Imagine the scene… you are 10 miles into a 50 mile ultra and you start to experience chafing from the new hydration vest you purchased! You failed to pack any and it suddenly becomes apparent that this hydration vest is going to cause you issues. There is still a long way to go and you need it as it carries your water, fuel etc. The thought occurs that perhaps testing ultra marathon kit before today would have been a good idea.
Testing Ultra Marathon Kit
It’s all very well undertaking multiple long runs to ensure that your body is to up to the challenge of completing the distance, but what about all the other factors that contribute to a successful ultra marathon. Kit is just one of them. Let’s look at the things to consider before the big day when it comes to kit:
Wearing in Your Trail Running Shoes
Notice we said wearing ‘in’ your shoes and not wearing them ‘out’. While it is important to wear your shoes in before the big day, don’t run in a pair that are really well worn. Eventually, you are going to lose the cushioning that you really need when you are undertaking big miles. You are going to be on your feet for a long time. The key is to avoid blisters, squashed toes, chafing etc.
If you always wear the same pair of trail shoes and just buy the same each time, you may well be OK to wear them straight out of the box. Even though we buy the same shoes each time, or even two pairs if they are on offer, we still like to get a couple of long runs in before race day to test that there are no niggly bits and that they are comfortable.
Wear them on a shorter trail run to start with, just to make sure your laces are how you like them, that they feel the same as your others. Then try them over a longer distance. Ideally you want to get a couple of long runs in them before the race. Alternate between these and your old ones if you still have a few weeks to go. It’s common to have a pair of ultra marathon trail running shoes on rotation anyway.
Try the Kit in Different Weather Conditions
I once wore a hydration vest while on holiday in Spain, while I had worn it countless times before without issue, the heat and the sweat meant that by mile 9 I was suffering from chaffing to the my collar and neck. I had never had this before and was glad that I was able to discover this before what turned out to be a very hot September day in the UK on race day. I didn’t change the vest, I just changed the top I wore underneath to avoid chaffing and piled on the Body Glide before the race.
Similarly, I wore a new pair of shorts for the Palma half one year. I had never worn shorts for a race before, preferring leggings instead. Suffice to say, Palma in October was extremely hot and I had chaffing so bad I bled. It was one of the most miserable 2 hours of my life and I still carry the scars.
Test ALL of Your Trail Running Kit
It’s not just shorts and trainers, it can be your sports bra, nipple chaffing from your vest/t-shirt or even your socks. Any new kit that you save for race day is a risk that’s not worth taking. To minimise the chances of any kind of discomfort (apart from that encountered by running a really long way) be sure to wear and test out your complete race day kit before hand.
Items like hydration vests can be tested so that you get used to taking a drink from the bladder, or bottles if you prefer. You can put different things in different pockets and get used to opening the pockets and accessing items on the go. Practise running with the weight of your kit to ensure that it’s not too heavy. Think about the things you are more likely to need and make sure they are easily accessible.
We can honestly say that after many years of running, countless chaffing incidents, blisters, squashed toes, lost toenails and sore feet that we talk from experience. Just like nutrition, which we will cover separately, testing ultra marathon kit before running your ultra marathon is certainly advisable.
Test Your Running Nutrition Too
While it is important to ensure that you are going to be comfortable, blister free and without massive patches of chaffed skin on race day, it is also important to ensure that you aren’t going to end up with a dodgy stomach! Practice your nutrition beforehand and don’t try anything new on race day. Find the foods and drinks that agree with you and stick to them., Don’t try something new at an aid station just because you like the look of it. We have fallen foul of this before. It makes for a very uncomfortable latter part of the race. Everything you consume should be something you have run on before.
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