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How to Pack for Your Next Destination Race

By Rock 'n' Roll, 08/19/17, 11:45PM EDT


Tips on making your upcoming travel go smoothly.

When race time rolls around, the last thing you want to worry about is packing. Or, more specifically, overpacking. Although you may have tourist adventures on the horizon, the number one goal of this trip is to run your race. Once you have your marathon packing checklist created, you can refer to the same one for every Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series race you get a bib for.

Here’s a rundown of what — and how — to pack for your next race.

Running Shoes

Not just any running shoes — you want to pack shoes you know won’t let you down. Pack the ones that are broken in and have the support you need to carry you the many miles of your running journey. Now isn’t the time to break out your new kicks, no matter how badly you want them to be part of the race. You’ll only end up in misery and pain — not to mention a lot of blisters.

If you have room, pack an extra pair of running shoes, flip flops or your dancing shoes for the post-race concert. Above all, keep in mind that comfort is key. To save space, put a few pairs of socks in each shoe. But if you plan on packing your old faithfuls, you just might have to put the socks into a plastic grocery bag first.

Many shoes on runners feet

Running Clothes

What gear will make you the most comfortable? Lightweight material that helps wick away moisture can make the run better for you. If your race takes place in colder conditions, you will want to layer up without getting too bulky. Socks are key to a good run. Many runners like toe socks, the ones that look like gloves for your feet. They help your toes from rubbing against each other and keep them nice and dry. Toe socks are one of the most popular items Rock ‘n’ Roll marathoners get at the Health & Fitness Expo.

Also, consider wearing an old, long-sleeve shirt or sweatshirt on race morning to stay warm after you’ve checked in your gear bag and before the race starts. You can just drop it off at a water station once you’ve warmed up, and it’ll be donated.

Costumes are also plentiful along a Rock ‘n’ Roll course. From Elvis costumes to colorful tutus, anything and everything goes; just make sure to do a test run in your outfit prior to race day to avoid chafing or potential wardrobe malfunctions.

If you are running out of room and must pack those dirty old race tees, try army rolling them to save a little space.

Running Accessories

Think about what you’ll wear during your race and what you’ll end up carrying with you. You don’t want to be weighed down by unnecessary items, but a few accessories seen most on runners are hats and sunglasses. They help with sun protection and let you focus on the course at hand without a distracting glare or the sun streaming directly into your face.

Don’t forget your earbuds, armbands, chafe cream and GPS trackers, especially if any are part of your regular running routine. As for items to aid in your post-race recovery, there are a few nice-to-haves that quickly turn to necessity in times of need. So play it safe and bring a collapsible or mini foam roller, hot/cold packs and any other items that might help you post-race.


Make sure you have eaten a light meal a few hours before the race and are well hydrated.

For on-the-run hydration, some prefer to use a handheld water bottle. There are certain styles that even feature pockets for storing nutrition items. Just factor in the additional weight. If you plan on racing with handheld items or water belts, use them during training to avoid any unnecessary discomfort. There are water stations throughout each race course, but you want to make sure you have a few boosters along the way in case your energy begins to wane. Power gels are easy to grab and go; plus, you can eat them on the move. They’re not meant to be a meal replacement or to even satiate your appetite. Instead, save your hunger for your post-race celebration.

woman in sports bra eating oatmeal and banana
Free Space

Don’t forget to leave some wide-open space in your bag for Expo swag and souvenirs. And since the post-race packing process can get a little unorganized, factor in the possibility of losing some space.

runner legs with a bag in between them
Layer it In

If traveling by plane, try to pack your gear in a carry-on bag so that you don’t run the risk of losing your luggage for the race. But if you can’t fit everything into one suitcase, make sure your most important race items are with you on the plane.

Place your shoes in first, then clothes. Fit in any accessories and nutrition bars or gels in the pockets of your suitcase. The key here is: less is more. Pack what you’ll absolutely need for the race, and don’t stress too much about forgetting items.

Day-of race items — like travel-sized sunscreen, hair ties, Band-Aids or other smaller items — can be purchased once you get to the destination to conserve space and make for one less thing to remember to pack.

Capture the Spirit of the Race

Don’t forget to pack your action camera and bring your smartphone to the race to capture all the marathon moments. Although there will be bands and music playing at every mile, add the headlining band to your playlist to help you get into the groove when you’d rather use your earbuds.

a woman taking a selfie with an elvis impersonator runner

If you still want to learn about what to pack from a pro, find rout how to rock your run by picking up a copy of The Official Rock ‘n’ Roll Guide to Marathon & Half-Marathon Training: Tips, Tools, and Training to Get You from Sign-Up to Finish Line. It’ll give you an insider’s view of what to expect and how to prepare for the event.

What are your must-have items when running a Rock ‘n’ Roll event?

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