Now that you know what to pack and wear before your marathon, you should consider what to pack in your post-race bag. Marathons and other long races usually require that you pack a little more than you would for a short race such as a 5k, although most of these items can be useful after the shorter races. Shorter races will more easily allow you access to your vehicle than most marathons, however, so you will often need to pack a seperate bag that will be carried for you to the finish line.
Here are some essential items that you will need in your post-race bag:
- The Post-Race Bag: The first thing to remember is the bag itself. Know the rules at your race! When I ran in San Antonio, you were given a plastic bag with your number written on it that you could put anything into, including another bag. Other races may require only that you have a sticker on the outside of your backpack or duffel bag. Some races may give you a plastic bag, but will not allow you to put another bag such as a backpack inside of it. Know what is required and what is allowed before you get to the baggage bus, and have your bag packed the night before.
- Clean (and warm) Clothing: You are going to be tired after your marathon, and no matter what the temperature your body is going to have more trouble than usual regulating your temperature. A light wind breaker, clean shorts or pants, dry socks, and a clean shirt can make you much more comfortable after the race than the wet clothing you just finished running in. If you don’t think you’ll be able to change your shorts, then some wind pants can be thrown over them quite easily. You may want to have a hat and gloves of some sort as well, if it is cold out.
- Shoes or Sandals: A change of shoes might be welcome. Your feet may not want to go into any pair of shoes, so sandals or flip flops might be a better choice. Your feet are going to be a little swollen, so bring a slightly larger pair of shoes if possible. If you have blisters, be careful about removing your race shoes and putting on your dry shoes.
- Towel, Baby Wipes, Deodorant, Cologne: A towel and baby wipes are handy at the finish line for taking the sweat and salt off of your body. If you are not going to have an opportunity to shower right away, or you plan on going out right after the race for some lunch or drinks, then your friends and other random folk around you will appreciate it if you dry off and put something on that will mask your stench.
- Water and Snacks: Most races will have food at the finish line for runners. It never hurts to have your own. There may not be anything that you like, or you may be long lines to get to the food tent, or they may run out. I’ve never been to a marathon that ran out of water, but I have been to a couple of other races. It can really help to have some on hand that is guarenteed to be there. You can also pack gatorade or other supplemental drink to help for after the race. I usually keep at least a bottle of water, a heel of bread or a bagel, and a power bar in my bag.
- Cash: You may not need any, but it doesn’t hurt to have a small amount of cash waiting for you. Alternatively, you may want to carry the cash in your shorts during the race. I rarely bother to during a race, but I’ve learned from training runs that you will want to wrap it in a sandwich bag if you carry it on a run.
- ID: It can always be handy to have ID with you after a race. You may not have a chance before going out for drinks; at some races you will not even have to go anywhere.
- Cell Phone: Having your cell phone handy can make it easier to meet up with friends and family after the race.
- Keys: If you drove or you do not have anybody to hold your keys, then you will need to carry them with you during the race or leave them in your post race bag. Locking them in your car is not the preferred method for keeping them safe. Alternatively, you can keep them near your car, but I was never a big fan of that. It seems too easy to reach into a wheel well to find some keys.