Race Day Outfit Checklist

Race Day Outfit Checklist

With races every weekend now through December, what to wear on race day is certainly on many runners’ minds. Temperatures in autumn can range from cold and windy to late summer heat and you want to be appropriately dressed for any conditions that come your way. A couple weeks ago I shared how to dress in a variety of conditions for fall weather and today I want to share with you a race day outfit checklist.

This race day outfit checklist will streamline your packing, eliminate extra decision morning on race morning when you’re a bundle of nerves, and adapts to any sort of weather you may encounter this fall. 

Race Day Outfit Checklist

Race Day Outfit Checklist


I’m in team shorts all the way, especially on race day. Shorts have minimal fabric, which will keep you cool and prevent overheating as you push yourself as hard as you can. Skirts can lead to chafing as your upper thighs are more likely to rub, and capris can be too warm for most temperatures.

Pockets are not necessary, but they’re definitely helpful on race day (especially if you don’t run with a SPIbelt or Flipbelt). You can stash your ID cards and gels in your pockets and not have to worry about them until you need them.

A word to wise: wear dark colored shorts just in case of GI distress, a leaky gel, sweat, or spilling those little cups of water from an aid station on yourself.

Arm Warmers/Gloves

Maybe this is because I love cold weather running, but don’t wear a long sleeve shirt on race day unless it’s truly below freezing. You will warm up as you run and sweat. If too much sweat collects on your shirt, you will end up feeling colder – and weighed down by the extra weight. But, unless you want to leave your shirt on the course or carry your shirt for the remainder of the race, there’s nothing you can do to change your clothing situation.

Instead, pair arm warmers with a tank top or long sleeve shirt. Once you warm up, you can easily tuck them into a pocket or the waist of your shorts.

Tank Top/Short Sleeve Shirt

The key features of a good running singlet: comfortable, wicking, and non-chafing. While there’s nothing to stop you from wearing a loose-fitting tank, too much fabric can actually lead to more chafing and some drag in the wind from excess fabric. But too tight can be uncomfortable and chafe as well! So find your happy medium of fit and stick with it.  Once you have these bases covered, you can choose from a variety of styles.

Consider color as well. Bright colors can help family and friends spot you on the course. Basic black looks sleek, competitive, and hides sweat.

Sports Bra (for Women)

A proper fitting sports bra is an absolute must for a female runner’s racing kit. A poor fitting sports bra can cause serious discomfort and chafing after a race.

On very hot days, you may opt to avoid the double layers of tank plus sports bra and run in just a sports bra. If you’re considering racing in just a sports bra, your options include traditional sports bras (just opt for padded cups if you’re worried about chilly air on race day) or long line sports bras/crop tops. These resemble elite racing tops and offer a bit more coverage and support than a normal sports bra. 

Blister-Proof Socks

Merino wool socks are worth splurging on for your racing kit. The wool wicks sweat, prevents blisters, and gently cushions your feet. Feetures and SmartWool offer high-quality merino wool socks designed specifically for runners.

It’s worth picking a sock with a blister tab as well. Low cut socks can slip down and lead to blistering on the back of the ankle – which is not something you want to deal with in your next race.

Racing Flats

Personally, I’m a fan of racing in lightweight shoes. Up until Brooks discontinued them, I raced in the Brooks Pure Connects. Now, the Saucony Kinvaras are my shoe of choice, especially for longer distances. 

Why do lightweight shoes matter? Your legs function as pendulums, swinging out from your body as you run. The more weight you add to the furthest point of the pendulum away from the base (your foot), the more that weight will slow you down and cause inefficiency of movement.

Weight, landing, distance being raced, and injury risk do factor into whether or not you should wear a racing flat. If you have low cadence, stomp, or break a lot during your run, you may need more support than a racing flat can offer. While you may enjoy racing a 5K in racing flats, these may not provide enough support for your feet over 26.2 miles.

If you train in a lightweight shoe (such as the Kinvara, Pure Flow, etc), you can easily race in that same shoe – no transition to a racing flat needed, especially for longer distance races. If you do not run in lightweight shoes but want to race in them, devote a few goal pace workouts or long runs to practice wearing them before race day. 


Whether you run with a GPS watch or a simple stopwatch, a watch is a must have on race day. Being able to track your elasped time, pace, and distance will help you pursue your goals, stay motivated during the tough miles, and race your best.

Race Day Outfit Checklist


SPIBelt/Flipbelt: Honestly, this depends on the race situation and personal choice. If you traveled to a race by yourself, you want to be able to stash your keys, phone, and other personal items on you. However, if your significant other or close friend is there from start to finish, you can skip the belt and leave heavier items like your phone behind.

I raced without my phone at the Lake Sammamish Half Marathon, and it was one of the best racing decisions I’ve made. I didn’t feel the distracting buzz on text messages during the race. The phone didn’t flop around in a belt, nor did the weight of it throw off my gait or efficiency.

If you do run without your phone in a race, take a couple safety precaution. List an emergency contact number and any allergies on your bib and run with your ID and medical insurance card in your pocket. Select a meeting area with your significant other or friend after the race, especially if it’s a large race where they can’t meet you at the finish line.

Hat & Sunglasses: Keep the sun off your face on a warm day, or keep the rain out of your eyes on a rainy day! A hat and sunglasses can even improve your running form on a bright day, since you won’t tilt your chin down and stare at the ground to avoid sunglare.

Gear to leave at home:

  • Cotton: so much chafing, not to mention how heavy cotton can get with sweat. 
  • Costumes/Tutu: Can we say chafing? Ouch! Not to mention how not breathable and wicking many of those costumes are! 
  • Hydration pack: Unless you are running a race that does not provide on-course aid, a hydration pack will just add extra weight and increase the chance of very painful chafing in areas such as the back of your neck or waist. If you’re struggling to stay hydrated, drink more water at each aid station or examine your electrolyte consumption.

Essentially, leave everything at home that could cause chafing. 

[Tweet “Your one-stop checklist for what to wear on race day! #marathon #halfmarathon #runchat via @thisrunrecipes”]

What are your must-haves on race day?
Do you wear lightweight shoes/racing flats for racing?
Worst outfit choice you ever made for a race?


Sign Up for My Newsletter for More Running Tips

* indicates required

Share this post

14 Responses

  1. All great tips! I have a few of my favorite running items and then I decide which of them I will wear on race day based on the weather. I try to wear different colors at each race to help me remember which race it was in pictures!

  2. this time of year for a race can be really tough here because it’s usually still warm but there’s a chance it’s cooler in the morning. I ran a half a year ago this weekend and sort of got lucky that it was a little rainy since it meant it was a drop cooler! I actually never run in shorts! how funny. I love my capri pants year round and the skirts I have from lulu have the bike shorts built in. I wore the skirts for a bunch of races in the warmer months. and I would be lost without the lululemon pockets! there’s a zipper pocket in the back and two front ones in the waist. my new pair of pants from there also have the phone pocket on either leg and it doesn’t move at all when you move.

    1. How you run in capri pants in summer amazes me! But I’m one of those weird people who will be in shorts until below 40. I love those zip back pockets! My Saucony shorts have them also and I can even squeeze my phone into them.

  3. I’ve thus far made pretty decent outfit choices, and if I haven’t, I’ve body glided my way to thinking that everything was ok.
    Unfortunately, I am currently out of body glide. Fortunately, I won’t be needing it for a long time!

  4. I love SPI belts. You know what’s crazy? I forgot to mention this in my race recap. Is that I wore a cotton tank top (one of my daughter’s!) for the race and I actually LOVED that the material stayed wet with sweat because the start was 8am and by the time 10 and 11 o’clock came around, the sun was blazing, and the slight breeze against my wet tank top totally cooled my body off! Weird hey? So old fashioned cotton isn’t always such a bad thing.

  5. I always carry some kind of fuel with me like Clif Shot Bloks. I have a very sensitive stomach so even if a race has fuel along the course I like to use the one I’ve trained with and I know won’t cause an emergency bathroom break haha!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *