking some), it wouldn’t matter. One bloody blistered ankle later, it mattered.

  2. I totally understand that this post is based on your experiences and I’m glad you shared them. However, I have to disagree with a couple things based on my experiences. Personally I wouldn’t wear brand new shoes to a marathon, even if it was the exact same model. I’d suggest at least getting in a short run or even walk first. Also, although I don’t wear running skirts anymore, I have tried them in the past and to me having the shorts ride up is super annoying. So I wouldn’t want to risk discovering that problem for the first time on race day.

    I love having tops with pockets… it’s so convenient! I have several tank tops with pockets that I only use for really long training runs or races because I love them so much that I don’t want to wear them out too quickly.

  3. Lee and Lisa, sounds like mileage may vary for everyone!

    Lisa, when it comes to running skirts, I am just so used to having them ride up that I don’t worry about it… but that Swagger skort did NOT ride up on me, and it was such a pleasant surprise! Not sure if it’s something about the material or just its particular cut relative to my legs, but it was great 🙂

  4. I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve run one half with brand new shoes because I wasn’t thinking about my mileage rotation, and I couldn’t run another step in my old ones. My feet blistered a bit, but I survived.

    A new sports bra… I wouldn’t even consider it. Oh, the chafing that could occur! It makes me wince to even think of it…

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