When people ask me: ‘What do you do for a living?’ I sometimes respond: ‘I pack.’ An Air Canada Aeroplan Elite member since 1991, I’ve visited 120 countries, including destinations like Myanmar, Tanzania & Antarctica (and that’s just in the last few months). I have worn out my share of suitcases. And I still get it wrong often by overpacking, under packing and forgetting essential items. However, when packing & traveling to international marathons, I go to great lengths to get it right.
Whether my race destination has been Reykjavik, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Amsterdam, Budapest, Boston, Vancouver or Chicago, I take preparation and packing as serious as my training plan. As I get closer to running in my fifth world major – Tokyo on March 3, I will begin my packing rituals once again. Running marathons is stressful enough without forgetting important items.
A week before my Japan departure, I’ll print off my tried and true ‘marathon stuff’ packing list that I’ve created for over 20 marathons. Then, I begin checking the weather for the race destination obsessively in the seven days prior to the race.
I’ll begin by choosing, then choose again and again, several layer possibilities I might need to bring – depending on the weather forecast, including, importantly, throw-away clothing. Little did I know that for the notoriously cold, windy and rainy Boston marathon in 2018, I’d wear all four layers I brought under a poncho for most of the race! Trust me: you never know.
Then it will be time to tick off the Marathon essentials, stuff like Body Glide, race number belt, watch, chargers, current adaptors, sunglasses, gloves, gels, blocks, Gatorade and, of course, Advil.
As a proud Canadian, I always buy a new running singlet or shirt featuring ‘Canada’ emblazoned for every race. Hearing encouraging ‘Go, Canada’ cheers from marathon spectators around the world is well worth the wardrobe investment. I look forward to hearing that again in Tokyo.
Some other preparation I’ll be doing: Lock in a restaurant for 5pm the night before the race via ‘Open Table’ App. Prepare a new iPod playlist for the race. Laminate a customized pace band with a Velcro strip with my splits and goal time. For my last five marathons I have put my buddy Paulo Branco’s name on the pace band for inspiration and dedicated my race to him. He is fighting ALS. I did an ALS fund raiser last year in his name at the Boston marathon and we raised $16,000. It’s important to me to bring him with me wherever I go.
A ‘worry-free essential’ practice is to bring all my race gear in carry-on luggage to avoid any possibilities of lost suitcases. I will also wear my Asics Kayano shoes on board the Air Canada flight for good luck. Upon arrival at the hotel, I will lay out absolutely everything that I need on race day in a corner of the room, to eliminate any worrying overnight or searching for stuff on the morning of the race.
Then, after the race is over, my wife Jane and I will explore Japan. Which means more stuff to pack. Just about all my International Marathons (14) will include travel somewhere afterwards (e.g. Patagonia after Buenos Aires; Prague after Budapest; south shore of Iceland after Reykjavik, and down the Rhine River after Berlin).
As much as I am excited about running the prestigious Tokyo marathon with 30,000 other runners, I am excited to experience Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka. Japan in March can be pretty cold or warm or rainy (Yikes).
I’ll be ‘packing for a living’ once again.