Packing for an UltraMarathon 

As a runner, you know that proper preparation is essential to success. That’s why packing for an ultra marathon is so important. You need to make sure you have everything you need to make it through the race, both physically and mentally. Packing is probably way down the list when you first sign up for a race. Well, that’s at least what happened with me anyway. Here are some of my tips for packing for an ultra marathon.

UltraMarathon race requirements

Each race will have its own required kit list which can seem a bit daunting at first. Especially when you see an emergency blanket on there. However, as dramatic as most kit lists are it’s always better to be carrying too much and not need it than get caught out in some biblical conditions with essential kit missing. 

As I said earlier. Most races will have their own required kit list but below Is a basic list that will be on the majority of races you sign up for. I’ve taken this list from an upcoming event I have planned for the next few weeks.

My packing list

  • Hydration backpack or water bottle holder with a combined capacity of at least 1 litre. I prefer to use 2 x 500ml water bottles. That way I can use one bottle for just plain water and in the other bottle, I put a fresh salt tablet in each time I fill it. My favourites at the moment are PHD hydro tablets in pineapple and mango flavour 
  • Wind & Waterproof Jacket – Why is a windproof jacket so important? Simply put, it can make the difference between a pleasant run and a miserable one. On windy days, a windproof jacket will block out the wind and keep you warm. It’ll also protect you from the elements if you’re running in cold or wet weather. See below for an example of wet and wild conditions. This jacket was a lifesaver for me on my first ultra 

running in the rain

  • Appropriate footwear – When training for an ultramarathon, it’s important to choose the right footwear. The shoes should be comfortable and provide good support, but they also need to be light enough that they won’t weigh you down during the race. In addition, it’s important to choose a shoe that has good traction, as you’ll likely be running on a variety of different surfaces during the event. Ultimately, the best shoe for an ultramarathon is one that strikes a balance between all of these factors. By carefully selecting your footwear, you can help ensure that you have a successful race.
  • Compass – I can see why it is required but I can bet that not many if anyone actually ever takes it out of their bag to use.
  • Downloaded GPX / GPS file of the route – Most people myself included use GPS watches from brands like Garmin or Polar and you can download the route straight onto your watch from there. My Garmin 735XT is about 2 years old now and the battery still lasts around 10 hours with GPS and the route on show. *insert pic of watch with the route on*
  • Waterproof trousers – Goes without saying how important these are for when conditions get really bad. Or if you go down with a twisted ankle etc these can be a godsend to keep you dry while you wait for support
  • Thermal top / mid-layer – Again if conditions are bad or if the weather varies throughout the race it’s nice to be able to have the options to take off or put on.
  • Buff-type cap, hat or bandana. For me, I always wear a thin cap while running. Perfect for all conditions keeps the rain out of your eyes when the heavens open up. Keeps the sweat out of your eyes when it’s baking hot.
  • Thermal blanket. – for emergencies. Essential kit required at all long-distance events
  • Whistle – baffles me this does but suppose it can help staff find you in thick fog or if you’ve sent yourself into a ditch.
  • First aid kit, containing at least: bandage, adhesive, antiseptic, needle, antihistamine and analgesic. 
  • Two head torches with their spare batteries. – two is a bit excessive but definitely required on longer races especially in the UK winter when most of the time we are in the dark
  • Cup or bottle of water. to reduce plastic usage, most race organisers are trying to be friendly to the environment and rightly so. The less footprint we leave while racing the better.
  • GPS-tracker provided at check-in of the race. 
  • bib number visible throughout the race.

Carrying your kit

You have a few options for carrying kit and equipment when it comes to Ultramarathons but I’d highly recommend getting yourself a decent running vest. They come in different sizes. I have the Azarxis Hydration pack which is 5 litres. You can find it here on Amazon it’s comfortable and has all the storage you need for most shorter distance ultras. If like me you watch a lot of Youtube then you will see most of them rocking Salamon hydration vests. All I’ve seen are great reviews on them so if you do have a little extra money to spend then it could be worth investing a bit more and getting a more recognised brand. I’ve linked a few options here link 2 salmon products from amazon 

When it comes to hydration vests the options of the bladder which are usually 1.5l or most vests come with pockets at the front to hold 2x 500ml bottles. For me, the bottles are the way forward. Much easier and quicker to fill at aid stations. I like to use one of my bottles to have a hydro tablet in to replace lost salts and minerals (something like the hydro phd tablets)  you can pick these up at most supermarkets in the UK. The other bottle I just fill up with water.

PHD Hydro Tabs

Nutrition on the GO

Now that we have the main kit out of the way the rest of your load will be nutrition. Probably the most important part besides water. If you don’t stay on top of your nutrition you will not finish many Ultramarathons. 

This part of the packing will come down to personal preference and where your storage pockets are on your kit. For me, I don’t like to stop to access any nutrition so what I do is pack everything that I need nutrition-wise that I can reach while still running. I carry different flavour gels which I alternate between. I carry flapjacks because after a while my body just craves food/something to chew on. I also pack emergency sweets for more boosters/in case I go into a bonk.  Then

I just have random snacks like crisps or a mini mars bar for in between. You will find what works for you through trial and error but there are some great products on the market that can help.

Is music a good idea for running an UltraMarathon

Music can be a great motivator when running an UltraMarathon race. It can help to keep you focused and distraction-free during those long miles. as you are aware they are often gruelling and demanding, so having music to help push you through can make all the difference. Ultimately, whether or not you choose to run with music is a personal decision. But if you’re looking for a little extra motivation, music can be a great option.

however, sometimes it can have negative effects as well. if you’re not used to running with music, it can actually be quite distracting and can make it difficult to pay attention to your surroundings and stay safe. also, if you’re running in a race, wearing headphones is generally not allowed. so keep that in mind when making your decision

Summary: 

A lot of this packing will come down to personal preference and you should always do a full test run of your kit and nutrition strategy before entering a race. I bet you can find 1000s of people who haven’t tested their packs properly and suffer badly during the race. 

Key takeaways: 

  • Make sure you have room for all the mandatory kit
  • Prepare your kit properly and always triple check before leaving for the race (read my first ultramarathon blog here to see why its important insert link to blog ) 
  • TEST TEST TEST – I can’t stress this enough. You need to be comfortable with your kit because the reality is you’ll be in this kit for a minimum of 5+ hours. 

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