Be Prepared: The Race Day Box

It’s inevitable. You arrive at a race and discover you forgot your safety pins. Your ponytail holder breaks. It starts raining and you’re hatless.

Never again, you vow.

I am an admitted planner and preparer. I don’t like to leave things to chance and, while I’ve accepted that there are lots of unpredictable factors in racing, I can damn sure control having a hat.

Enter the race day box.

For years, I just packed everything I might possibly need for a race the night before, or even the morning of, into a big bag. But, still, I always forgot something. Not to mention, it was a disorganized mess.

Inspired by my mom who once worked as an emergency medical technician and firefighter, I found a solution. Back in the day, mom always had a jump kit in the car. I’ve seen variations of this system using other toolboxes; the idea is also common among ultrarunners, for obvious reasons.

What I needed was a Caboodle. Since they were discontinued long before I hit puberty, I hit up my dad to track down the perfect tackle box for me. It has lots of compartments of various sizes, and it folds out so everything is really easy to see and reach.

The goal was to pack basically everything I might need for a race into this box, and to take it to every race. I ran a 200-mile overnight relay four times and got really good at knowing what things people might need but wouldn’t have packed, so used that experience to better equip my box as well. It has evolved to just living in my car because you just never know, and it has saved me many times! The race day box is also a great depository for all those items you’ve ended up with duplicates of, or those sample sized products cluttering up your cupboards and drawers, or when you’ve replaced a serviceable version of something with a better one.

Here’s what you need:

The Box

Your best bet is a piano-style tackle box. Mine is a six-tray box and it’s perfect. You can find them at big box sporting good stores and they range anywhere from $20 – $50. You want one with enough smaller sections and enough room for bigger items under the trays. I’d recommend looking at them in person to get the one that looks like it will work best for you.

Running Warehouse is a great place to get most of the items below. Follow one of the links and use code Salty10 at checkout for a discount!


  • Headband
  • Gloves
  • Socks
  • Brimmed hat
  • Winter hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Kleenex (or other toilet paper substitute)
  • Sunscreen
  • Aquaphor or Vaseline in a tube (doubles as anti-chafe and lip balm, won’t melt like Body Glide)
  • Water bottle (a collapsible soft flask style will save extra space)
  • Pony tail holders, bobby pins
  • Safety pins
  • Race number belt
  • Gels/chewies
  • Nutrition bar of your choice
  • Electrolyte tablets
  • Tampons


First Aid

  • Band-Aids
  • Neosporin/Bacitracin
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Ace bandage
  • Ibuprofen
  • Pepto Bismol tablets
  • Nail trimming kit (nail clippers, nail scissors, tweezers, nail file)


  • Bottle opener (post-race beers!)
  • Kinesio tape
  • Face wipes (I hate running with make up; my favorite hotel has individually packaged wipes that I always snag for my box!)
  • Hand warmers
  • Packable lightweight jacket
  • Small towel

Having my race day box helps relieve race day anxiety about forgetting something or needing something I didn’t know I would need. Plus it bails me out on those weekday runs when the weather isn’t what I expected. Bonus: it often makes me the hero of the group run when I have the exact thing that saves someone else’s day!

Do you have a race day box? What do you keep in it?

Started running in my early 20s and ended up running my first marathon 15 months later. Managed to break 3 hours in my 12th marathon. Pilates instructor passionate about the importance of your powerhouse in running and the mind/body connection. One husband, zero kids, mama to one Australian Shepherd.

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  1. 1. This is genius, thank you (and assembling this will put my nervous taper energy to use); 2. I miss my Caboodle!

    1. It is a great taper project! If you — or anyone — makes one, please tag Salty Running and/or me on social media (TGRunFit on most platforms).

  2. My first jump kit was simply a tackle box too 🙂 I was very impressed with what you keep in yours when you brought it to our cross country mini-camp. I had a bag that I carried to practices and meets that I put everything I could of think of into that my “kids” might need, including the “female items” for my 3 female runners. Thanks for the shout-out 🙂

  3. First of all: Caboodles were LIFE.
    Second of all: Brilliant.
    My drawstring running bag probably has most of these items floating around in it, but it would be nice to have them nicely organized!

  4. I really enjoyed the link to things all 90s kids stored in their caboodle…spot on.

    Also, I really need to make one of these- I definitely pack most of this in my race bag anyways but makes sense to have it in car for races and runs all the time too!

  5. That box is AMAZING! I need that! I have a bag that I throw everything in. It depends on the time of the year. If it is winter, I feel like I might need two bags with all the clothes I could put in there (because you need after the race clothes too so you are not freezing). I feel like I always put too much in there. I like to be over prepared, though.

  6. That idea/you are amazing! I normally show up for runs completely unprepared, so maybe I should try this.

  7. This really is genius. I wish we could carry a box like this with us in our races… sometimes the weather changes so much that you need different things at different points in the race! I like this idea though, I might have to put together one of these!