What to Pack in Your Race Bag
You'll likely need the first eight items on this list before the race, so get to the start early to leave yourself with plenty of time to get ready, use the bathroom, then drop off your race bag before you begin your pre-race warm-up.
Anti-Chafe Stick or Vaseline
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Slather your sensitive parts, feet and places where the seams of your race outfit hug your skin with anti-chafe product or the good-for-just-about-everything household standby, Vaseline. While some anti-chafe products possess a slightly waxy feel and Vaseline is gooey, you'll thank your lucky stars you greased up when you don't get blisters mid-race, and you don't get burned with bright red chafe marks that sting like hell in the shower.
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Once you've finally made it to the front of the porta potty line, the last thing you want is to have to drip dry (or worse) in the stinky chamber. You don't have to bring an entire roll with you, but a few feet won't hurt.
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Gentlemen, if you haven't learned the hard way already, bloody nipples can be easily avoided. Affix trimmed bandages, tape (if you've shaved) or nipple guards (if you're fancy) on top of your nipples before you put on your race shirt. You also never know when your shoes will rub your heels, or you might need to wrap toes with bandages to prevent blisters.
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While most races supply you with safety pins to affix your bib to your shirt, it never hurts to bring extra in a resealable bag. You never know when you might have a wardrobe malfunction that needs pinning, or when a fellow frantic runner who slept late might be in need of some help getting his race bib pinned.
Rubber Bands, Headbands, Barrettes
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Photo courtesy of Sporty Bands
Rubber bands break, and often those early race times make it easy to forget that your cute new layered haircut flops in your face when the wind blows. There are several no-slip, running-specific headbands out there to keep hair out of your face, and it never hurts to carry extra bobby pins or barrettes in your bag.
Race Bib and Timing Device
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If you didn't secure your timing device to your race shoes the night before, make sure you secure the D-tag or timing chip to your shoes or race bib before you turn in your bag at the baggage truck/tent. Ditto for your race bib.
Old Pair of Running Shoes
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If you're a more experienced runner who wears racing flats or specific shoes during races, you'll want to bring along some worn-in trainers to wear during your warm-up and cooldown. Make sure your shoes aren't too beaten up, though, as you might need to run the race in them if something goes wrong with your race shoes, you get an unexpected blister, etc.
Race Gear Accessories
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The weather can be unpredictable, even from hour to hour, so be prepared for sunshine, rain or colder-than-expected temperatures. If it's sunny or overcast (the diffused light can be brighter sometimes), pack non-slip, no-fog running sunglasses. Practice wearing running sunglasses, especially if you're running a distance event. Squinting in bright conditions can unknowingly cause you to hunch your shoulders—a way to waste much needed energy over 13.1 or 26.2 miles.
ID, Keys, Phone, Small Amount of Cash
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Keep in mind that race bags can get misplaced, so don't pack anything in it that you can't stand losing. If that means you have to go without your smart phone after the race, then so be it. Notice that an iPod isn't on the list here—if the race allows you to run with a music player (some don't allow them, so check your race's policies), then you'll likely take that with you during the race and won't need to leave it in your race bag.
Flip Flops or Other Slip-On Shoes
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Racing flats are not the most comfortable shoes in the world to lounge around in—while they're lightweight and hug your feet nicely, that's not what you'll want when you're finished with your hard effort and your feet are a little swollen. If you race in your cushioned trainers, you might still want to change out of your shoes, as they're likely damp from sweat or that cup of water you tossed on your head at the aid station.
Antibacterial Wipes, Deodorant, Towel
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Your loved ones, friends and patrons of the restaurant you plan to eat brunch in post-race will thank you for freshening up after your hard effort. Finish areas don't usually provide much privacy for cleaning up and changing clothes, so if you can't find a private bathroom and don't want to change in your car, take comfort in the fact that most of your fellow racers are in the same boat. Your towel can provide all the shield you need, if you use it right.
Clean, Dry Change of Clothes
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No matter what distance you're racing, milling about the finish area in sweaty, acrid running clothes feels gross after a while, even if it's the perfect spring day. Avoid the Pig Pen swirl of stinky filth and find a private spot to change out of your race outfit into dry clothes. You'll feel better and more relaxed instantly.
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Most races provide snacks, water and sports drinks in the finish area, but they might not have what you're accustomed to eating after a hard effort. Err on the side of caution, and bring your own snacks that contain carbs and protein. Solid choices: coconut water, fruit, nuts, all-natural granola or energy bars, pretzels.
More Gear Items for Runners
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