For those of you planning your first “big” race, you might have noticed in the race instructions some mention about a “checked bag” or “gear check.” What is this and what should you be checking?
Quite simply, bag check is a place where you can check a bag of stuff before the race and pick it up afterwards. This isn’t typically offered in a race where you can park your car at the start/finish (because you can just keep your stuff in your car), but it’s pretty common in big races.
Why in the world would you need this service? So you don’t have to run with all your stuff! I admit, I don’t often use bag check because I am a bit of a packrat when it comes to running. I carry a lot of stuff with me. But there are some times when bag check is awesome.
Example – It is cold out and I am taking the Metro to a race. I want to be warm on my way to the race and on the way home, but I don’t want to run in my sweatshirt. I can toss my sweatshirt into my checked bag and it will be waiting for me when I get back!
Example – It is raining. I can check a bag of dry clothes and not have to drip my way home!
Example – The first thing I want to do when I get done with a run is take off my running shoes and put on comfy sandals. I can put those in gear check and they will be waiting for me at the finish line!
Some races have rules about what you can and can’t put into your bag for bag check. Most of the time, the bag is given to you at packet pickup, and it’s typically a large clear bag that you mark with your bib number or a sticker and sometimes a strip torn off your bib for this purpose. The bag is big, but not huge, and some races don’t want you putting backpacks or other bags in there. The clear bag is a bit of a safety thing. That way, the race volunteers can see what’s in the bag and they know if there’s something sharp in there that might poke them as they move your bag around (or worse). So make sure you follow the rules or risk not being allowed to use bag check.
I’m always careful to not put anything into my bag of value or that will be hard to replace. No phone, no money, no ID. Even the clothing I put in is stuff that I won’t be devastated if I never see it again. I’ve never had any trouble getting my stuff back at the end of a race, but it’s just not worth the risk to me.
Okay, so I’ve told you what not to put in the bag. What should you put in the bag? Well, it depends on the race, the weather, and what you’re doing afterwards. But here are some ideas.
- Dry, warm clothing
- Comfy shoes and socks
- Your preferred post-race drink if it’s not served at the race (but make sure it doesn’t have to be refrigerated!)
- A snack (if you have a preferred snack for after the race)
- Deodorant and/or body spray
- Baby wipes
Because you will be packing this bag the day before the race, you may also want to throw in some “just in case” items for before the race, like extra safety pins, sunscreen and an anti-chafing product. That way if you or a friend forget them, your bag can save the day!
Experienced runners, what would you recommend a newbie put into their checked bag?