Race Day Considerations: Bag Check

It has been over two months since I have raced, but finally that raceless-streak is about to end as I have the B&O Yorkville Run coming up on September 7th. I know a few of you are going to be there – I am hoping to meet some of you 🙂 September is a busy month with at least two races scheduled and then before we know it: NYC Marathon Day!

I really enjoy racing. Although I may not PB every time and not every race will be perfect, I still love the opportunity to put on a bib, race with hundreds if not thousands of people and then eat a plain bagel afterwards with a medal around my neck. There are some runners out there that have yet to run in a race, and there are also some runners who have never run a race as big as Ottawa Race Weekend. I have run small races, large races, races surrounded by fields and races involving costumes. I have a fairly set routine when it comes to Race Day. Part of my routine comes from being involved in track and field where our warm-up routine to a race is fairly strict and something us coaches repeat about 10-15x on track meet day. But, because I have run so many races, I also consider a few other things before I set out to the race location. I figured I would share some of my race day tips and tricks. This week we will discuss bag checks.


bag check

Race Day Consideration #1 – Bag Check

For those who do not know, Bag check is exactly what it means: a place to check your bag. Your bag could consist of warm-up gear, some extra goodies and maybe your phone/car keys. Bag check is helpful if you are racing alone, parking is far away and have no one to carry your stuff. Bag check might also be really good idea for some races that start and finish in different locations (like NYC and Boston). But, bag check is not a guarantee nor a ‘race right’. Some races do not offer bag checks for a variety of reasons, mainly the event size or for security reasons. If you are really wanting a bag checked at a race, you will need to find out whether one will be offered via the race website. Around the Bay was one race where there was no bag check. It was a cold March Day and parking was far away – so having a bag check would have been nice, but we dealt with it. It was the race where I over-heated though. What I did notice is that people were leaving all of their stuff lying around the arena. I would not recommend leaving your gear just lying around. For NYC, there is a bag check, but if you want to get out of the finishing area as fast as possible, it is recommended that you select ‘no bag’. I have chosen this option. I probably only check a bag for 1-2 races a year. Otherwise I just leave my stuff in my car, give my stuff to P and Max, or just go to the race with only the items I need (bib, phone, fuel for right before the race).

If I am able to check a bag, this is what I will put into my bag:

– Sweats

– Leftover fuel

– A snack for after (chips, recovery bar)

– Flip flops or another pair of shoes

– A clean change of clothes

For most races, P and Max have an ‘after bag’ for me. For the big Ottawa races, I tend to go to the race by myself via bus. I will have a bag of ‘race gear’ and then the after bag. Below you can see a picture of what I had in my after bag for the Ottawa Race Weekend Half Marathon (it is the bag on the right). Max did a fantastic job of emptying out this bag in the middle of a parking lot for me…


So what can you do if there is no bag check? Here are some tips for common questions regarding the lack of bag check

Where to put your car keys? – you can put them in your pocket or tie the key onto your shoe. If I have to tie my key to my shoe, I will just take my car key and house key with me, all other keys stay at home.

What if I really need warm-up sweats? Go to Goodwill and buy a cheap set , then discard them right before the race or on the course. Some races have Goodwill bins to drop off items. I would also recommend keeping a bag of clothing at home just throw away purposes. This is where crappy race shirts come in handy. I have 4 shirts ready to go for NYC!

What if my hotel’s check out time is before I will be done my race? If you are travelling with family, they can gather your things. Otherwise, ask your hotel’s front desk if you can have a late check out. If you cannot, then ask if they can store your bags for you. Most hotels are very accommodating during large races. Ask ahead of time and see what their policies are. For NYC, we are only staying in Manhattan on Saturday night – so ideally we will have one backpack for all three of us, which P will carry with him.

Where do I put my phone?  For big races, I always run with my phone. I have a phone case that wraps around my arm. Odds are, I am not listening to music and I just have my phone on me. There are a number of different kinds of phone cases that you can pick out. If you are against bringing the phone and are meeting people after – discuss meet locations before the race. Saying ” I will meet you in the family reunion area” is not the best – find a very specific place. I would also suggest having an emergency location determined, just in case.

What about Food/Water? – For NYC I will be travelling to the start line with some food and drinks. I would suggest just plain plastic bottles that you can recycle afterwards. Some races even have food/water set up at the start line for you. NYC will have water, coffee, gatorade, bagels and power bars on hand for the runners. Therefore I will probably only need to bring some sports gummies and a banana.

I am by myself and I have a wallet! What do I do? If you can leave your wallet in your car, you are good – but some races this is not possible. This is when planning may come into play. If you are travelling to a race and going by yourself, you might have to carry your important cards with you. Therefore, figure out the minimum stuff that you need (credit cards, health card, ID, hotel key) and try to fit it in your fuel belt. Some phone cases come with a pocket to hold cards as well. You don’t need your library card at a race, so if you have to, only run with the bare minimum.

It is raining the day of the race, what about my rain jacket? Grab a garbage bag or one of those cheap ponchos you see people wearing in Niagara Falls and wear it til the start of the race, then simply discard the bag. You can also save those space blankets (or whatever you call them) from other races and keep them for your next race. I have my Ottawa Race Weekend space blanket ready to go for NYC.

You do not necessarily need to check a bag for a race. It is nice, but not necessary, especially for summer races where you might not need a full set of sweats to keep warm. My biggest piece of advice is to browse the race website to see what is on offer at the athlete’s village. The more you know before hand, the better you will be prepared.

Do you have any tips for lack of bag check? 

What do you put in your checked bag?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Kristi

    My current favourite piece of running gear is called a Flip Belt. It is a stretchy wide belt made of two layers. There are opening slits in a few places where you can slide things like ID and a cell phone into the belt. There is even a clip on which you can fasten your keys and tuck them in. I manage to squeeze in a small water bottle as well. Once everything is in you are not even aware of any of it – no bouncing or rubbing. Perfect for a training run or a race where you don’t want to check in anything!
    You must be excited to get back to the races soon! I love fall racing season 🙂
    Kristi recently posted…Blog for a Lazy RunnerMy Profile

    1. Rebecca (Post author)

      I think I am going to have to check this out! I really hate bouncing of any other belts, so if it doesn’t bounce, great!

  2. Heather @ GirlGoesRunning

    I put very similar things in my bag check as you do. I also used the garbage bag for a few rainy marathons…lol. At Boston I had anxiety about gear/bag check, especially this year with the changes they made to the bag check pick up area (which was quite far from the finish). So I opted for throw aways and I stashed cash into my spi belt for the train. Luckily the train ride was free for all runners! I really love the SPI belt though. You can store you phone, gels, cash, eyes in it!
    Heather @ GirlGoesRunning recently posted…Tuesday Long Run??? & A Few Other TidbitsMy Profile

    1. Rebecca (Post author)

      I think I have to go and look at a few belts – I strongly prefer GU Gels over anything else (and I’ve tried them many times) and during my last half, I just had them in my pocket and they ended up chafing my back, opps! Also, although I *think* I’m ok – NYC is very very close to a certain time when women runners have to carry other things with them during a race….yikes…

  3. Kristen @ Glitter and Dust

    I have been fortunate in that I have always had race-day spectators and other people to help me out with all of my stuff. That will all change however when I run the Portland Marathon on October 5 – my husband is not going to be able to join me so I’m making a girls weekend of it and am going with another girl who will be running as well. These are great tips and things to consider for race day – especially as this will be my first time without support!
    Kristen @ Glitter and Dust recently posted…Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens Race Recap: Bike and RunMy Profile

  4. Lisa @ Lulus Big Adventure

    I actually never do bag check. Usually all I need is some fuel in my belt and my keys/phone for after the race, and I’m good to go!
    Lisa @ Lulus Big Adventure recently posted…Life in Toronto: Week OneMy Profile


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.