Start Line Checklist: Everything you need to bring for your big race!

When you are gearing up for a race, you want to make sure you have absolutely everything with you for your big day.

I always use a checklist when packing my things, whether it’s a race near home or one I need to travel to. 

Checking off those items one by one is the safest way to ensure you don’t forget anything

Depending on the race you will be running, distance, and conditions, you will need to bring different items to the start line.

What we are going to go over today is a general checklist for an ultramarathon.

It’s going to be complete, so if you are running a shorter distance, or a road race, just cross off the extras you won’t be needing. 

Ready to get organized? 

Let’s pack!

Start Line Checklist

#1 Race Pack

Whether it’s a running vest, waist belt, or handheld bottles, this is the most critical piece of equipment you will need for your ultra. In it, you will carry everything you may need throughout the race. 

Each race has a different list of required equipment, so you must check the list before packing up your things.

You don’t want to arrive at check-in and realize you’ve forgotten to bring a piece of required equipment! You could get penalized with time or even not be allowed to race. 

Let’s take a look at the general contents of our race pack that need to get added to our start line checklist!

#2 Hydration Containers

Pack up all of the bottles you will use and your hydration pack bladder.

Don’t forget the bladder mouthpiece, hose, and the device that closes the top if they aren’t already attached. Be sure there are no holes in the bladder beforehand; that would be an awful surprise at the start of the race.

Start Line Checklist

#3 Nutrition & Hydration

After you’ve done your nutrition and hydration intake calculation for your specific race, you’ll know how much fuel you will need to bring along all.

Get your gummies, waffles, energy gels, jelly beans, bars, carb-filled hydration, even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches organized and ready to go.

If you are planning on using salt pills, bring along enough of those as well. 

Break your fuel up into differently labeled baggies according to your specific race strategy and have them ready for consumption! Always be on the safe side, and bring more than you think you will need. 

If you are going to consume a quick snack right before you take off, remember to bring that along as well.

Start Line Checklist

#4 Headlamp

If your race requires one, or you feel you may run into the evening or early morning hours, pack a headlamp along with an extra set of batteries. Be sure the batteries are new!

#5 Hiking Poles

Depending on the specific race characteristics, you may be doing a lot of climbing. If so, bring along hiking poles.

Some race packs have loops on the side to keep them tucked away until you need to use them. When you hit a downhill or a more accessible section, just fold them up and store them away.

#6 Headphones

Don’t forget to put together a brand new motivational playlist for those challenging moments throughout the race. Sometimes you need a little pick-me-up, and a great playlist can do the trick.

Pack charged headphones or any other device you use to play music.

Start Line Checklist

#7 Cell phone

A cell phone is often on the list of obligatory equipment for a race for safety purposes. It’s also great to have with you to take plenty of pictures and videos of your experience.

Be sure it is fully charged and has any necessary information in it, such as the emergency contact for the race. Also, keep it in a waterproof case or plastic bag to avoid getting it wet due to weather, sweat, or even river crossings.

#8 Sanitation Products

We have become accustomed to carrying a new set of products with us throughout the pandemic everywhere we go.

Pack a mask as some races require you to wear one at the start and finish lines and perhaps as you run into the aid stations. You can also carry a small bottle of alcohol as a safety measure.

Start Line Checklist

#9 Race-day Attire 

You will most likely come dressed and ready-to-go with your race-day attire already on, but in case you will get ready near the start line, don’t forget your race day: 

  • Shorts or leggings
  • Race shirt 
  • Sports bra

#10 Extra Gear

You may need to bring along other layers depending on the weather conditions, such as a:

  • Windbreaker 
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Fleece 
  • Gloves
  • Hat 
  • Neck warmer
Start Line Checklist

#11 Hat or Visor

Keep the sun and/or rain out of your eyes by wearing a hat or visor.

Just be careful when in more closed sections of the forest where it can get dark and difficult to see. In those cases, turn your hat around backward so you can maneuver through the trails with ease, looking out for branches and dangling plants.

#12 Headband / Neck Gaiter

Buffs have a variety of purposes, such as using them to hold back your hair, holding ice on the back of your neck, or wiping the sweat from your face.

They also come in handy if you get a runny nose or need to clean something off. It’s convenient, and you can tie it around your wrist or pack it for easy transport.

Start Line Checklist

#13 Race Number

This is a biggy! Have your race number and safety pins ready to go. Pin it onto your race shirt in advance, so you are sure not to forget. You could use a race bib holder instead, so you don’t put holes in your clothes!

#14 Watch or GPS Device

This is one I’m sure you won’t forget, and you’ll most definitely feel lost if you do. This is your personal race assistant who will give you all the info you need, perhaps even the route if you have saved the race as a gpx file. 

Put your fully-charged watch on first thing in the morning, so there is no chance of leaving it behind.

Start Line Checklist

#15 Gaiters

If your race runs through technical terrain such as sand or loose gravel and rocks, gaiters can be a great way to avoid stopping and fishing unwanted debris out of your socks and shoes. Try them out beforehand, as your shoes may need to be equipped for them with velcro and hooks.

#16 Sunglasses

Wear sunglasses in certain race sections to protect your eyes from the intense sun or debris and bugs from entering. Choose lenses that will not obstruct your vision, so you can maneuver through the trails safely.

Start Line Checklist

#17 Skin Care Products

  • Sunblock: Whether the race weather is going to be sunny or overcast, it’s always a good idea to lather up in sunblock before the start. It can’t hurt and can save you from some painful burns! 
  • Anti-chafe cream: Put this in all the places where you could chafe to avoid discomfort during the race: underarms, between legs, feet, and toes.
  • Athletic tape: If anti-chafe cream isn’t enough, you may need to tape up parts of your feet and ankles or use them as nipple guards. Have them cut and ready to go before the race.

#18 Bug Spray

Along with sunblock, bug spray is another great thing to apply right before you begin. That way, you can avoid some of those pesky, unwanted mosquito bites.

Start Line Checklist

#19 Drop Bag

If you are running a long race, you will most likely be able to leave one or more drop bags along the course for your convenience. Strategically plan if you are going to stop during the race or not, or if you are going to leave a drop bag in case of emergency only.

Here is a list of items that you may want to leave in your drop bag:

  • Nutrition and hydration for the next leg(s) of the race 
  • An extra pair of running shoes
  • An extra change of clothes or layers is needed for later in the race
  • Wet wipes
  • Anti-chafe or diaper cream to reapply
  • A towel
  • Duct tape to fix any emergency holes in your bladder, bottles, shoes, or clothes

Label your drop bag with your name, race number, and aid station name where you would like it to be left. Leave yourself some time before the race starts so you can drop them off in the correct place.

Start Line Checklist

#20 A Smile

It sounds corny, but it’s true. You’ve put in the work, trained for months and months, and run miles and miles. It’s time to enjoy yourself!

Bring a positive attitude to the start line. Look around at all of the other participants, and share their excitement. A positive mind will help push you through any hard times you may face during the race. 

You’re prepared, so now it’s time to fly!

Start Line Checklist
Katelyn Tocci

Katelyn Tocci

Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community she is known for her ear to ear smile even under the toughest race conditions. She loves sharing her knowledge and experience with everyone and has a great desire to motivate others to hit the trails alongside her. Run for fun!

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