Race Essentials

Last weekend I ran a half-marathon (my fourth this year!) sponsored by my workplace.

The fact that it was a local event meant I didn’t need to do any significant travel, and at one point the course was less than a mile from our house. I briefly contemplated detouring right back home, since the humidity topped 90% at race time, but instead I kept plodding.

Even without travel, there’s still some prep work to do before a race. (I’ll post separately about packing for a destination race. I’ve got it down).

When racing there are two ways to go: minimalist or maximalist. I’d suggest the former.

Many times I see runners in elaborate costumes at races, but I’m not one of them. I need my energy focused on running, not adjusting a rainbow clown wig (an accessory I have noticed many, many times).

I also usually won’t debut any new clothing items, lest I discover unfortunate scratchy areas mid-race. Ditto new shoes.

What I bring with me:

  • GPS watch, on wrist
  • iPhone
  • Armband for phone, secured on upper arm
  • Sport earphones (currently these)
  • Lip balm, zipped in pocket of shirt or shorts
  • One nutrition gel (half-marathon or longer distance; I usually bring Gu since that’s what I’m used to from training), also in pocket

And finally, the most important item: a $20 bill folded into a tiny plastic zip-lock bag.

One like this:

small bag

Sometimes the pins that you’re supposed to use to secure your number to your shirt come in bags like these, which you will discover upon picking up the race materials ahead of time. That’s a huge score, as these small bags are perfect for holding a folded bill. I’ll also occasionally get them with new jewelry or extra buttons, and I always hoard them for just this purpose.

The plactic bag keeps the $20 dry, and in my experience, it’s critical to have a small amount of cash if, say, you’re suddenly craving donuts on the way home or you need an emergency cab ride back to your home or hotel. That $20 is a life saver.

For me, that’s usually all I bring to a race. If I have to drive, I’ll securely tie a car key to my shoe.

If you are more of a maximalist, other items that are not necessary but may be nice to bring:

  • Clean, dry shirt for after the race
  • Compression socks or sleeves
  • Flip flops
  • Small towel to dry off, or even a beach towel to place on a car seat for the ride home
  • Extra water or your favorite sports drink
  • Post-race snack
  • Brush or comb to fix hair, particularly if you are vain about post-race selfies
  • Band Aids
  • Face wipes, baby wipes or both
  • Hand sanitizer

Many races allow you to check a bag ahead of time, and all of the above can easily be stashed. I usually don’t bother since bag drops can be pretty crowded but occasionally I will take advantage of this service. Just don’t put anything of major value in the bag! Keep your car key tied to your shoe, or you still may need that $20 to get home after all.





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