These items are definitely on every runner's "DO NOT LEAVE BEHIND" list when preparing for a race trip, but there are a few items that are often overlooked. Listed below are a few such items every runner should add to his/her "Don't Leave Home Without" list.
1. Pack pre-race cover-up clothing. Many races have you at the start several hours prior to the start. Depending on the location of your race and/or the time of year, you could potentially be hanging out in the cold for a couple of hours. To avoid getting chilled prior to the start, be sure to pack some old sweats. Don't have any? Head to your local Good Will. You can pick up a pair of sweat pants and a shirt for next to nothing. Wear the sweats overtop your running attire, then toss them just before the start. Many races collect and donate discarded clothing to local homeless shelters.
2. Prepare for the elements. Check the website for what the typical weather conditions are like for your race. Then the week of the race continue to check weather sites like www.weather.com for up-to-date weather forecasts for the race area. Murphy's Law dictates that if you pack a check rain poncho, you'll have clear skies, but if you forget to pack it, expect a down pour. At least that's my experience. Forgot to pick up a cheap rain poncho or can't find one? Don't fret. Use a large yard waste trash bag. Just cut holes for your head and arms and you're set. The trash bag also works well for keeping you warm.
3. Protect the extremities. Rule of thumb is to dress as if it's 10-15 degrees warmer than the actual temperature because once you start running, your core temperature will rise and it will feel as if the temp has increased by at least that much. Often, however, your extremities (i.e., your hands, ears, head) will still remain frigid. To avoid frigid phalanges, be sure to pack gloves and don't forget to pack a hat too! Cheap cotton gloves work well, particularly if you're planning to remove them later in the run. If you happen to lose them, it's no big deal and they're biodegradable. Don't forget the ears. A skull cap or toboggan works well to keep the head and ears warm.
4. What to do with the Gu? During training, runners and/or trainers will often put out energy gels at various water stops along the training routes. Very convenient. But, then on race day, a runner may discover he's not figured out a way to carry the Gu while running. A simple low cost method is to safety pin the gel packs to your shorts. Another cheap option that takes a little more effort uses self-stick Velcro dots. Sew one dot to the waist band of your running shorts and then stick the mate to the gel pack. You can put as many dots as desired around your waist band. The sewn dot can remain and be reused and new opposing dots can be applied to future gel packs. Be sure to test the safety pin and Velcro dot methods prior to race day, just to make sure it works well with your shorts.
5. Pack some "Just In Case" clothing. Even if the weather forecast calls for clear skies, 60 degrees, and 0% chance of rain, doesn't mean that Mother Nature doesn't have other plans in store for race day. So, be sure to pack some "just in case" race clothing. If it's supposed to be warm, be sure to pack a long-sleeve shirt...just in case. If it's suppose to be cold, pack a singlet or short sleeve shirt...just in case. If it's supposed to be clear skies, pack a rain poncho...just in case.
6. Block that sun! Research has shown that runners, particularly endurance runners have a higher percentage of atypical moles which can often turn into skin cancer. It's not hard to understand why. One study revealed that 96.7% of runners wear shorts and 98.6% of runners wear shirts that only partially cover their backs and extremities. Not too surprising. I, myself have gone through the scary removal of a melanoma from my back, so I'm speaking from experience. If at all possible cover as much of your body as possible when running. Wear long sleeves, longer shorts, a hat, etc. Also, slather on the sun block on all exposed areas. It's also a good idea to cover areas not exposed, because harmful UV rays can penetrate most fabrics. And last but not least, protect your eyes with sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection.
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