London marathon 2020: here’s the kit you need for a personal best this year (or next)

Marathons began to commemorate the fabled run of Ancient Greek soldier Pheidippides who ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens to bring news of victory. Now, we tap into our inner warrior to complete the race of 26 miles and 385 yards, but have considerably more kit than leather sandals to help us.

Of course, the best marathon running shoes, socks and moisture-wicking shorts are essentials, but compression socks, running belts and an awesome pair of earphones, along with a roaring crowd might help you beat your own PB. So whether you’re pounding the London pavements this weekend, or plan on getting your medal in years to come, we’ve rounded up the best equipment for long distance runners.

Pro tip: don’t buy this kit today and run a marathon tomorrow if you haven’t trained and paid the entry fee. Use it to get in shape for next year, eh?

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The best marathon running kit

Adidas doesn’t tend to change the Boston much with each annual update, but it’s hard to improve upon perfection. This is an incredibly popular shoe and for good reason. The Boston 7 is a tremendous race-day option for pretty much any distance, with just enough Boost cushioning to keep the pep in your step over a marathon, but not so much that you’re carrying unnecessary weight over shorter distances when training. Plus, it’s good value compared to other race offerings, with prices starting from around £84.

A top tip is to size up, because Adidas shoes tend to run small and what it calls a snug racing fit, many of us might refer to as uncomfortably tight. However, once you have the right size (and you’ll want to find this out long before your marathon attempt) there are few shoes that will serve you better for your race, and during all the training leading up to that race as well.

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It goes without saying that a comfortable pair of trainers is essential for running a marathon. The Gel Nimbus 21 trainers from Asics are considered some of the best to help women go the extra mile in smashing a PB, thanks to ‘FlyteFoam propel technology’ for supreme bounce in every stride and a FlyteFoam Lyte midsole that promises to cushion your foot with nanofibers. 

There’s also an exoskeleton heel for more support and ‘Impact Guidance System’ to enhance your natural gait, not to mention shock-absorbing foam and a breathable liner to prevent your socks getting too sweaty and uncomfortable. 

The £155 running shoes come in a choice of three colourways – grey and yellow, black and hot pink – so you can coordinate your outfit to look your best collecting your medal at the finish line.

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You might not be chasing the same time as Mo Farah when running your first marathon, but some professional kit can only help. The Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo is a lightweight version of the brand’s popular Pegasus running shoe. Its headline feature is the ZoomX foam, which first featured in Nike’s revolutionary VaporFly 4% shoe and was used later in the VaporFly Elite. The tech originally emerged as part of Nike’s Breaking2 initiative, which targeted – and came within 25 seconds of – a sub two-hour marathon. Both of those models were really hard to come by for consumers, but the tech is trickling down to more mainstream running shoes, designed to be worn every day.

Nike says ZoomX builds upon the beloved Pegasus with added speed and responsiveness. It performs best on the road, where it excels, but is versatile enough to carry you further and faster on a number of surfaces, partly because the raised rubber sections on the bottom offer additional support and the protection offered by Nike’s Flywire cables – great for pounding the pavements of London, or other marathon courses. Some runners won’t like the shallow toe box, but when it comes to cushioning and responsiveness for longer runs and daily use alike, most will find the Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo a top choice.

Most runners love tracking their progress as they train for the big race, as well as keeping an eye on their stats on marathon day. The Garmin Forerunner 645 is designed to go the distance. Available in a choice of colours, the running watch measures ground contact time balance, stride length, vertical ratio and more to provide you with plenty of information from which to up your game. It also used wrist-based heart rate3 to offer performance monitoring features, including evaluating your current training status. 

The 645 watch is perfect for serious amateurs who have go the running bug and is packed with handy features not least its seven-day battery life. Surely you can finish a marathon within seven days, right? Pay a bit more and you can get the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music, with on-watch storage space to upload 500 songs (or Spotify Pro offline playlists) so you can run to your favourite tunes. 

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If you want a watch that can track your miles but also works as an all-round fitness tracker and smartwatch, look no further than Fitbit’s most run-friendly device, the Ionic. Smartwatches are a runner’s best friend when it comes to tracking progress and the Fitbit Ionic is a great fit for long distance runners. The watch automatically analyses your run when it detects you’ve started on – this Run Detect feature even kicks in GPS tracking, showing real-time pace and distance.

 The Ionic packs in industry-leading battery life and strong GPS performance for accuracy when it comes to showing split times and a map of your run.  Plus, its PurePulse heart rate tracking is one of the best and handy for looking at exercises like running and intervals, and figuring out ways to optimise intensity. It also tracks your resting heart rate 24/7. With room for 300 songs, it will also keep you entertained while you pound the pavements and at £249 it’s great value.

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At the end of a gruelling 26-and-a-bit miles, you better believe that your feet will be sore, but a pair of compression socks can help. 2XU Vectr compression socks cost just £24 for three pairs, making them ideal for training as well as the big race. They promise to provide increased stabilisation and optimised movement for a better running technique, and every little helps when it comes to the marathon. 

Some people dislike the feel of compression socks, but these are ideal for well-fitting trainers and come with blister protection and anti-odour technology, both of which you will no doubt be grateful for as you near the finish line.

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After bouncy running shoes designed to carry you past the Cutty Sark, through the City and down the Mall, your next priority will probably be a pair of comfortable shorts, because no-one wants 26 miles of groin-related chafing to deal with. Reebok’s One Series Running Epic 2-in-1 running shorts have a loose-ish outer shell with a fitted inner to prevent this problem (although all the pros use Vaseline too). 

The shorts have a slim-fitting outer layer over the inner stretchy one for maximum coverage, while their Speedwick fabric wicks sweat to help you stay cool and dry. Yes, £42.95 may seem a bit steep for some shorts, but trust us; you’ll be willing to pay anything for a high-tech, comfortable pair by the 20-mile mark.

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Marathon training through the arduous winter months is more painful than the big race itself, and a good running jacket is a must. Nike’s Shield is designed to protect you from the elements thanks to its wind and water repellent fabric. It also boasts plenty of runner-specific design features, including multiple pockets for secure, convenient storage of things like your keys and snacks, breathable vents and, most importantly, a fitted hood that stays in place while allowing for visibility as you speed along your route. 

For the image conscious, there is a drop hem for coverage and an on-trend (and convenient) two-way zipper. While it’s rare to wear a jacket when actually running a spring-time marathon, such as London’s, you may well want to throw one on before and afterwards.

There are better running buds in terms of sound quality and convenience but what Stadion offers to marathon runners is a good overall combination of very secure fit, not too much noise isolation, so you maintain awareness of what’s going on around you, good build quality and an affordable price. If you choose to train with music, or even run the marathon to your favourite playlists, Urbanears’ Stadion Bluetooth buds won’t let you down. 

Stretchy coils adapt to the shape of your head, and EarClick technology ensures your earbuds stay firmly in place inside your ears. The way they fit means they feel very secure unlike true wireless buds, it’s easy to take one or both out at any time, without the risk of losing it. The design does also mean that all the buttons are at the back, which is frankly bizarre, but there we go. Stadion offer up to seven hours of playback time on a single charge, which should cover your marathon, touch wood. 

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Whether you’re training on waiting at the start line of the London Marathon, you’re bound to need or want some essentials with you, whether that’s your house keys, or energy-boosting gels for the big day. Nike’s Capacity Waistpack is surprisingly roomy and has a stabilized design that reduces bouncing. There’s a secure zip pocket with an internal divider and breathable mesh so you don’t get sweaty. 

While the £20 pack is perfect for training, some professional runners caution getting carried away with carrying too many bits and pieces for every eventuality, as it may weigh you down.

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This affordable armband is made from a stretchy neoprene-ish material so that one size fits all. The only downside is that if you have a chunky phone, it will be especially bulky but it’s hard to avoid that, the laws of physics being what they are. With your phone securely in place you can listen to tunes, receive encouragement from well-wishers, call ambulances, and talk to cold-calling life insurance salesmen, at your leisure.

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The classic freemium running app, Strava lets beginners get into the swing, then helps more experienced runners with features such as live performance updates, cardio training zones and more in-depth run analysis, including data from your favourite wearables. Although you will have to pay up to an extra £48 per year for the various add-on ‘packs’ Strava offers but they are worth it.

The Training pack is the one you most want as it includes 6-12 week training plans for various popular race distances, including full marathons. Perhaps even more motivationally, it lets you filter Strava’s famous leaderboards by gender, age and weight, giving you a much better idea of where you stand compared to other pavement pounders.  

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