Race bag oddities

Starting to be over-run with reusable bags

Used to be when you did a race you’d get a cotton tee, if you were lucky. And really, for me, that was just fine. These days, however, there’s a lot more swag going into race bags. You’re going to get any number of things.

Lately I’ve noticed a trend toward the race bag itself being a reusable grocery bag. I like this (better than the old plastic bags that ended up in landfills) but like anything, too much of a good thing can get old. Now my closets are bursting with these bags.

Items I have found in the race bags of late vary. I’ve received energy bars, water bottles, samples of anti-chafing solutions, hats or visors, sunscreen and those ubiquitous coupons. Have you ever noticed those (millions of) coupons are usually for things you don’t want? Like maybe a free session at a local gym, which inevitably means a 90-min. sales pitch. Or a coupon for a discounted session with a local chiropractor. If you’ve traveled at all for the race, well, it’s not going to do you much good.

Taking the cake, however, on race bag items I’ve received over the past year has to be what was inside the bag at the Cleveland half marathon. A sample case of tampons. Yep, you read it right. Now if this had been an all female race, I could maybe understand it. But it wasn’t, and so I found that one a bit odd and amusing. You just never know.

What’s the oddest thing you’ve received in a race bag? What’s the best thing you’ve ever received? 

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  1. says

    Most odd-ball thing – what appeared to be a sample of a homemade energy bar that looked more like a small piece of dog poop (not eating THAT!).

    Love gel samples.

    We’ve banned plastic bags on Maui, so everyone needs to take their own to the store. When I get too many I wrap up a few with rubber bands and throw them in the bottom of my bag. If I see someone who needs one in the checkout line, I give them an extra one of mine.
    Dianna on Maui recently posted..Practical Paleo Review and Giveaway!!My Profile

  2. Lorrine says

    For some runners, goody bags are the highlight of a race. The bags full of T-shirts, food, coupons and other goodies can bring joy to even the most exhausted racers as well as provide memories of their special accomplishment. It can even allow racers to overlook other flaws of the event.
    Lorrine recently posted..Dry Mouth ProblemsMy Profile

  3. says

    I wish I could get more grocery bags at races! I’ve got those sling bags that go on your back coming out of my ears. Need any of those?

    Baby butt cream was the oddest thing I’ve gotten. I’ll admit though – I used it and it worked. I recycle most of the ads. Makes me feel better!
    lauriewalksfast recently posted..How the tides have turnedMy Profile

  4. says

    That’s so funny! I got a plastic lid grip (you know, those things that you use to help open the pickle jar?). It was branded with the logo of the race. So very random, but I have to admit – useful. I have had it in my kitchen for two years and every time I use it, I think of that glorious morning, racing on the trail. (But you probably couldn’t say that about tampons…)
    Rachelle recently posted..Ball DroppingMy Profile

  5. says

    There’s a series of trail races up here that give coffee beans which is cool. I received a bag once with cellulite cream in it, face cream and body lotion (all in one). Not sure it was a female race but can’t remember.
    Robin recently posted..Nice Surprise from BostonMy Profile

  6. says

    The oddest thing I ever got in a race bag was loaves of bread. As in, two long loaves of french bread. Pretty funny!

    I don’t mind the reusable shopping bags at all; it’s all the race shirts that I never wear that I have no idea how to use. Yet I keep all of them! :) At one time, I said I was going to make a quilt with them… which was obviously a lofty goal, since I don’t even sew!
    Christen recently posted..Back on TrackMy Profile

  7. says

    Ha, nice post! We tend to get our goodies in reusable bags that have strings attached so they work as backpacks as well. I have dozens of those. The strangest I got was one of those tissue paper toilet seat covers. The best ever was a cellphone. It was a small race with only 30 runners and we all got a phone!
    Johann recently posted..Monday UpdateMy Profile

  8. LouLou says

    We found olive oil samples in our race packet. Is this for chaffing or lube after the race?

    The other was Starkiss Tuna at the Rock ‘n Roll Seattle Marathon. The last thing I want before or after a marathon is tuna fish. I smell bad enough
    LouLou recently posted..Running and BeerMy Profile

  9. says

    I can’t recall something that I thought was super odd, but the coupons are really annoying. I have never used one coupon to date. I have never received anything overly spectacular either in a race swag bag. The best thing I have gotten was at the end of a half marathon last year they gave us water bottles instead of throw away cups. The water bottle was nice and I still use it.
    Tasha @ Healthy Diva recently posted..Nutella Banana BreadMy Profile

  10. says

    Agreed… I loved the reusable grocery bag at the first race. And so funny b/c at my 2nd Half, there was a sample pack of tampons in the race bag too!! Of course, Kimberly Clark was a big sponsor and big company in town so to be expected. I totally stocked up b/c all the guys were obviously giving away their supply… there was a table outside packet pickup piled up with discarded tampon boxes!! I packed my bag and was good for months… LOL!!
    Run with Jess recently posted..Monitor your Heart – Giveaway!My Profile

  11. says

    I bet the guys loved the tampons:) Yes, I have a huge assortment of those bags too. Can’t think of anything too weird. I did get a pair of Heineken ear buds once which I thought was kind of weird. It was at a race that was raising money for Diabetes, so a family type of event. I used them for a while though since my last pair of earbuds broke.
    hikermom recently posted..True "Grit"My Profile

  12. says

    I can’t really think of anything too odd, but I do like the races that supply digital goodie bags. There is typically some handed out at the expo, but a good chunk of the sponsors goodies come in the digital bag and help START to think about reducing waste.

    Oh… odd: how about a room deoderizer? Forget the event, and understand the possible connection, but still random.
    Pavement Runner recently posted..50 Miles and a PainMy Profile

  13. says

    I read this early this morning – no time to respond – and started my day with a laugh. You should share some of the things you get in the comments. I don’t know if I have had anything really strange. I hate all the coupons I know that.

  14. says

    The last marathon I did did not give out anything at all. It was in Portland, so they were being eco friendly since, like you said, plastic race bags and often most of the contents end up in the landfill. But it was a little disappointing to not get to sort through a bag of goodies!
    Beth @ Miles and Trials recently posted..157 Blissful MilesMy Profile

  15. Jeff says

    I got socks with the marathon name on it. Nice! I like virtual goody bags. No waste for coupons unless you want to print them.

  16. says

    In Memphis, we do not even get bags any more, it is a virtual race bag nowadays. They send you an email and you follow links. So packet pickup is basically them handing you a shirt and numbers. It’s actually kind of nice!

    P.S. and that means no more of the yucky gels flavors they can’t get rid of!
    JFord recently posted..Monday Thoughts…My Profile

  17. says

    HAHA. So true. I usually just end up throwing out 95% of the things in the bag…and I am with you on the bags. I’ve started putting them in the bags of clothes we donate to a local church. There are only so many reusable bags I need!!!
    Michele @ Nycrunningmama recently posted..Back to Running!!My Profile

  18. says

    I’ve gotten four pint glasses–those may be my favorite race schwag items. Inedible protein bars are probably my least favorite things. An ugly desert style bandana thing was probably the weirdest item.
    Terzah recently posted..Lactate Threshold Test!My Profile

  19. says

    Yep, reusable bags out the wazoo here too. I don’t like when I pay $$$ for a race (cough Chicago marathon cough) and get nada beyond the shirt and useless coupons. I don’t think I’ve gotten anything too weird: hats, socks, pain relief patches, gel, bars, sleeves, it’s all good.
    I am holding out for a pint glass though, even though I’m not a beer drinker. One of theses days…
    Teamarcia recently posted..Lifestyle Ambush: Not in a Good WayMy Profile

  20. says

    Main thing I don’t like about race bags is all the coupons that are dumped in them. Generally I only like or use maybe 10% of the coupons, and the rest I recycle. Seems like a waste. I realize that these coupons need to be put in there for marketing of sponsors in order to keep the race registration fee down, but I’d rather not have them in there.

    Weirdest thing I can think of seeing in race bag is probably medicine – pepto bismol. But maybe this is useful to some people?

    Best thing besides the race technical tshirt is generally cytomax packet or an energy bar. Those 3 things are basically all that I like in race bags.
    Nelly recently posted..Olympic marathon picsMy Profile

  21. says

    This post’s topic is so random yet so relateable so I love it! Even non-racers have become overloaded with these bags. I myself came home with about six new reusable bags from BlogHer. Some stood out (the BlogHer one zips close – score!) and some are just random and piling up with the rest in my kitchen (Lorax? Bright orange? uhh..) Still you’re right, better than plastic, but now my kitchen is becoming the landfill!
    Caitlin recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: BaltimoreMy Profile

  22. says

    Loved this post. I always come home from the expo or race and dump the stuff on the floor and just laugh. Those weird shaving gel samples at Disney races? Check. Tuna packets from this year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll races? Check. (Our cats were thrilled.) Dog treats? Check. (Neighbor’s pooch was thrilled.) Coupons and flyers no one will ever read or use? Check, check, and check. I’m always thrilled when I find something useful — like cute socks, a good looking race shirt, or even a gel flavor that I might ingest. Heck, even a Luna bar is nice.

    Most random item was a bottle of iron supplement tablets from a race in Canada.

    Most offbeat (yet not random…) item was a Yankee Candle air freshener — the race started in the parking lot for the Yankee Candle factory.

    My favorite ever item, however, was a “13.1” sticker from the Scenic Half Marathon — a small race in Sandpoint, Idaho. Good quality sticker, had the name of the race at the bottom of the oval. I actually stuck it on my car — figured I’d help them advertise their event. That race had other cool stuff in their goody bags — a little first-aid kit, a Band-Aid dispenser, a little tub of peanut butter, and a list of discounts from local merchants. I’m never going to buy a commemorative plaque from an event, but I did buy some books at the local bookstore, a French bread pan at the local kitchen store, and a new purse at another shop.
    Sunny recently posted..C25K – week 9My Profile

  23. says

    Tampons are hilarious!! You’re so right about collecting those bags… maybe we should all start bringing an older bag to the race pick up line and ask them to dump contents into it for us. :) I’ve gotten a few odd things here and there that usually make it to the toy bin (cheap key chains, etc).
    Laura recently posted..A special interview and Summer RatatouilleMy Profile

  24. says

    Ha! Tampons… that’s awesome! I ran a 5K (yes, a 5K) in July and the race bag included (among other things) a 10% off coupon for running shoes at a running shoe store, a 20% of coupon for apparel at that same running shoe store, a 10% off coupon for another (and my favorite) sporting goods store and 2 movie tickets. The value of that bag was worth more than the registration fee!
    Laura recently posted..Ruby Wednesday: Real people foodMy Profile

  25. says

    I love the reusable bags, but yes, I’m starting to accumulate more than I need. Speaking of tampons, the girls on GOTR receive goody bags before their races and last fall, they had pads in there and their reaction was hilarious – the younger ones had no idea and the older ones were so embarrassed and giggling!
    Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen recently posted..Confession timeMy Profile