How to Pack for a Running Race

Pre-race jitters, tight travel plans, and too many ‘essential’ accessories make packing for a race a potential minefield for disaster. And there is nothing worse than getting to your hotel room only to find (or not find) that your running shoes or racing jersey are MIA.

The best thing to do is plan ahead: Start packing early and make a checklist of things you need that can be crossed off once they are in the travel bag.

Below is a packing list of the essential, the often necessary, and the miscellaneous things most runners need to race. Use the guidelines, as well as some savvy travel tips, to make your trip a logistical success!


Here are some basic travelling tips to make your trip to a race go smoothly:

Don’t Wait

Don’t wait until the night before to pack. The longer you procrastinate, the more rushed you’ll be, and the greater the chance of forgetting an important item. Instead, start gathering all the necessities a week prior to the race and keep them in a central location, near your luggage.

Carry-On Convenience

Pack the essential items in a carry-on bag. This includes race gear, but also documents or information that you might need during the trip itself, including: drivers license or passport; race confirmation or number; plane ticket; and emergency contact information.

Luggage gets lost – just make sure your shoes and big number are snug in the overhead compartment when it does.

Hydrate and Stretch

Make sure to drink a lot of water while you travel, even if it means annoying your aisle-mates on the airplane as you make your fifth trip to the bathroom. The dry air on the plane can quickly dehydrate travelers, which is exactly what you don’t want in the days before a race.

If you are driving to a race, take frequent stops to fill up your water bottle. Use the opportunity to walk around and stretch out to keep your legs from cramping or becoming stiff.

Be Prepared

Plan for all types of weather – especially if you are racing in the early spring or late fall. This doesn’t mean you have to pack more, it means you should bring gear that works well in a wide variety of conditions like Capri-pants, a light jacket, arm warmers, and a half-zip top.

Essential Items

Although running is a simple sport, there are a few things you must bring in order to race. Without these essentials, your race time will not be officially documented and you may not be able to run at all. At the very least, their absence can cause a great deal of stress (though a run to the local shoe store or race expo may provide a quick fix).


  • Running shoes
  • Racing flats (if you use them)
  • Socks

Gear and Clothes

  • Racing bottom
  • Racing top
  • Sports bra

Personal and Race-Issued Identification

  • Race confirmation (if you haven’t already received your number)
  • Race numbers
  • Race chips/tags
  • Photo ID


  • Prescription medication

Even the Best Forget!

Ryan Hall, the 2008 Olympic Trials Marathon champion and American record holder, is considered to be one of the greatest American runners. He arrived at the 2009 Boston Marathon fit and ready to race for the win…until he realized that he had forgotten to pack his singlet. And when you make your living representing a shoe company (ASICS, in this case), you can’t just wear any old t-shirt.

In the end, ASICS pulled through and found Hall a brand new singlet for race day. Good thing, too: Hall placed third in the race, becoming the first American man in 24 years to make the podium at the Boston Marathon.

Optional Items

This category is more based on comfort and convenience, not necessity. But when you are already nervous about the competition and performing well, every little thing can make a difference.

Gear and Clothes

  • Warm-up top
  • Warm-up bottoms
  • Cap
  • Knit hat and gloves
  • Rain jacket
  • Tights
  • Sandals, flip-flops or any kind of breathable shoes for after the race
  • Sweatshirt or fleece
  • Sunglasses
  • Small gym bag to bring your gear to the start of the race. (Make sure the race has a bag check or you have a family member/friend pick it up for you.)


  • Energy bars
  • Fluid (If you are in a marathon, make sure you have what you will need during the race.)
  • Energy gel
  • Water bottle
  • Healthy snacks for the trip (saves money and anxiety!)


  • Cell phone (with a built-in alarm clock to set before race day)
  • Cell phone charger
  • MP3 player
  • Running watch

Miscellaneous Items

  • Directions (to and from the course, number pick-up, and expo)
  • Body glide or Vaseline
  • Extra safety pins
  • Ibuprofen
  • Garbage bag or throw-away clothes to stay warm before the start. (Once you warm up during the race, you can just chuck ‘em.)
  • Extra hair ties

Don’t Stress

Racing should be about running to the best of your ability, enjoying the competition, and showcasing your hard-earned fitness. If you feel bogged down by the logistics of race day, just take a deep breath and start checking things off one by one. You will be packed and ready to go before you know it!

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