First you need to know what a gear check bag is. Most long distance races (races over 10k) will offer a gear check. Basically this means you may leave some of the things you would want after your event with race volunteers at an organized booth so that you don't have to worry about your stuff while you run, but it's all there for you at the finish line.
At runDisney events this is even more involved. You are given a large sturdy plastic bag (think extra large shopping bag, like toys r us) and a sticker with your bib number on it when you pick up your race packet at the expo. You can fill the bag with whatever odds and ends that you will want at the end of the race and make sure to put the bib number on your bag! (Sometimes the bib number is actually a tag you tie to the bag - either way it's for the same purpose). Before the start of your race you bring this bag to the gear check area and the volunteers will take it for you. At the end of your race, after you collect your medal you can go back to the tent (with your bib still on!) and collect your bag. No one goes in your bag so you are safe to leave things like a wallet. I wouldn't necessarily recommend that at other races, but I trust Disney! Always make sure you get the right bag. I've been at another race and accidentally been handed the wrong bag and it would've been bad if I hadn't noticed!
So what should you pack in your runDisney gear check bag?
I should mention that this is a list of items assuming you want to visit the parks after your race with no trip back to the room. I totally and completely understand if you want to go back and relax after, but I'm a person that likes to go, go, go! I think there is something extra magical about literally leaving the race and hopping onto a ride!
- A clean change of comfortable clothes
- No one likes being in sticky/stinky clothes all day after a race. Clean clothes are essential. Try to think about what would be comfortable if the worst happens in your race: chaffing! No clothes that would rub on those tough spots.
- All your usual park touring gear (including magic bands)
- If you can, pack lighter than you might normally. You don't want to be schlepping around tons of weight after running so much.
- Power Shower Wipes
- These things are AWESOME. Nothing is as good as a real shower but a good wipe-down with these in a bathroom stall makes a huge difference.
- Instant Cold Ice Packs
- After Disney races they always have ice bags readily available to you and medics to tape you up if you need it, which I totally recommend taking advantage of if you need it. However, if you spend a long day in the park after you will need something after your first bag melts. These work great. I remember sitting at electric umbrella with my mom, both of us with our legs up in chairs icing our knees after our first race!
- The parks usually have pain reliever, but it costs much more than if you just bring your own. Ibuprofen (Advil) is bad for runners so stick to Tylenol.
- A backup battery for your phone/camera
- If you are doing a runDisney race right, you took tons of pics during your race. You will want to recharge your camera/phone so you can still capture memories of your post-race festivities.
- Blister bandaids
- I love these! Some people like moleskin but these are my personal favorite. Whatever your preference, pack something to prepare for some nasty blisters.
- Perfume and Deodorant
- Because obviously. Haha. Even if it doesn't really help with the odor, it makes you feel cleaner somehow!
- A headband or hat
- If you are a human, you will be one sweaty hot mess after your race. Bring a headband, hat, or plan to braid your hair so you can get it in check.
- Comfy Sweatshirt
- I don't know if it's just me but I'm always freezing after a race! Even on the warmest days I bring a sweatshirt for extra warmth. As a silly side note, Disney medals aren't super comfortable on your neck all day, a hoodie would really help with that!
- Gallon Ziploc Bags
- Good for lots of reason, but I like to stick my smelly clothes and shoes in them so they don't stink everything else up. Also great for putting ice in as an impromptu ice pack.
- Really comfortable sandals or shoes
- I love the feeling of peeling off my shoes and socks and letting my feet breathe after a long race (gross? sorry?) and the last thing I want to do is put on sneakers. I recommend bringing some extra comfy sandals. Again, keep in mind that you may have blisters so try to wear ones that won't rub. I got these when I was pregnant and LOVE them. They are like memory foam for your feet!
- Makeup if that's your thing
- I feel naked without my mascara so I try to pack a small bag of makeup because nothing is left after that many miles!
In case you are curious, after a Disney race we (my mom and I) have a little routine of what we like to do. We grab our medals and let our heart rate slow down a little. After that we watch runners finish and cheer on a few people. When we finally feel up to walking again we head into the park. The finish line is usually a 5 minute walk (even at turtle pace) from the park entrance. Once we are inside the park we find the lockers and rent one. In Epcot the lockers are very close to a bathroom, so we use that bathroom to wash up using the power wipes and everything from our gear check bag. We change into clean clothes and put all the smelly stuff and things we don't need in our locker so we have as little weight (and smell) as possible to carry around the park all day. Finally we head off for some fun in the park with our medals proudly around our neck!
Hopefully this list will help you pack a great gear check bag! Even if you don't hop straight into the park, most of this stuff is good to have after anyways!