As I was going through the motions during Marathon Weekend earlier this month, it occurred to me that there’s even a bit of an art to packing your race day bag. Everyone has different needs and packs different details, but there’s a pretty straightforward list of things that are worth considering for everyone.
So here they are–along with a walk through of the current gEAR Check (that’s how they write it–cute right?) process at any runDisney race. I’ve linked items as they appear, but you can also find most everything in one place right HERE.
The list will be useful for any race, runDisney or not. The specific gear check process is, of course, more runDisney specific.
The Bag Itself
At Expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports on Walt Disney World property, when you pick up your race bib(s) and race shirt(s), you’ll get your gear check bag. It’s actually the clear drawstring bag that they use to give you your shirts.
Pro Hack: While you’ll check your gear in the clear plastic bag that runDisney provides, you don’t need to carry it around otherwise. It’s hard to navigate, clear, and has two strings instead of straps that cut into your shoulders more and more the heavier the bag gets. So the trick is to carry a small backpack like this or other bag that fits inside the clear plastic bag. You can pop it into the clear bag when you’re ready to check it and pull it out again after the race. You’ll walk through a security gate when you enter EPCOT for the race, just like you would before any park entry, so your bag doesn’t need to be clear.
What to Pack
You’ll likely modify this for the distance you’re running. For a 5K or 10K, personally, I don’t check anything at all–I just stuff anything that I might need into the pockets of my leggings. (I usually run in Lululemon’s Fast & Free line and love the pockets in the legs and waistband–not sponsored, just love them.) For a half marathon, I’ll bring some of this stuff just depending on factors like the weather and my plans for after the race. For a full marathon, I bring it all.
In the front pocket of my bag, I put stuff for before and during the race so that I can pull it out easily before I check the bag:
- gEAR Check Bag. Like I mentioned above I pack it until I need it. I fold up the gear check bag that they give you at Expo and tuck it into the front pocket of my backpack, then pull it out and put the backpack into it when it’s time to check my gear before the race.
- Shokz or other race day headphones. I use the Shokz OpenRun — they’re great to keep you safe when you’re training because they don’t block your ears, and on race day they’re a great way to keep your music going while you can still enjoy the rest of the entertainment. They’re definitely the headphones you’ll see most often on the course and often have a sponsorship role in race events.
- Your race fuel of choice–I drink Tailwinds before races and carry their travel packs and chewable Saltstick Fast Chews during. You can commit to a Saltstick flavor (I’m partial to Mango) or grab this assortment that comes in convenient travel packs. Tailwinds come with and without caffeine and also in travel packs that you can mix quickly at water stops if you want to use them during the race. (I also really like their recovery mix. It also comes in a travel pack option that you can bring for after the race.)
Whatever you bring, make sure it isn’t your first time using it during a run so you know that your body will tolerate it well. Note that runDisney provides different things along the course, depending on the distance. During a 5K you’ll always have water stops and sometimes Powerade. For all other distances, you’ll typically have water and Powerade at most stops. For the half and full marathons, you’ll get fuel like Sport Beans and perhaps bananas and some other treats. (There’s usually chocolate as you enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios during the full marathon. Whether I feel up to eating it at that point varies from year to year….)
- Extra hair elastic if you use them (or just throw one on your wrist—I’ve had them break on course and was glad I had an extra)
- Mylar–sometimes they give them out after the race but I always have a pack of them in my race-stuff basket at home
- Poncho (it’s Florida…)—just like mylar blankets, I keep a pack of ponchos handy so I’m not scrambling if the forecast changes at the last minute. I like the cheap clear ones–you can keep your hands inside and see your phone screen right through the poncho to use it. They’re also another way to stay warmer in a pinch, since they hold your body heat. Note: Look for ones like these with a drawstring hood so that your head stays covered if winds pick up.
- Hot Hands and/or Gloves (if it’s cold)—If you go with gloves grab something cheap like this that you can discard before you start or on the course. (Disney will donate any discarded clothing that they’re able to gather.)
- Sunglasses (if the sun will rise during the race, otherwise leave them for later). My go to is Goodr — they stay put and the price is reasonable enough to get a set for every costume.
- Hat or Visor if it’s going to rain or you otherwise run in them. If you’re looking for something simple, these visors are simple and unbranded and come in a color for every costume.
And in the main compartment, you’ll put everything that you’ll want for after the race:
All the finish line feels. 🧡
- Wallet with ID and a credit card.
- Chapstick. No need to get fancy, I’m partial to classic cherry. (And for a full marathon, I carry it on me during the race.)
- Keys. Your call whether to keep your car key on you or not if you drive. I’ve been around too many people searching for theirs around porta-potties to keep mine on me during a race so usually check mine if I’m checking a bag.
- Phone charger. I like this one because the cords are built into it or this one if you prefer a MagSafe option.
- Extra mylar. If you’re running other races that weekend and they give out mylar blankets at the finish, always take them. Firstly because your body temperature is going to drop and you’re going to get cold–but also because they’re great to have for the other race mornings. You can use them before the race to keep warm, but I always like to put an extra or two in my bag for after the race, not just to warm up but also to put down on the ground so that I can spread out and regroup without getting asphalt all over myself.
- Dry clothes. Especially if it’s a chilly day, you’ll be so happy to have something to throw on. I usually just do sweatpants (or shorts if it’s hot out) and the race shirt. Superstition says never to wear them before or during the race, so immediately after is the perfect time to break it out–and it will look great in your medal pics!
- Plastic Bag to bag your shoes and any wet clothes that you take off before you stuff them into the bag.
- Any preferred recovery fuel. I like to bring a packet of Tailwinds’ to mix with the water that I grab after the race, especially if I’m in the middle of a race challenge weekend and want to maximize my same-day recovery.
- Oofos or other recovery shoes–There is no better feeling than switching into my Oofos after a race. I swear by their original style. The men in my family live in their slides.
- Body Wipes. A travel pack of body wipes will go a long way toward making those post-race hugs and little less gross for everyone. 😉 I keep micellar water and cotton rounds in the car at all times and definitely use them after a race, but in the reunion area those wipes will do the trick.
I also throw a disposable bottle of water into the side to sip before the race. They have cups of water near the porta-potties at the corrals and in other places too at times but it’s nice having my own bottle the whole time.
Some other things you might consider based on your personal needs and preferences: Anti-inflammatories or other medications, Body Glide, Sunscreen, Bandaids or Moleskin, a first aid kit, snacks, a towel to dry off/sit on.
And don’t forget your race bib and a Garmin or other watch if you plan to wear one!! I put these with my clothes and just wear them out the door.
And last but not least, make sure your playlist is queued up and ready on your phone! If you need some inspiration on that front, I’ve got some ideas HERE.
Pre-Race Gear Check Process
When it’s time to check your bag, you’ll head to the gEAR check area. At the tables, you’ll use a provided marker to write your name and bib number on the white rectangular area on the bag and tie the bag shut. Then you’ll head to one of the gear check trucks and give them the bag, and they’ll give you a sticker to put on the back of your bib that says which truck you used and the number associated with your bag.
Post Race Gear Retrieval Process
After the race, you’ll walk through this same gear check area as you exit the finisher area and pick up your stuff. Just refer to the sticker on your bib and head back to the indicated truck. You’ll give them your number and they’ll pull the bag, easy peasy. And then you’ll proceed to make your life much easier by taking your backpack right out of the clear plastic drawstring bag and carrying that around instead. It will make the medal/water/Powerade/banana/snack box juggle infinitely easier.
* * * * *
You can find most everything on this list in one place right HERE.
Remember, it’s crucial to personalize this list based on your specific needs, the weather conditions, and your race’s logistics. Always pack your bag the night before to avoid any last-minute rush. And good luck with your race!
* * * * *
Important Note: Sometimes, on my site, I will share products that I’ve personally used and that consistently work for me. If you buy these items through links on my site, I may earn a small commission, but this will never affect the price that you pay.
* * * * *
You can find my complete guide to running trails on Disney World property RIGHT HERE.
* * * * *
Please join me on Instagram for my day-to-day adventures living a mile from the magic.
* * * *
Oh and while you’re here!! When I’m not running, I have a camera in my hand. If you’re missing home (or love someone who is) and are looking for a way to bring the magic home, I’d love for you to check out my prints over at Thousand Circles Images.