How to Prepare for Race Day

Most runners love planning ahead. We plan our workouts, meals and recovery days. One of the most important things to plan for, however, is race day.

You may have seen the "flat runner" photos on Instagram: a race day bib surrounded by a runner's gear load–usually a mix of watches, heart rate gadgets, clothing and other items. There are crucial items you can't forget, such as shoes and socks, and things that make race day smoother, such as your favorite hydration drink or lip balm. There are also the things that will help keep your mind at ease, such as course maps and a cell phone, so you don't approach the runner's line flustered.

There are dozens of online lists available to runners to prepare for race day. We've taken the lists and broken them down to cover every detail of race day.

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General Race Essentials

  • Bib number
  • Chip timer, if provided
  • Safety pins
  • Extra hair tie(s)
  • Cash
  • ID
  • Emergency contact card, especially if you're racing alone
  • Shoes
  • Socks
  • Shorts/shirt
  • Sports bra
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat or visor
  • Phone/headphones/armband
  • Watch/heart rate monitor
  • Sunscreen
  • Water for pre-race
  • Hydration belt, if you need extra fuel during the race
  • Sports drink or more water for post-race
  • Post-race snack
  • Change of clothes
  • Towel

Neighborhood 5K or 10K

A 5K or 10K doesn't require much more beyond the above list. A local race keeps you close to home if you need anything at the last minute, but it's a great way to start practicing for bigger races.

If it's cold or raining, add:

  • Gloves
  • Arm warmers
  • Jacket
  • Headband or ear warmers
  • Large trash bag to double as a raincoat
  • Plastic bag for wet clothes

Out-of-Town Race

Driving an hour or so to a race? You'll need everything in the top list, plus a few other essentials to keep your race day smooth.

  • Directions to race
  • Parking instructions
  • Toilet paper
  • Anti-bacterial hand wipes
  • Water for the drive
  • Pre-race breakfast/snack
  • Compression sleeves/socks
  • Plastic bag for wet clothes

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Goal Race

It's the race you've been working toward for months. Stay calm and make sure all your gear is ready to go so you can focus on tackling your first big race.

  • Plane tickets, if applicable
  • Hotel confirmation
  • Directions to race
  • Parking instructions
  • Map of course
  • Knowledge of aid stations
  • Toilet paper
  • Anti-bacterial hand wipes
  • Familiar snacks (now is the time to try a new nutrition program)
  • Water/hyrdation
  • Anti-chafing lotion

The emergency kit

Every runner has been there. Post-race, you've had to pop two pills you found rolling around the bottom of your car and hope it was a pain reliever. Or maybe you've had to stop on the way home for something to settle your post-race stomach. Putting together a solid emergency kit will help you stay prepared for anything.

  • Pain relievers
  • Medication for stomachaches
  • Icy Hot
  • Adhesive bandages
  • Athletic tape
  • Extra safety pins
  • Extra hair ties
  • Toilet paper

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About the Author

Amanda Casanova

Amanda Casanova is a writer and journalist living in the Dallas, Texas area. She has worked for the Houston Chronicle, the Abilene Reporter-News and the Galveston County Daily News. She is an active runner and regularly competes in races in north Texas. She is currently training for her first half marathon. She blogs at and tweets at @acasanova10.

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