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Travel Checklist for Runners

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At some point, most serious runners hear the call of the road. They know it’s time to pack their running gear and test their mettle at a race far from home. Maybe it’s a prestige event, like the New York City Marathon. Maybe it’s a fun challenge, like the Marine Corps Mud Run at Camp Pendleton. Or maybe it’s a route that’s just jaw-droppingly beautiful, like the Big Sur International Marathon, which winds through redwood forests and past the crashing Pacific.

Wherever your love of running takes you, just remember that preparation is essential for performance. We’ve compiled a running gear travel checklist with everything you may need for the trip, the race and the recovery afterward.

Running Gear Checklist: Race Essentials

These are the things you absolutely must have in order to compete. Pack them in your carry-on bag, because you never know when checked baggage will go missing. Make sure you don’t bring items that are prohibited at the race, such as costumes, certain camera mounts, weapons, etc.

  • Travel documents for the race registration, hotel reservations and car rental
  • Travel insurance documents with contact numbers, in case you have a medical or travel emergency
  • Directions to the race, plus a race course map: Don’t trust your phone’s ability to pull up directions, especially if you’ll be in a remote area or overseas.
  • Race bib and safety pins, if these were mailed to you ahead of time.
  • Timing device
  • Running shoes with extra laces
  • Multiple pairs of high-performance socks
  • Multiple pairs of compression socks: Wearing compression socks “can help prevent injuries, reduce muscle soreness after your runs and help you recover more quickly, enabling you to run the next day, even after a long or hard workout,” according to Women’s Running.[i] They’re also good to wear on long flights, helping reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis.
  • Running shorts or leggings: Pockets, or a zippered compartment for ID and cash, are super helpful.
  • Performance underwear: Don’t knock it ‘til you try it. Special underwear can reduce chafing and provide core support.
  • Sports bra
  • Moisture-wicking shirt
  • Sweatshirt
  • Lightweight rain jacket
  • Sun visor and/or non-slip sunglasses: Did you know that squinting can cause you to unconsciously hunch your shoulders as you run?[ii]
  • Running headband or ponytail holder
  • Goggles, earplugs, knee pads and sleeves for mud runs[iii]
  • Bandanna
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • BodyGlide or other anti-chafing ointment
  • Nipple guards or tape
  • Moleskin, plasters or other blister covering
  • Wet wipes
  • Imodium/antacids
  • FitBit, GPS watch or other fitness tracker
  • Phone
  • Music player with headphones (if the race allows these)
  • Energy gel and/or energy bars: Don’t assume you’ll be able to find your favorite brands at your destination.
  • Drink powder
  • Waistbelt to stash your snacks
  • Hydration gear: Whether you prefer a hydration backpack, a waist pack or a handheld water bottle, make sure you’re equipped to stay hydrated.
  • Lucky charm
  • Plastic bag for wet and dirty clothes
  • Approved bag or backpack to stash your running gear. Carefully read the race’s bag policy; the New York City Marathon, for instance, requires runners to either have someone else bring their gear to the finish line or use a bag-check service before the race.[iv]

Running Gear Checklist: Cold Weather and Ultramarathons

Ultramarathons and other extreme races often traverse varying climates and types of terrain. A sunny, 60-degree start may drop to 40 as the trail climbs into the mountains. Or a thunderstorm could roll in, turning blue skies black. In addition to the things listed above, you may want to bring this ultra running gear, whether you carry it or stash it in drop bags along the course.

  • Lightweight gloves and a hat: Even if you end up shedding these as you run, a hat and gloves can mean the difference between chill and comfort.
  • Face mask and/or neck warmer
  • Multiple pairs of high-quality socks: “Try to plan to change your socks at least two to three times during a 100-miler. Do not underestimate the morale-boosting effect of having crisp clean socks while running all day,” advises ultramarathon runner Brian Costilow.[i]
  • A second pair of shoes: Changing into a fresh pair of shoes can be a huge morale booster when you’re 50 miles in.
  • Space blanket
  • Headlamp with extra batteries: If the race will begin or end in darkness, a headlamp is essential.
  • GoPro or other sports camera if you want to record your run
  • Very comfortable backpack to carry your essential running gear
  • Drop bags, labeled with your name, to be placed along the course.
  • Salt/potassium/electrolyte tablets
  • Pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Ace bandages, bandages, band-aids and other first aid supplies
  • A blister kit with a sterilized needle and bandages
  • Kool ‘N Fit instant pain relief spray
  • Toilet paper
  • Tecnu skin cleanser in case you run into some poison ivy
  • Insect repellent
  • Food you actually like: In addition to the necessary gels, ultra runners need a few pick-me-ups that taste good. “Pickles, peanut butter pretzels, Ensure, rice, mangoes, BACON, gummi worms, Mountain Dew, anything-but-a-gel are some items that have found their way into my mouth,” Costilow says.[ii]

Running Gear Checklist: Recovery Gear

You did it! Now it’s time to do a victory hobble (you won’t feel like dancing) and be nice to yourself. To your race checklist, add:

  • Flip-flops for tired, swollen feet
  • Carb- and protein-rich snacks to help your body recover: Bananas, cereal, granola bars and trail mix all can be good choices.
  • Comfy pajamas: Somewhere around mile 23, you’ll be fantasizing about slipping into your fleeciest, coziest jammies.
  • Compression socks: These have also been shown to aid in post-run recovery.
  • Foam roller so you can do self-massage in your hotel room. (Here’s how.)
  • Street clothes
  • Toiletries

Print Your Race Checklist

Be sure to print our checklist and take it with you. Simply click the print link below and make sure to have your browser set to print background images so that you can see the checkboxes. 

Print Checklist

Jan 23, 2015