Packing for Race Day

I have been making a list of all the things I need to pack for the race in Tokyo.  This is a big trip and I want everything to go smoothly.  One of the worst feelings for a runner is getting to the start line of a race and realizing that you don’t have some important race gear.  This happened to a friend of mine a couple years ago.  She got into her corral and realized that she didn’t have any lip balm.  It was a cold and windy winter day too.   No place to buy lip balm in Corral B.  When the race started, she started running and in the first mile or so, there it was – on the ground, missing the cap – lip balm.  Yep.  She picked it up.  Before she used it, she twisted it up to expose a quarter inch or so, knocked it off with her thumb and then used the “fresh” end.  Sounds bad but, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention.  (I foolishly wore a new shirt in a race once and started chafing badly.  I used my lip balm in place of Body Glide.  You have to be resourceful out on the race course.)

I have traveled to many races but I have never typed up a list that I can reuse every time I pull out my suitcase to pack.  As a result, I spend a lot of time trying to remember what I will need to bring.  If anything, I overpack out of fear.   Even if I did forget something, I figure that I can buy whatever I need when I get to my destination.  Last June I forgot to pack my pre-race breakfast bar when I went to Boston for the Heartbreak Hill Half.   I found a Trader Joe’s down the street from my hotel that sold them.  Crisis averted.

Traveling to an international race is a bit more complicated because it might not be so easy to buy whatever I forgot to pack.  I was in Germany once and developed some nasty blisters on my feet.  I headed to the apotheke (their version of a drug store) and asked for bandages.  My German was limited and my language book didn’t have a translation for Band-Aid.  The clerk returned with a roll of gauze and a roll of tape.  I am not good at charades so I couldn’t get her to understand what it was that I wanted.  Finally the clerk took me back into the shelves so I could poke around and find what I needed.  (FYI – if you ever need the equivalent of a Band-Aid in Europe, ask for an elastoplast.)

When I pack, I will bundle things for the race together (clothes, shoes, watch, nutrition) and put them in my carry-on bag.  I also plan to do a quick inventory of all my critical race day gear when I arrive at my hotel.  Better to find out early that something is still sitting on the kitchen table at home.  I will have time to find a replacement for any missing gear before race day.  Fortunately, there will be someone traveling with me who is Japanese so I have a resource who can help me with translation if I need it.

When I get back from Japan, I plan to create a trip checklist that I can pull out when it comes time to pack for a race.  An added benefit of a checklist is that I can easily update it with changes based on lessons learned along the way.  I have six race trips planned over the next few months and I want to have trips that are fun and not stressful.  Maybe I should just keep a suitcase packed and ready to go to races. 🙂

I am looking forward to this weekend and the Tokyo Marathon.  I hope to have lots of stories to share with you next time!