When packing and prepping for a road race, people usually focus on their clothes and shoes for the day of the race, making sure everything is comfortable. But what about after you've crossed the finish line? Being well prepared for after the race is an important part of a proper recovery, since it means a happier experience overall. Also, the better your recovery, the faster you can get into the parks to enjoy all of the Disney magic that brings us back to the runDisney events. This article offers some suggestions for items to have ready for after your race, and also explains the typical logistics of how to pick up those items at runDisney races.
To Check or Not to Check
Deciding whether or not to check a bag depends on a few factors. If you have friends or family who will be with you at the race and who plan to meet you at the finish area, you can have them bring your bag of items instead of checking it. This option can save you some time if there are lines to claim your items at the tents. However, if you don’t meet up with your party right away, you might be left soggy and tired until you find each other. Be sure to have a well-defined meeting place, as well as a phone number to call or text as a back-up plan. The runDisney family reunion areas are divided into ranges of letters, making for good meeting points; pick a memorable letter, then meet at the corresponding tent.
If you have a distance to travel or it will take time to get back to your room, checking a bag with a change of clothing and your preferred food can help you feel more comfortable along the way. You never know how you might feel after a race, especially if it’s a new distance for you. Having access to well-tolerated foods is important if your blood sugar starts to crash. If temperatures dip when you finish, having warm, dry clothes waiting for you is essential; even if it’s warm, getting into something dry is a welcome relief.
The runDisney bag check areas are generally well-organized and efficient, especially now that they have transitioned to a system using clear bags with stickers. The tents are staffed by volunteers, however, so speed can vary. If you happen to finish amid a large group of people with the same last name as you, you may have a wait at the bag claim tent.
When you pick up your registration materials at the Expo, you receive a clear plastic bag that contains various items, including stickers printed with a number that corresponds to your bib number. If you want to use the bag check to claim your own items after the race, you must use this clear bag; runDisney does not allow you to check your own personal bags. The night before the race, affix your sticker in the designated box on the bag, and then place all of the items you want at the finish inside. RunDisney loves early mornings, so you want to have everything ready to go to avoid forgetting things in the rush to get out the door. If you have any small items or something you don’t want visible to the world, use a small zippered pouch inside your clear bag.
On the morning of the race, find the bag check tent that corresponds to your last name and drop off your bag. Each race has a specific cut-off time for checking items, so be mindful of that when getting to the start. Be sure to secure the top of the bag with a zip tie or a well tied knot so that it won't come open accidentally. You will claim your bag at the same tent where you left it; runDisney races do not transport bags since the start and finish areas are within walking distance of one another.
Checked Bag Checklist
What you place in your bag is obviously a personal choice, but previous experience has generated a list of helpful items that make the post-run experience much more comfortable:
- Dry clothes – what type of clothing you pack depends on the expected weather at the finish. For cooler temperatures, you might want to pack pants as well as a long-sleeve shirt or light fleece jacket. If the weather is warm, a short-sleeve shirt may be all that’s needed. Remove as many of your wet clothes as you are comfortable while out in the open; you can use a portable toilet to change if you wish, but it’s not recommended. Stick an extra plastic bag in your clear bag so that you can place soggy clothes in there without stinking up the rest of your items.
- Flip flops – getting your running shoes off and slipping on a pair of flip flops or sandals will be a welcome relief, especially if you developed blisters during the race. They allow your feet to breathe and cool off. If the weather is cool, pack a dry pair of socks and some comfortable slip-on shoes.
- Hat – a hat helps keep any unruly hair under wraps, and also shades you if the sun is particularly bright or intense when you finish.
- Compression sleeves or socks – compression aids muscle recovery, but it also just makes tired, sore muscles feel better. Compression sleeves work better with flip flops, and are usually easier to get on than compression socks when you’re tired after a race, but socks will serve the same purpose.
- Disposable facial cloths – runners who sweat a lot will be familiar with the salty coating that often develops on skin during a long run. Having some disposable cleaning cloths in your bag to wipe your face feels refreshing after a long, hot run, and keeps you from looking like you have a salt moustache. An alternative to disposable cloths is a wet washcloth in a zippered baggie. In hot weather, a cooled cloth also helps bring down your body temperature.
- Recovery drink – chocolate milk is a popular, relatively inexpensive recovery drink. Shelf-stable drink boxes can be packed in your bag without having to worry about refrigeration; they can also be frozen overnight and placed in the bag to thaw during your run. Just make sure they won’t come into contact with anything you don’t want to get wet. Powdered recovery drink mixes are another alternative, and can be mixed with the bottled water handed out at the finish. You may want to throw in your own wide-mouthed bottle to make it easier to pour the mix in rather than trying to squeeze it through the small openings on bottled water.
- Food – studies have shown that consuming a mix of carbs and protein within 30 minutes after a hard workout aids in muscle recovery. Having foods that you know will agree with you is a good backup plan for any food handed out at the finish. Your best options are protein bars, energy bars, or other snack items that won’t melt in the heat. You may not feel like eating, or you may want to eat everything in sight, but either way you’ll be prepared.
- Cash – if you feel like eating more than what is handed out at the finish or you want something different, having some cash on hand is a good idea. There were several different food trucks at the finish area of the Walt Disney World marathon weekend this year, offering a nice selection of tasty treats. If you will be in the finish area to wait for a friend to finish, you might start to feel like having something more substantial than a banana. If you aren’t comfortable leaving cash in your checked bag, place a bill in a pocket of your running clothes, or pin it on.
All of these items will help begin your recovery process as soon as you’ve finished the race.
Beyond the Bag
Consider bringing along a few other items for your hotel room to help ease any post-run soreness or pain:
- Foam roller – if you haven’t used a foam roller to help with sore muscles, you don’t know what you’re missing. Runner’s World magazine has a good instructional video on how to use one. Although most foam rollers will take up a good amount of space in your luggage, there are travel-sized versions available. Another alternative is The Stick, a self-massaging tool that is sold at most runDisney expos (and offered in various lengths, including travel-friendly versions).
- Pain relieving cream – you will hurt in places. There are many products that will help with that, such as Ben Gay, Tiger Balm, Perform, Aspercreme, and Biofreeze.
- Foot treatment kit – long runs can often mean blisters. If your blisters are painful, filled with fluid, and don’t reabsorb within 24 hours, you may want to drain them. If you do, make sure you have the proper tools to prevent complications. Alcohol swabs are more easily transported than bottled rubbing alcohol; use them on the area that needs draining as well as on the clean sewing needle you use to drain the blister. Apply Vaseline or Neosporin to the area, and then cover with a bandage to aid in healing.
- Wool socks – if you plan to take an ice bath, wear wool socks, as they keep your feet warm even when wet, and help you tolerate the 10 to 15 minutes of agony.
- Recovery food – having food already waiting in the room relieves you of the need to go hunting when you are tired and just want to rest. Again, a mix of carbs and protein is best, along with foods like bananas that help replace potassium you sweated out along the course.
- Recovery beverages – water is great, but replacing electrolytes is also important. Products like Nuun are a great option, since they come in tablet form and can be mixed with whatever water you have on hand. It is also not as heavily sweet as some other sports drinks, so it’s easy on touchy stomachs.
Preparing for races can be stressful, especially for newer runners. Preparing for after the race will help your recovery and make you a happier runner. Let’s face it: one of the reasons we runDisney is so we can combine a race with vacation, so anything that gets us on Space Mountain sooner is a good thing. Getting off Space Mountain can often be a different story though. Would someone please give me a hand up?