Let me do you a solid and tell you everything you will need, and every you will not need, for July 29. Last year’s San Francisco Marathon was my first, so I gave my best trial-and-error attempt at preparation. I did pretty well thanks to the ample information provided by the race organizers.
Side note: You can bring whatever you want, because SFM offers safekeeping for your items while you race.
1. A long-sleeved shirt you can donate. San Francisco can be pretty chilly and windy. At 5:30 a.m. it feels like a scene from The Thing (the original). There’s an answer to this problem: Wear a layer to the starting line to stay warm. Now, at some point in the race you’re going to think, “Who’s idea was this stupid layer? I can’t stop sweating.” BAM. Take that beast off and throw it on the side of the road. Crews will pick it up and donate it locally. You stay warm, and so will someone else.
2. Sunscreen. It will be dark when your race starts, but the sun is projected to still rise that day. You will be outside long after your race as you absorb the glow of victory, and of radiation pouring off the sun.
3. Your phone. This seems strange, as you are running a race and there are plenty of people to help you should you fall ill. Having your phone is more about preparing your fans, who will battle for viewing position at some point along the course. If you can spare a sweaty-thumbed text, they will appreciate the heads up on your ETA. You can also snap pictures and Tweet, which adds to your fan base.
4. Imodium. Have this in your system before leaving for the race. Trust me. Don’t try to be a hero. If you lose, we all lose.
5. Happy thoughts. Things are going to get a bit tight along the Golden Gate Bridge and again at the finish corrals. Smiling, more than aggression, tends to improve any situation.
6. Funny clothing. Every time you see someone wearing something out of the ordinary, it makes you forget that you’re exhausted for a moment. If you are someone who can carry the funny clothes burden for the rest of us, please do.
Here are things you do not need:
1. Water bottle. If you’ve run with any kind of hydration pack on you, you are about to feel a whole lot lighter. Some people carry their own water or electrolyte, and I am telling you: That is not necessary. Last year, SFM had so many aid stations that I considered skipping some of them. You will have plenty of fueling opportunities, including a guy who typically hands out cups of PBR around Mile 15. Or so I’ve heard…. no comment.
2. Fuel belt. Some people like to carry their own gel packs, snacks or drinks. SFM has gel packs at a few of their aid stations, so you don’t need to worry about carrying those on you for your race. Any other kind of snack you should probably carry yourself.
3. Pets. I don’t even know if pets are allowed. Don’t bring them, unless they are a poopless breed.
4. Headphones. It gets crowded, and a few times you might need to hear orders from course officials who are directing you away from traffic and onto a new course route. Also, people passing you will let you know they’re hot on your six, and you’ll want to be able to hear that warning and slide over.
5. Rollerblades. That is cheating, and you are going to look like an idiot going up steep hills.
You should be set now. Get pumped, get Imodium, and rest up.