Some people run cross-country, others prep for marathons. But for every runner, there are several key staples you should always pack for a long-distance run. Whether to perfect their time, hydrate their bodies, or fuel their tummies, long-distance runners must be aware of their physical state at all times in order for their practice and workout to go smoothly. We talked to Courtney Hughes, ten-time marathon runner and second place women’s winner and first in her age group at the 2016 Atlantic City Marathon, about her must-have items she always is sure to pack for a long-distance run. Hughes, who is also training for a sub 3:15 to reduce her time, claims these items are crucial in helping her get there.
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Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
According to Hughes, the best advice she ever received is that you can’t quench your thirst. So remember to stay one step ahead of a dry throat by hydrating. In order to properly hydrate your body, it’s important to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your run. Pro tip: By packing a collapsible water bottle for your run, you’re saving both space and weight.
Pack Plenty to Eat
Just like your thirst, Hughes recommends keeping your tummy properly fueled with nutrients for your run. “If your brain and stomach feel hungry, imagine what those muscles are screaming for,” she says. “It’s imperative that your body has the fuel it needs to endure those miles.” For getting quick nutrients into your body, try packing some energy chews. Hughes recommends GU Energy Chews that consist of three feedings in one pack. A perfect amount of fuel. She also brings some Honey Stinger Waffles, so her brain recognizes “real food” in replacement of the nutrient gels.
Cash or Credit
If you’re like Hughes and want to avoid packing any heavy items (such as a water bottle), it’s important to have some cash or a credit card to stop along your run for any needed items. If you’re someone who prefers running without your phone, the cash will come in handy at a local 7-Eleven or bodega to use the telephone.
When tackling a long run and bringing the necessary items, a running belt is a good idea. It’s important to research the running belt you’re going to wear. Make sure it has enough space and is flexible enough to move with you during your run. Hughes loves using her SPIbelt. It has an easy snap-on/off strap that has space to fit some Band-Aids, fuel chews, and a phone if needed.
Hughes strongly stresses packing the right clothing before going for a run. If it’s cold, pack a hat or head wrap as well as gloves or mittens. “Make sure you always cover your ears and hands if going out for a long run in the cold. As long as those areas are properly covered, your body won’t recognize the temperature as badly during your run,” she says. If it’s going to rain during your run, bring or wear a raincoat to avoid dampening your clothing and creating more weight or friction as you run. To avoid the sun on a hot day, bring along your baseball cap. While sporting your favorite team, college, or last year’s summer vacation, you’re also preventing your face from long-term sun exposure.
You could be outdoors for several hours underneath the hot sun. Bring a travel- or sample-size bottle of sunscreen. When picking out your sunscreen, make sure it’s waterproof with an SPF of at least 30. You’ll be sweating throughout the run and don’t want the lotion to wear off. Given that runners spend a good amount of time outdoors and train for lengthy periods of time, it’s crucial to reapply sunscreen throughout your long runs to avoid any permanent skin damage or skin cancer from prolonged sun exposure.
“Lastly, don’t go anywhere without your watch,” Hughes says. This is your handy tool to keep you in check with your timing. Some watches track mileage and pulse rate, which can help you set expectations throughout your run by checking your current progress. Hughes prefers to wear a Garmin watch, and she admits, “If you don’t track it, did it actually happen?”
When it comes time to pack for a long-distance run, always take your route and fuel needs into consideration. Never head out for a long run without these essentials. You’ll enjoy a safe and successful run.