No longer are the days when I head out on a run with just my phone, headphones, and a set of keys. Now I have to make sure I'm totally prepped for 26.2 miles, and over the course of my training, I've realized how essential gear is to making every last mile bearable. If you're hitting a wall somewhere on your long runs, see if switching (or adding to) your gear will help you go the distance.
1. Shoes. The importance of picking the right shoes cannot be overstated for a marathon runner. Since this is an individual choice for every runner, I went to a running store and had my gate evaluated. I ended up with Nike Zoom Structure+ 17s. To find out the best shoe for you, check out these five tips from fitness expert Jay Cardiello.
2. Tracking device. To record how far I go on each training run, I'm always tracking my route. Since I bring my phone with me, I usually use the app Map My Run. I love how it tells me how far I've gone after every mile and what pace I'm running. However, if you choose not to bring a phone or app device on your run, you can also use a wristband like the new Fitbit Force ($130, fitbit.com) (the upgraded version of the Fitbit Flex) or Nike Fuelband ($149, nike.com). They'll measure distance, track steps, and calories burned, and log your results on your phone or computer.
3. Music. Every runner seems to be either pro-music or anti-music. To each her own! I am very pro-music, and Spotify Premium ($10/month, spotify.com) has changed my life. It allows you to download as many songs to your phone or iPod as you want, create new playlists whenever, or listen to radio stations or genre stations according to your taste. You do need internet access for most of these capabilities, but in the case that I run through buildings or under a bridge, I turn to my downloaded playlist so as not to miss a beat.
4. Headphones. The regular ol' Apple headphones don't cut it anymore. I am a huge fan of the Meelectronics Sport Fi Memory Wire In-Ear Headphones ($40, meelec.com). First, they're not terribly pricey, and the sound is awesome. Other essential aspects to these are the over-the-ear capability that forms to your ear shape. Plus, they come with six sets of ear tips so you can find the size and shape that bets fits your ear. Read: They never fall out. The only downside to these is that they tangle easily (what headphones don't?), so another option you could try are the NOIZY Brand Bluetooth Earbuds ($99, noizybrands.com). Yes, that's right, no cord. They're a bit of a splurge, but worth it if you really can't stand the tangle.
5. Hydration belt. I hate running with extra things, but one thing I can't get away from is a running belt. For those longer runs you'll need to pack fuel and hydration especially if you don't have water fountains on your path or are not sure what to expect for fuel on your race route. I'm trying out the Fitletic Hydration Belt ($40, fitletic.com). Cool add-on: They can also include toggles so you don't have to safety pin your bib to your shirt.
6. Athletic tape. For those inevitable aches and pains, not to mention injuries, Beret Kirkeby, owner of Body Mechanics Orthopedic Massage in NYC, advised me to use athletic kinesiology tape. A good brand is Strength Tape ($16, strengthtape.com). It provides support and stability without the constriction of a typical brace.
7. Sun protection. I've been wearing ZEAL Kennedy Active sunglasses ($139, zealoptics.com). Not only are they a great fit, lightweight, and very protective, but they're also super stylish. I wear them when not running as well! Also, don't forget sunscreen. "You'll be in the sun for eight or more hours on race day," says Andrew Allden, my running coach for Team USA Endurance, the official NYC marathon team of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
8. Phone charger. And now, the true test of endurance: Can my Samsung Galaxy SIII survive a marathon? The answer is plainly, no. I have discovered that my battery runs out around mile 14. So I'm employing a back-up system: the Mophie Juice Pack ($80-120, mophie.com). It offers 80 to 120 percent more battery life, and is available for most styles of smartphone.
9. Socks. Who knew? Your socks matter, too. Running socks are contoured to your foot to eliminate irritating seams and provide a drying capability not found with normal cotton socks. I've newly been introduced to Feetures ($15, feeturesbrand.com), which I now wear on every run.
10. Apparel. The most important thing I've learned about the clothes I wear is that running capris and longer sleeves prevent chaffing on me. For running capris I turn to Lululemon or Brooks—both offer great fits, moisture-wicking, and a zip pocket to stash anything you need. I'm also a big fan of Nike running shorts (for shorter runs), their running jackets, and their DriFit line.
Whatever you choose, remember to test it out on long runs so you don't have any surprises on marathon day, says Allden.