Start your destination race weekend prepared and ready for the start line!

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Running a destination race is great inspiration to start running or keep training years down the road. It gives you a new city to run through, bigger and newer medals to aspire for, and travel memories to last a lifetime. Whether you’re a beginner runner or are training for your 30th (or 40th) marathon, traveling for a race is intimidating. It’s nerve-wracking enough to wake up in your own bed to run so many miles before the sun comes up. Add being in an unfamiliar city- without a kitchen- and without your car to the list and the most experienced runners will find themselves anxious.

After all, if anyone gets particular about their rituals, it’s runners. We color-coordinate, plan playlists strategically, and obsessively plan every aspect of race day. Before my first destination race weekend, I spend hours packing my suitcase- and I still forgot some essential items! Through experience (and a few last minute frantic trips to pick up forgotten items), I’ve developed the perfect packing list.

Follow my guide, and I guarantee you’ll have a seamless destination race weekend!

Pre Race Essentials:

You won’t get very close to the start line without these items! Most of these are general travel essentials that should go in your carry-on.

  • Passport/driver’s license
  • Race confirmation
  • Hotel confirmation
  • Plane tickets
  • Race day bib (or instructions for bib pickup if you’ll be doing that when you arrive)
  • Race guide
  • Entertainment for the flight

Need a little more direction? Check out my travel expert’s guide to packing your carry-on – you won’t regret it.

Your Race Day Outfit:

This is the time to prepare for anything. I always over-pack outfit options for race day. Assume that it will snow and/or rain fire during your race weekend. You do not want to be caught off guard! My last race weekend in Orlando was 38 degrees, and I was so grateful that I packed winter running clothes!

  • Running shorts (I always bring a few pairs to choose from)
  • Watch, fit bit, or GPS and charger
  • Running socks
  • Sports bra
  • Running tights/pants (again- always bring a back up pair)
  • Compression sleeves
  • Running sweatshirt/half zip in case of cold weather (you can tie it around your waist if it warms up as the sun rises)
  • Old sweatshirt or blanket that you don’t mind throwing away after the start line. It can get freezing when you’re standing in the corral waiting to start running!
  • Running shoes
  • Running hat
  • Ear warmer/stocking cap
  • Gloves
  • Bib and safety pins

Other Race Day Essentials:

These are good to have during or after the race. Usually, especially for longer races, you are allowed to check a bag to the finish line. In this bag, I always include a change of socks and shoes and a long sleeve t-shirt. I always get cold after longer races, and this keeps me comfortable until I get back to my hotel.

  • Race day breakfast
  • Gatorade powder (if you trained it- I don’t recommend drinking or eating anything you didn’t bring and train with in case it upsets your stomach)
  • Water bottle(s) if you run with them
  • Waist pack for the race
  • Jelly beans/gel for fuel during the race
  • Baby wipes- good to freshen up during or after the race and for use as back up toilet paper
  • Band aids
  • Headphones
  • Hair ties/ headbands
  • Driver’s license (so you can be identified in case of emergency)
  • Advil/Tylenol/any other medications
  • Braces/wraps if needed
  • Hand warmers (for cold start lines)

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General Tips:

  1. Be sure you have your race day breakfast planned before you leave for your trip. Remember that you will be in a hotel room and may not have access to a kitchen. I recommend getting the Quaker single serve oatmeal cartons. They’re delicious, and can be made with the single serve coffee maker in most hotel rooms. It’s also warm to hold at the start line if you’re running during winter months.
  2. Double and triple check that everything you need is in your carry-on. I wouldn’t check any luggage with my race day gear if my life depended on it.
  3. Wear your running shoes on the plane- they take up a lot of space in luggage and then you can’t leave them behind.
  4. If you have a long car or plane ride home, pack an extra pair of compression socks to reduce soreness.
  5. Write your emergency contact information on the back of your bib!! This includes your identity, date of birth, allergies, medical conditions, and a person to notify. Trust me- I’m a critical care nurse and have seen people in even the best of health require emergency medical care during marathons. You want to be sure that medical staff can identify you so you can be treated if need be- especially if you’re in an unfamiliar city.
  6. Have a plan to celebrate in the area after the race. Whether this means you have reservations at a local restaurant or maybe you’re headed to Disney World, you want to enjoy the local area. Don’t let a race be the only thing you remember about your trip. See the city too!

Have you traveled to run a race? What did you pack for your destination race weekend? Have anything to add to this list? Let me know in the comments.

Danielle Guy