What on earth is a gear check bag?
A gear check bag is a bag provided by the race (usually some type of plastic bag or trash bag) with your race number written on it. It can also be referred to as a “drop bag” or “gear bag.”
The half marathon or marathon gear check typically only exists at races where the starting line is in a different location than the finish line.
A gear check bag gives runners the opportunity to keep essentials with them right before or after the race, without having to carry them on your run. You can take extra items with you up to the starting area, and still have them with you after the race.
This is especially helpful for runners who are walking to the race and don’t have a car parked near the finish area.
Related: How to Survive Your First Half Marathon
How does the gear check process work?
Typically you will get your bag at the expo when you pick up your race packet. A volunteer will write your bib number on the bag. Or, they will give you a ticket with your bib number that needs to be fastened to your gear bag.
Make sure your number is on the bag! This is how the volunteers will identify the bag is yours.
On race morning, put everything you will need with you in your bag.
Carry your bag with you to the starting area whether you ride a bus to the start, or you just meet at the start.
15-30 minutes Before the start of the race
Make sure everything is in your bag that you don’t want to carry with you during the race. If I’m wearing warm clothes up to the start, this is usually when I shed those extra layers and place them in my gear check bag for safe keeping.
At least 10 minutes before race start (or more depending on how large the race is), drop your bag in the designated area or hand to the volunteers who are likely throwing the bags into some sort of Uhaul or other rental truck.
Right before the race starts, the truck will leave and head to the finish area. There, volunteers will sort through the bags and keep them safe until you finish your race.
After you cross the finish line
You can head to the gear check bag pick up area to claim your bag. The volunteers will release your bag to you based on your bib number matching the number on your bag.
It’s as simple as that!
What half marathon essentials should I put in my gear check bag?
Now, let’s discuss what types of items should go in this bag. Everyone will have different things, but here is a list of ideas to get you started.
Warm, dry change of clothes for after the race
You definitely want an option to get out of your sweaty clothes as soon as possible after finishing!
Especially if you plan on walking around for a while, it’s good to get out of your wet race clothes to prevent your body from getting chilled after your core temperature drops.
Dry socks and an extra pair of comfortable shoes or sandals
After running 13.1 miles, the last thing you will want to do is take any more steps in the shoes you’ve been running in. You might be developing blisters or hot spots on your feet, so you’ll want a different type of shoe to change things up and give your feet some relief.
BONUS: Throw a pair of PRO Compression socks or calf sleeves in to wear after your race, improve circulation, and start the recovery process immediately. These socks are my favorite! You can find them on Amazon.
Small towel or wet wipes to freshen up
If it’s going to be several hours until you can hit the shower, you might want the option some of that stank off. Shower Pill wipes are a super convenient way to freshen up, even when you don’t have access to a shower right after the race. You can find them on Amazon.
Deodorant and/or body fragrance
Just because you might not be able to shower for a few hours, that doesn’t mean everyone has to suffer. Put some smell good on with your fresh set of clothes, and everyone will have a better day.
Extra hair ties and hairbrush
My hair always gets nasty and tangled when I run, so it’s nice to clean up the look by brushing my hair out and throwing it back in a new ponytail.
Lips dry out. Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, pack some anyways.
Tampons (As needed)
Ladies, I definitely don’t need to explain this one. You don’t want to be caught without them.
Snacks and hydration for post-race fuel
Typically, races will have a bunch of food in the finisher’s area to choose from, but you might still want to bring an option of your own.
It’s important to get the recovery process started with some clean fuel. When I finished my first half marathon, my stomach was so tight that nothing sounded appetizing to me but water. Now, I have a tube of Nuun Sport in my gear check bag so I can pop one in my post-race water bottle. It took a while and the only thing that I could tolerate was my typically post-run recovery shake.
Herbalife24 has great recovery shake and hydration packets that make for an easy post-race snack before your stomach calms down enough to eat real food.
You can find Herbalife24 Rebuild Strength here
IMPORTANT: Don’t pack valuables in your gear drop bag
Most gear check bag processes are seamless, but there’s still the chance that your bag could get lost in the shuffle. Don’t put anything in your bag that you cannot easily replace. I’ve never personally had any issues with my bag getting lost, but it happens. I wouldn’t want to take that chance.
These items SHOULD NOT be put in your gear check bag:
- Other valuables
What is something that you ALWAYS have in your gear check bag?
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About Me: I’m Alexis, Founder of RunningMyBestLife! I am an avid recreational runner, half marathoner, wife, dog mom, busy professional, downhill skier in Northern Utah. My mission is to help new enthusiasts fall in love with the sport of running. I believe that running is a catalyst to taking control of your life and living your best life by design. Learn More –>
1 thought on “What is a Gear Check Bag?”
That’s a wild-looking bunch of bags in that picture! I used a gear check bag at the Northface trail races in NY. That’s because they get a huge crowd so they shuttle you to the festival area by bus. After the race and buffet and awards and socializing, you might not get back to your car for two hours.
I would always pack a change of shirt and usually shorts. Then, I’d also pack a couple of apples, a protein drink, and a bottle of water (just in case).
I ran the Battle of Brooklyn one year in NYC. I had parked far away. I don’t think they offered a gear check but I brought along a spare shirt anyway. So, what I did was to find a lonesome-looking spot by a tree (the race was in Prospect Park) and I left my extra shirt there. I figured nobody’s going to take it because everyone will be running. And, that’s right. It was there waiting for me at the end.
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