With about two weeks to go before the big weekend –the BIG weekend– some worry may be setting in. 

Perhaps even some second thoughts like What did I sign myself up for? and “How am I going to stand for so long?”

FEAR NOT, first-time IU Dance Marathon participant, this is the official IUDM survival guide and all that you need to know before heading into the Tennis Center on November 14th.

1. Apparel

Disney World may be the happiest place on earth, but IUDM would beg to differ. Make sure to wear your spirit on your sleeve- literally– and dress in your team’s color. Accessories like tutus, tall socks, headwear, face decals and more are all great options. Also keep an eye out for the IUDM theme hours, in which you and all of the other dancers dress to impress according to the chosen theme of the hours. A personal favorite from last year was Groutfit (“grey outfit”)- monochrome sweatshirts and sweatpants never looked so great or felt so cozy.

To cover the basics, however, make absolutely sure that you have comfortable shoes to sport throughout the duration of the marathon. Tennis shoes are a must, but I also suggest brining multiple pairs to give your feet some variation in foot support. Cushy slippers are a great break from harder-soled options, and some people even bring heels as a way to switch their body weight to the balls of their feet for a change. Another common practice: rolling your foot over a tennis or golf ball to alleviate tension. Pop either in your bag for the marathon and thank me later. You can even get one by purchasing a care package at www.iudm.org/carepackage! Foot support may sound trivial now, but trust me, come hour 10 you will be begging to give your feet whatever break you can give them.

Equally important is to wear comfortable clothing for the marathon. Leggings, socks, undergarments, and any other clothing that is too tight will undoubtedly start to pester you. A sure fire bet is to wear comfortable leggings, athletic shorts, yoga pants, or sweat pants with your spirit tank or tee of choice. Furthermore, bring some options to change into at the marathon, just in case. A sweatshirt if and when it gets chilly or shorts in case you get warm! Plus, a fresh change of clothing will feel great after dancing around in the same threads for hours on end.

2. Entertainment

While there is plenty to do at the marathon itself, bringing a few items to keep you busy is a sure way to keep your mind off of your aching back and on something else. Pack coloring books, Sudoku, a football to throw around, a good read, thread to make friendship bracelets, or whatever suits your fancy to keep yourself focused. And of course, don’t forget a phone charger! Be warned that outlets will be a hot commodity during the marathon, so to cover your bases, you may want to consider bringing or investing in a portable charger!

3. Toiletries

Thirty-six hour dancers get VIP access to the indoor bathroom facilities in the Tennis Center, while 18 hour dancers use the port-a-potties outside. If you are a 36 hour dancer, pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, or anything else from your usual routine that will help you feel fresh and perky. Thirty-six hour dancers even have the opportunity to shower if they please. While the line will be long for this option, come prepared with shower goods and a towel in case you decide a quick rinse is calling your name! Eighteen hour dancers: bring hand sanitizer and consider picking up the packaged, no-water-needed, to-go tooth brushes.

4. What Not to Bring

Leave at home anything expensive that you won’t have on you throughout the entire marathon. You won’t want to hassle with making sure it’s safe should you decide to take it off or leave it in your bag.

Yes, this is a collegiate event, but no, that does not mean that this is an opportunity to booze. IUDM is strictly a drug and alcohol free environment. We’re there for kids at Riley Hospital for Children, many of which will actually be attending the marathon and mingling with students. Anyone found to be under the influence of any substance will immediately be asked to leave the marathon.

And of course, above all, leave your bad attitude at the door! DO bring a good attitude to the marathon! We’re here to participate in something larger than ourselves and stand for the kids who can’t. Don’t forget how much it means to the Riley kids and families to see you staying on your feet in their honor!

5. Consumables

An entire IUDM committee is devoted to making sure you are well fed while at the marathon. And while there are frequent food rotations for you to get a snack, I will give you the heads up that portions are small. If you have a sturdy appetite (and you will while you’re standing, dancing, and burning all of those calories), bring some supplemental snacks with you. Keep them healthy and good sources of energy. 

You’ve heard it before: junk food will make you lethargic, while natural options will fuel you to stay on your feet. I suggest Quest Nutrition bars, apples, almonds, and other snacks of the like.

In the consideration of “rather safe than sorry,” bring something like ibuprofen in case you find yourself nursing aches and pains, and band-aids for potential blisters.

Finally, beware of caffeine and energy drinks. Use discretion with these stimulants and base what you decide to bring and use at the marathon on your normal caffeine needs. Keep in mind that too much caffeine can leave you feeling less than your best, not to mention the crash that may catch up with you after it wears off!

6. Miscellaneous Factoids and What to Expect

There is ample free time in between rotations to hang out with friends and meet new people!

– Visitors are allowed in a gated designated area within the Tennis Center. Encourage your friends to bring you 

  warm food, cold drinks, and motivational pep talks!

– “This is called ‘Dance’ Marathon. Do we dance the whole time? Do I bring a date?” The “Dance” part of the 

    title is attributed to a 10 minute “line dance” that you will learn part by part in large group rotations. The 

    moves are easy, comical, and made for everyone. The “Marathon” title is attributed to the fact that you will 
    be on your feet, whether dancing, standing, playing a game, etc, for 18+ hours 

– Get into the line dance! Throwing yourself into nailing the moves is a great part of IUDM and the 

  choreographed dance and songs are always bumpin’. Dance like no one is watching because everyone else 
  will be!

– There IS a way to get time to lie down during the marathon. By buying a care package through IUDM ahead 

  of time (they sell out). If you are a 36 hour dancer, you can get up to 4 “massage” times, or four 30 minute 
  periods of pure bliss, lying on the ground of the Tennis Center while committee members kneed your back 
  and legs with massage tools. Expect to pass out… immediately.

–  “FTK!” will be chanted repeatedly, standing for “For the Kids!”

The marathon consists of happy, sad, exciting, exhausting, and thought-provoking moments; it’s a 
  unique, life-changing experience and you should be so proud of yourself for participating!


For any other questions you may have, ask around campus or email external@iudm.org. You may be surprised at how many people have participated in IUDM and how eager they will be to share their experience and answer your questions.

Get excited for your first IUDM and FTK! See you there!

Written By Meredith Baranowski