A blog by runners. For runners.

Things you’ll want at the start (and finish) of a marathon

Gear Check: What to Pack for Race DayWhen I ran my first marathon, I made a big mistake – I didn’t pack another pair of shoes in my gear check bag. After pounding the pavement in my running shoes for 26.2 miles, I wanted them off of my feet – stat! Unfortunately, it was close to another two hours before I arrived back to my hotel room and was able to take my shoes off. I never made that mistake again.

Here’s a handy list of items you may want at the start and finish line of a marathon. This list is especially helpful for large races, when you may have hours to kill at the start after you’ve checked your bag and when you have a long hike to the family reunion area or your car afterwards.

Unless you’re going to run with any of these items on you, it’s a good idea to bring things you can toss before the gun goes off.

  • Large garbage bag. Once you arrive at the start area, you’ll want to sit down to save your legs for the race. Most of the time you’ll have to sit on the ground. A large, disposable trash bag – or a heat sheet from an old race – will keep you dry if the ground is wet.
  • Sports drink or water. You’ll want to stay hydrated before the race.
  • Something to snack on. You may or may not be hungry, but bring a snack just in case. It’s better to have something to eat and not need it than the other way around.
  • Body Glide or Vaseline. Applying an extra layer of lube right before the start will help combat chafing issues.
  • Tissues or toilet paper. You’ll be happy you have tissues or toilet paper if the porta potty doesn’t have any (which happens way more regularly than you’d expect!).
  • Throwaway layer. To stay warm at the start, wear a sweatshirt, sweatpants, hat, and gloves that you’re OK parting with. At many races, volunteers will gather all of the tossed clothes and donate them to a charity.

Stash these items in your gear check bag so you have access to them immediately after the race:

  • Flip-flops or any comfortable shoes. There’s a good chance you’ll want your running shoes off of your feet as soon as possible.
  • Bandages. If you have any bad blisters or chafing wounds, a bandage will help.
  • Baby wipes and/ or hand sanitizer. Sometimes it can be hours before you’re able to shower. Use hand sanitizer and baby wipes to wipe away sweat so you feel somewhat clean.
  • Deodorant. Your friends and family will thank you.
  • Towel. If it’s a hot and humid or rainy day, you may cross the finish line soaking wet.
  • Complete change of clothes. Your clothes may be drenched which can make you uncomfortable and leave you shivering. Have a friend or family member hold up the towel so you can have some privacy while you change.
  • Something to eat and drink. The majority of races have water, sports drinks, bananas, and other snacks at the finish line. But pack your own in case you don’t like the options – or in case the race offerings aren’t enough to tide you over until you get a real meal.

What items do you stow in your gear check bag?

Written by Jen Matz.