Travel Like a Runner: What to pack for marathon weekend

Runners celebrate while crossing the finish line of the 2022 Austin Marathon.

Photo courtesy of the Austin Marathon

You’ve been training for months for your race and the big day is fast approaching. Whether you’re racing a marathon or a 5K, if you’re traveling to a destination race, packing will be your next challenge. When figuring out what to pack, it’s important to think about race weekend as a whole: pre-race activities such as the expo and a shake-out run, race day and post-race recovery. Here are our best marathon weekend packing tips to make the experience as smooth as comfortable as possible.

Pre-race activities

Runners take a selfie at a demo run prior to the 2022 NYC Marathon.

Race expos are a ton of fun, especially for marathons. The energy is high and vendors bring their most tempting goodies for giveaways and to sell. After picking up your race bib and shirt, you could spend a while exploring the expo floor. Hit up the expo in a comfy pair of shoes. Your walking shoes don’t have to be a specific brand or style, but a supportive pair of trainers will keep your feet happy and ready for race day. Bring a small, reusable tote for your expo freebies and purchases. A small one will roll up and fit inside of a pair of shoes, leaving space for other race-weekend essentials.

You might also want to do a shake-out run a day or two before your marathon. Don’t forget to pack an outfit and running shoes for your shake out!

Nutrition is displayed at a pre-race expo.

Race day

You’ve heard it, but we’ll say it again: Nothing new on race day! This goes for shoes, clothes and fuel.

It’s important to pack the nutrition you’ve trained with and plan to use on race day. Don’t count on vendors having your preferred brand or flavor at the expo. Also, don’t plan to use the on-course nutrition unless you’ve practiced with it before. New nutrition can do funky things to your stomach, and finding that out in a course porta-potty isn’t ideal. If the race website doesn’t mention the fuel and electrolytes they’ll have on course, reach out to ask.

Other essential race-day items to pack include:

Shop Now

Speaking of chargers, if you’re planning to run with your phone to listen to music (remember to follow the race’s rules about headphones!), you might consider bringing a portable power pack and charging cord for that, too. This way you’ll also have battery left to touch base with family and friends after you cross the finish line.

You’ll probably spend some time picking your perfect race-day outfit, but don't forget to pack extra layers. Depending on where you’re running and the time of year, it can feel cold waiting around before the race starts. Space blankets take up the least space, but many people bring robes or shirts and pants, hats and gloves to keep warm and remove them in the corral right before starting. Don’t wear something you want back–many races collect discarded items and donate them. If you do this, it will free up space in your suitcase for expo purchases!

Post-race recovery

There are two post-race phases to pack for: your gear check bag for immediate needs after crossing the finish line and recovery for the rest of the day.

Gear-check bag

Changing into a dry shirt and socks will make you feel like a new person. We recommend a pair of CEP Tall Socks 4.0 for some recovery immediately after your race. They’ll give your calves a much-needed hug and help with circulation until you can get back to the hotel to throw your legs up a wall. We also love to slip into a pair of OOFOS recovery slides. Tired feet will appreciate the sensation of walking on supportive clouds.

Other things worth packing in your gear-check bag include face and/or body wipes to tidy up a bit before heading out to lunch with your support squad, and extra electrolytes to stay on top of hydration after the race.

Avoid putting important or expensive items in your gear-check bag. While staff and volunteers are there to keep an eye on everyone’s stuff, the race won’t guarantee security. It’s best to leave your wallet at the hotel and stash a little bit of cash in your gear check bag, just in case. Pre-race coffee hits different, and the vendor village might have some tasty snacks available for purchase.

Shop Now

Race recovery

When you head back to the hotel, take a shower and slip into some comfy clothes. This is a great time to bust out your favorite massage tool to stay loose, and don’t forget to pack the charger!

Your legs might still need a little extra support, and keeping your compression wear on is a great choice whether you’re walking around (runDisney racers heading to the parks, we see you!) or staying in the hotel to relax or take a nap.

Two runners relax in their OOFOS slides after a race.

Packing list

Here’s an at-a-glace packing list to make race-weekend prep quick and easy.

  • Comfy walking shoes
  • Recovery slides
  • Reusable tote
  • Shake-out run outfit
  • Pre-race warm layers
  • Race-day outfit
  • Post-race change of clothes
  • Non-running clothes
  • Race-day nutrition/hydration
  • Hydration vest/belt and bottles
  • Anti-chafe balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Body or face wipes
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Compression socks or sleeves for racing/recovery
  • GPS watch and charger
  • Portable power pack and phone charger
  • Massage tools and chargers
  • Cash

With these marathon-weekend packing tips, you can head to your race with zero worries and put all your focus on this huge achievement.

Keep Reading