Runners love to talk about how simple our sport is, but when you’re getting ready for your first race you cannot overpack (well, unless your race is self-supported and you have to carry everything). As well as your gorgeous new kit and your timing chip, don’t forget these little essentials in your race day survival bag.
At almost every event you’ll be required to wear a race number and that number will need to be pinned on. If you’re lucky, safety pins will be provided; if not you’ll find yourself thinking “Who the hell carries spare safety pins in their purse?” You, that’s who! Bring hundreds of the things and you’ll make loads of friends in the event village.
If your hair is below the jaw it will become intensely irritating over the course of your race and you certainly won’t want sweaty locks in your eyes on the journey home. Stash some spare hairbands in your bag and save yourself the discomfort.
Running is a hot and sweaty activity – we all know that. But race starts and finishes are freezing, trust us. Make it easier on yourself by taking along some cosy joggers and a hoodie. At big events where you’ll be separated from your bag a long time before the start (think Great North Run or London Marathon), take some old clothes that you can throw by the roadside when the race starts.
Some people regard it as cheating to take painkillers during a race. We say pain does not equal gain if you’re determined to make it to the finish line. Ibuprofen is good for muscular pain but make sure you read the dosage instructions and drink a sports drink containing electrolytes, rather than water, with them.
As you pass the first feed station in a race, nothing could be more appealing than delicious sugary energy drink. Chuck in a few jelly babies and orange slices from well-meaning spectators and you will be desperate for something that isn’t sweet by the end of the race, so pack a bag of crisps or nuts for the finish line until you can get some real food down you.
There’s plenty of food and drink on offer during a race, but it’s not always what you fancy (see above). A handy fiver in your shorts pocket (top tip: store it in freezer bag unless you also plan to take sellotape) will unlock your finish-line dreams, whether it’s a simple cuppa from the refreshments van or a cheeky McDonalds to get you home.
It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get you to the start of your race… and you’ll probably be seeing all three of those on race day, too, along with a bit of snot and a few unmentionables in the Portaloos. Take a pocket pack of tissues and you’ll be ready for every emotional and physical response to your run.
You may choose to run with your phone but don’t rely on it, particularly if your race is long or out of the way. Take a map of the race area if you’re in an unfamiliar place; any relevant transport timetables; a piece of paper with your partner or friend’s phone number on it (in case your phone dies) and – if race-day snaps are a must-have – a good old fashioned disposable camera.
Thought the humble binliner was just for lining a bin? Think again! At a race a big binliner doubles as a disposable waterproof at the start line. After the race, it can protect your bag from sopping or sweaty kit or become a makeshift picnic blanket if you want to sit down at the finish. Versatile!