What Are Drop Bags?
Drop bags are small satchels, drawstring sacks, or simply zip lock bags that are used for ultra running and marathon competitions to hold any gear a runner may need during or after a competition. Before a race, drop bags can be collected by race organizers to redistribute at rest stations, halfway markers, or the finish line. Drop bags are beneficial in longer races because if you need anything out of the scope of refreshments and fuel from rest stations you do not have to pack it with you on the race.
How To Label Your Drop Bag
Some marathons and races will have different drop bag designs and rules, but generally, all drop bags should be labeled the same way. The bag should have your full name written clearly, and needs to have your bib number on it.
The bib number is an important part of the drop bag because it will help race organizers find your bag easier, and even can allow organizers to have your bag ready before you approach the rest stop. Bib numbers are also helpful in organizing drop bags. Rather than constantly reorganizing throughout the day, the bags can be organized numerically making the process much quicker.
What to Put Into A Drop Bag
Most drop bags have a limited amount of space. This makes it important to pick out only your most important gear to pack. If you not have packed a drop bag before, something to keep in mind is what your body needs on a long run. If you occasionally get runner’s rash or develop a blister, a drop bag will be the best place to pack medical gear for your needs. If you have ever been on a long run and regretted not bringing something with you like lip balm or a hair tie, drop bags are the place to pack those items up.
In addition to your personal needs, here are some things that are recommended to pack in a drop bag.
Food, water, protein bars, energy gels, or anything that will get you a boost of energy is great to pack along in a drop bag. Energy-rich snacks are mostly available on long competitions but sometimes your own little treat is the most exciting part of a rest stop.
Tape and Moleskin
Athletic tape, duct tape, moleskin, and anything that will help you with cuts, nicks, blisters, and sprains is great to pack along. Moleskine should be easy to find along the trail at rest stops, but you do not want to risk not making your target time because of a blister.
If you develop anything from a headache, a cramp, or an achy muscle, having the right painkillers to get you through the race will greatly help. Rest stations and other runners will have medical aid and painkillers, but if you have a preference it is best to pack your own.
A travel size or, if you can spare the room, normal sized Vaseline container will greatly help if you develop any runners rash, abrasion, or chafing. Chafing and abrasions will throw off your running by restricting your stride and movement.
Your sunscreen application before the race will most likely wear off during the race, making a reapplication important at the halfway mark. If you burn easily, a small travel sized sunscreen tube is smart to pack into your drop bag.
Wiping down your face is a great refreshment, and can help you feel rejuvenated going into the second half or home stretch of your run.
Although a quick sock change may sound difficult, it is an amazing feeling to jump into a fresh pair of socks knowing you still have some distance to cover. A fresh pair of socks is also a good idea to pack even if you do not use them because if your feet get wet, or a blister starts to form, a clean and dry pair will keep your feet from hurting.
Extra layers, a different shirt or any extra clothing items you may need can easily fill up the remaining area in your drop bag. You may not use the extra t-shirt that you pack along, but if your shirt starts to rub and chafe you, it is always best to have a solution.