I’m getting quite a kick out of looking at my “Marathon Check List” that I used to hand out to my running group just a few years ago.  The first thing that I noticed was “single use camera.”  Do they even make those anymore?  So right off the top, I’ll remind you to take your phone and/or a small camera instead!


The first and most important thing you need to pack is your bib!  You might even consider pinning it to your shirt the night before.  If the race has separate timing chips, be sure to attach yours to your running shoe.  These days most races have the chip attached to the bib, but don’t assume that it does!


Two of my 2010 marathons used separate timing chips

Next, go through your bag that you received at packet pick-up and make sure that you get everything out of it that you’ll need.  This includes directions to the race start, where to park, etc.  Don’t forget to dig deep and get the safety pins that are hiding in the corners of the bag.

There’s nothing worse than running around on race morning asking everyone if they have extra safety pins.  Trust me, I know!  If you run a lot of races, you might want to purchase this race number belt.  Not only does it have two cords for attaching your bib, but it has little loops to hook your gels in.


Pack Body Glide or Vaseline to apply to those spots where you’re prone to chaffing.  I hate seeing adults cry, so do me a favor and apply this stuff liberally!  Raw skin rubbing against raw skin at mile 16 (knowing that you have ten more miles to suffer) is no fun!  I have this stuff in my bag and apply it just before I check my bag (more on checking your bag later).


Please use sunscreen, and pack it for later, too!  I apply it when I first get up and then again before the race.  Don’t forget if you’re layering and might be stripping down to a sleeveless top, to apply sunscreen to your arms, too!


You might want to pack water, Gatorade, Nuun, etc. in your bag for after the race.  I’ve finished races that had way too little water and they’ve run out by the time I came strolling over the finish line.  Not fun!


If you choose to carry your own water, be sure to have your water bottles clean and ready to fill on race morning.


By race morning you should have figured out which gels or blocks work best for you.  I usually pack the number that I’ll need (in the pouch on the above pictured hydration belt) and then throw a few extra in my bag in case any of my friends forget theirs.  I don’t, however; suggest that you try anything new on race morning!


It might be dark when you leave your house on race morning, so don’t forget to pack your sunglasses!  If you’re like me, you would be miserable without them!


Also, a running hat or visor is a nice option to have on a very sunny or rainy day.


For cold weather races, be sure to pack layers of clothing that you can take off as you warm up.  Most races will pick up discarded clothing and donate it to local shelters.  If I don’t think I’ll need my gloves the entire race, I take a pair of Bill’s old socks to put on my hands.  Once I’m warmed up, I roll them together and toss them.  It’s a lot cheaper than tossing my nice running gloves.


I also suggest laying your clothes out the night before.  Consider having a couple of options available depending on the morning’s weather.


I always pack some Hefty garbage bags in case it’s cold before the start of the race.  It’s amazing how warm they keep you, and it’s such a classy look!  Depending on how cold it is, I’ll either take it off just before the race starts, or I’ll wear it and once I warm up at after a half-mile or so, I’ll rip it off and toss it in the nearest garbage can.  I always rip arm holes before the race starts though in case I trip and fall, and need to catch myself.


Julie modeling her Hefty cover-up

I always leave my Asics by the back door ready for me to step into them on my way to the race.  I have a fear of accidentally wearing the wrong shoes to a race!


If you haven’t run in a longer race before, most of them have bag drop-offs so you can safely leave your bag of stuff behind while you run your race.  For security reasons, many races require that you use the clear plastic bags that they issue at packet pick-up.  If the race is a point-to-point, race volunteers will bus your bags from the start to the finish line for you.

  • Questions:
  • What items have I forgotten?
  • What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen a runner wearing before a race?
  • Do you take a race bag with you to your longer races?