Well, first up. We wouldn't recommend a suit of armour like this chap here! When it comes to running your first ultramarathon the age old question of 'what to wear' steps up a notch. The right kit choices can quite literally make or break your event experience and it'll play a huge part in whether or not you get to the finish line and bag that all important medal.
If you've entered an ultramarathon the chances are you're already a runner and you know what you're comfortable running in, for some it's shorts and a t-shirt whatever the weather and for others you're out there in full body cover. The dynamic shifts and the knowledge grows the further you run and the longer you're out there on your feet, then throw in a mandatory kit list from us and it's easy to get confused and panic if this is new territory for you.
A key thing to understand is that the mandatory kit list is, well, mandatory! This means you must carry it at all times with you during the event, the list seems big on first glance but trust us that you may need every item on it depending on what the weather throws at you and whether you go through the night. Your kit will be checked at Registration on the Friday and we also carry out spot checks at Pit Stops and a check of key items for everyone at Hexham before you leave. Below we've listed the mandatory kit and linked examples to help explain the use of each item.
The reason most people don't finish The Wall isn't tiredness, blisters, and general wear and tear it's because they get too cold to continue. In an endurance event regulating your body temperature is a constant challenge, especially when you run/walk through the night and the chill sets in. Many people underestimate their need for extra layers if their pace takes a hit as the sun goes down. The mandatory kit list has been designed to give you the best shot at finishing this huge adventure and at 3am it's not uncommon to see people grinding out those miles wearing everything on it.
Running trekking pack/vest. The key thing for this is that it is big enough to get all the kit in and it is comfortable! We would recommend at least a 12L capacity to make sure you've got the room. We have developed our own Great Glen bag which has been tried and tested by thousands of Rat Racers, these have been sold out for a while but our next drop is due in March 2024. Whichever pack you choose make sure you train with it, you've adjusted it to fit your body and train in it a few times with all the kit to get used to the weight on your back.
Running shoes or walking boots. We recommend road shoes for the whole course and a pair that you know are comfortable and you've worn in. Don't break out the box fresh shoes on event day! Some people choose to put a more cushioned pair of trainers in their Hexham drop bag as it's all road from there.
Hydration bladder or bottles. A 2L carrying capacity is required. This doesn't mean you need to carry 2L at all times but you need the capacity incase you end up needing more water than you thought mid-event or if the weather is hot. You will have the opportunity to refill your water at all the Pit Stops which can be seen on the website under The Route. A popular way to carry water is to have 1L in a bladder in your bag and then 2 x 500ml bottles in the front.
Basic first aid kit containing a triangular or conformable roller bandage, assorted adhesive dressings including at least 100mm x 100mm. Gauze or gauze bandage and paracetamol.
Spare food to be carried with you. This is to ensure that you have some supplies on you as you should be eating consistently during this event, ultrarunning is just a moving picnic! In your training it's good to understand how often and how much you need to take in to stop yourself flagging or feeling hungry. Everyone is different and if it's your first time clocking up this distance a good place to start is something small every hour (250-300kcals) and adjust the frequency or kcal amount from there based on how you feel over a 6-7 hour period. Our Pit Stops are packed with food but lots of it is designed to be eaten at the Pit Stop vs carried with you in your bag so please don't rely on these for all your nutrition.
Survival bag, NOT blanket. This is an important safety item if you get injured and have to stop while we get support to you. If the weather is bad and you're tired your body temperature will drop very quickly so it's essential to have one of these to retain as much heat as possible.
Whistle for emergency use. A lot of ultra packs have one built in or you can buy a lightweight one.
Reusable cup suitable for hot drinks at Pit Stops. In our strive to be more conscious about single use plastic we ask that you bring a cup to our Pit Stops to have a hot drink. A collapsible cup will pack down small and they are very lightweight.
Insulating mid layer merino or synthetic similar. This can be confusing if you aren't used to layering, but we are basically looking for something that you can put on over your running kit to help keep you warm that is less than a coat. This can be a fleece style top, a half zip style long sleeved top or similar. You can see examples of mid-layers here on the Inov-8 website to get an idea of the style of top we mean.
Full waterproof body cover, long sleeve jacket and full length trousers with taped seams. If you want to invest in a good running waterproof jacket you can go down a rabbit hole of brilliant jackets and end up spending big bucks vs your Go Outdoors pac a mac. The plus side is that the better the jacket the less likely you are to have it rain on the inside as your sweat builds up if you do have to put it on, I love the Inov-8 stormshell for a higher end jacket. If you're walking often excessive sweating is less of an issue but you're more likely to have your body temperature drop in the rain vs a runner so you want a jacket that can help keep the heat in and the rain out. Taped seams are essential to ensure your waterproof is actually waterproof and not 'water resistant' look for this feature when you're choosing your waterproofs.
Additional full length leg cover if you are running in shorts (eg a pair of leggings, if you are wearing leggings you do not need to carry a second pair)
Fully charged phone
Method of payment (card/cash/apple pay)
Headtorch NOT a chest torch. This is mandatory from The Sill Pit Stop which means you need to carry it from the start do not leave it in your Hexham bag, this is checked on departure. You have 14 miles to do between these 2 Pit Stops and it can take some people up to 5 hours, you can come into Hexham up until midnight. You need to carry spare batteries too to ensure you are never without a headtorch, some of the later course is on dark roads with no streetlights.
Rear red light or reflective/hi-vis patch (10cm x 2cm minimum) this is to ensure you are visible to traffic.
Spare batteries for your headtorch or back up light source
This kit is not mandatory but more 'common sense' additions that we recommend to give you the very best chance of reaching that bridge at the end!
Insulated jacket - we strongly recommend packing one if you think you might still be going in the early hours of Sunday morning. The most common reason that people retire in The Wall is that they get too cold. Regardless of the weather through the day you will get cold at 2am, find one that packs down small and get it in your pack. It might be the piece of kit that helps you get to the finish.
Suncream/sunglasses. You want sweatproof suncream so look for one that is designed for sport
Blister treatment kit. Our paramedics will prioritise live cases and they are not a foot care service, we recommend that you know how to treat your feet if hot spots and blisters do occur and that you are self contained.
Spare socks, a lot of people put spare socks in their Hexham bag for a fresh feet pick me up! The choice of socks is personal, we love our merino ones and lots of people swear by them. Another popular choice is the Hilly twin skin, we recommend experimenting to find a pair that help prevent those dreaded blisters.
Trekking poles – totally optional but helpful if you are a walker to help maintain your pace and take the load off your legs. See our blog about walking and running with poles for more advice.
Headphones - when the going gets tough the tough listen to music! Please ensure these are not on noise cancelling mode and that you can hear the traffic and people around you.
Over and above the mandatory kit you should have a good supply of your own tried and tested nutrition and electrolytes onboard. During the event, regardless of the weather you will lose electrolytes and you need to ensure you're replacing them via supplements to keep yourself feeling balanced. There are many brands on the market and you should find one that you can stomach but also you like the taste of! A flavour that doesn't sit well with you is much harder to sip on throughout the day. I like to have one 500ml bottle of water in one pocket of my bag and one of electrolytes and I just alternate my sips.
Read more about the benefits of electrolytes in ultramarathons and understand their value in this Runners' World article.
The right kit will make your ultra an unforgettable experience for all the right reasons. The key is to practise with it all before the big day, pack and unpack that bag. Test those socks, know where you chafe and address it before you get going. You need to know your body inside out and be able to adapt to any issues that may arise on the day, I like to do a little check in every 5 miles or so and just run through a self preservation list.
Do I feel too hot or cold in what I'm wearing?
Do I have any hot spots on my feet? (treat them straight away!)
Is anything starting to rub? (move it or lube it!)
When did I last eat?
Have I drank enough in the past hour?
This helps to keep me on track and get ahead of any problems that might take me out of the game. Remember The Wall is designed to be completed at 3mph with time at the Pit Stops so always take the time to take care of yourself. It's not a race.
If you've got any questions at all about kit and kit choices please feel free to reach out to the team on email@example.com and we'd be more than happy to help or narrow down your choice!