Any athlete knows that the time before a race can be particularly nerve-wracking. No matter what your sport is, you will most likely feel some pressure as this is when you will be truly tested; when all your training comes together, and hopefully the hours and hours spent preparing for an event will be reflected in a performance that you’re happy with.
However, nerves can also lead to mistakes when it comes to packing your kit bag, which can then have a negative impact on your race. Whether your next event is just round the corner or thousands of miles away, there are some items that you should always carry with you, just in case you happen to need them. By ensuring that your kit bag is always stocked with these things, you’ll have the time to focus on the task ahead of you, rather than running around trying to find last minute essentials.
Sunblock and sunglasses
Be sure to carry a travel-sized tube of sunblock for unexpectedly sunny days, even in countries that aren’t renowned for warm weather. If your race starts early, you may still need to protect your skin from the sun when hanging around afterwards.
Again, this is something that may not necessarily spring to mind, but a cap or visor is an ideal way to shield your eyes from the sun’s glare, whether you use it to race in or just afterwards. A cap can also protect your scalp from sunburn, which you really don’t want after you’ve exerted yourself.
Every athlete knows the relief that comes with taking off your shoes after a run, cycle or even just a hike. Having a pair of shoes such as flip flops, that allow your feet to get some air and recover, is something you’ll really appreciate afterwards. There’s almost nothing worse than having to keep your sore feet in the same sweaty socks and trainers that you had to race in, whilst you hobble back home or to your hotel. Similarly, if you’re in a cold climate, be sure to bring a spare pair of warm shoes, and some socks.
This is always handy to have, even if you’re in an area that is not particularly known for mosquitoes or other critters. You just never know when you might need it, or if you’ll be able to buy some in the local area; so be sure to carry it with you. Also, carrying a soothing cream or some Tiger Balm will help with any irritation or itching if you do get bitten – not exactly what you want before heading into the race or when trying to get a good night’s sleep beforehand!
There’s something comforting about having your own towel to use after a shower, or even using it to sit on after the event, in the case of rocky or wet ground.
Whilst many hotels and shower facilities offer toiletries such as shampoo and shower gel, there’s something luxurious about using your favourite brands when enjoying a hard earned shower after your event. The feel and smell of these products will be sure to refresh your weary body. For example, after a race you might love having a hot shower and then lathering yourself in your favourite moisturiser afterwards. Psychologically, it’s a huge boost!
This really does go without saying. How many of us have turned up to training with no shorts, no socks or (for the ladies) no sports bra? Ensuring you have a spare full kit in your bag means that there’s no need to panic if you do forget something, and you can also use it as something to change into afterwards.
Some people try to race with a little money on them, just in case, but you should have some in your kit bag too, if only to deal with unforeseen transportation issues and after-event celebrations.
Definitely needed to check your official results and to let your friends and family know how you did! It’s also handy when meeting up with people afterwards and of course, in case of an emergency. More importantly, you’ll also need to make use of your phone’s camera to take the all-important ‘medal selfie’ afterwards!
ID/Medical and travel insurance cards
These should definitely be in your possession at all times if possible, but if not, be sure to keep them in a safe place in your bag, where they won’t get wet or damaged.
For used smelly gear and shoes.
Most major events will not allow headphones; however, it can be nice to listen to some music or your favourite podcast before or after the race.
Face or hand wipes
A great way to remove dirt and sweat before you head to the shower. We all know that being competitive can sometimes get a little messy, with gels and the like somehow finding their way all over your face and hands. This gives you the perfect chance to get rid of it without having to find water.
If you use energy gels or any type of fuel when you’re on the go, you’ll know the physical and psychological impact of forgetting them or not bringing enough. Be sure to pack some spares, but also check every now and again that they have not gone off. If possible, bring a banana or something to consume immediately after your race.
Hair brush/hair ties
Women (and men with long hair) will know only too well how matted and tangled long hair becomes when you’re pushing yourself to the max. Taking time afterwards to slowly brush out any knots will make you feel much more human again. Hair ties are funny things; one day you have millions and the next week they’ve somehow vanished. Be sure to keep plenty of spares!
During and immediately after your race, you may feel ridiculously hot. However, once you’ve finished and the sweat begins to evaporate, you risk getting a chill that could potentially make you ill. Be sure to include at least a sweater to put on afterwards.
This should be kept in a safe place and should include any of your regular medication. In addition, think about carrying some Imodium (for obvious reasons!), anti-histamines, Ibuprofen or other painkillers.
If you’ve ever stepped into the shower after a hard work out only to realise you’ve chafed, you’ll know that prevention is definitely the way forward! Be sure to apply this before your event to any areas that are prone to chafe.
Words by: Rachael Bruford
Photos by: Rachael Bruford and supplied