Runners who regularly head to races know packing the perfect race bag is an art form. It’s not just about the shoes and remembering the bib number (though those are pretty important, too). It’s about having everything you need to feel like a rockstar when you get to the starting line — and the finish line.
We all have our good luck charms, weird pre-race rituals, strange food choices and favorite old race T-shirts. But what are the pros bringing with them as they race around the world?
The easy, original high-calorie snack food is always in ultra-running pro Sarah Cotton’s race kit. “I always bring a jar of peanut butter with me on racing trips. Peanut butter plus banana is a staple in my pre-run diet, and while I don’t want to put stinky bananas in my bag — I assume I can find those almost anywhere I travel to — I always bring the peanut butter,” she says. “I could probably find that almost anywhere as well, but you never know! Plus, I’d probably have way too many jars of peanut butter if I picked it up everywhere I went.” Eco-conscious, money and time-saving? Consider figuring out what your number 1 snack choice is.
Ultrarunner Kaci Lickteig never leaves for a race without packing a season of “Seinfeld” DVDs in her bag. “I have a silly ritual of watching “Seinfeld” before my races,” she says. That kind of ritual can both calm you down and set your brain on “racing mode.”
When you’re staying in hotels or flying to races, you rarely have room in your bag to stash a full-size foam roller. Luckily, there’s a practically free alternative, storage-friendly option: a lacrosse ball. “I always travel with a lacrosse ball,” says Cotton. “It’s a small and very useful self-massage tool!” You can roll out tight calves and glutes, lie on it and work into your back, or even roll your foot to work out the tiny muscles there.
Pro marathoner Tyler Jermann brings along a picture of his cat to “warm up his heart on the warmup.” Adorable — and practical. A token, picture or quote that you can have handy before the race start can remind you of your “why” or even just make you think about anything other than the start — like how adorable your cat is and how nice it’s going to feel when you can go home and sprawl on the couch next to it when the race is over. (Jermann isn’t the only one: Lickteig brings a little plastic figure of Rocky, the pup from “Paw Patrol.” “It always makes me think of my dog, Mia, and so it gives me a feeling that she is with me,” she adds.)
You’ll probably want a pair of shoes that aren’t sneakers to slip on after a running race, especially if the distance is long or the conditions are wet. SWIM/RUN racer Maja Tesch never leaves home without her sandals, so as soon as she crosses the finish line, she can go into rest and relax mode and get out of her soaking sneakers.
Pro runner Katie Zaferes travels with not just one, but three good luck charms! “Two are corks and one is a Japanese good luck charm,” she adds. Having these may or may not actually provide real luck, but being able to ground yourself by taking a minute to rub a lucky charm or even just sit quietly holding one can make for a great pre-race, mini-meditation to calm your heart rate and nerves.
Whether you’re in a hotel or have a long drive or flight ahead, a pillow can make a big difference at the start and at the finish of a race. Tesch travels with one that’s both practical and sentimental. “I bring my mini-pillow so I can sleep whenever I want!” she says. “The pillow has stayed the same since I was a kid: My grandmother is making new covers for me when they get too worn out!” It’s a winning combination and makes for a great way to feel at home in any sleeping situation.