Honolulu – 1999
It was 1999 and I was coaching a charity marathon team. We were running the Honolulu Marathon and when we awoke on race morning, it was raining. Not a light rain but a “gully washer” rain.
If you know anything about Honolulu, the start is before dawn (in order to beat the heat) and athletes typically walk the half-mile or so from the hotels to the starting line. Normally, this is a lovely walk in the pre-dawn hours listening to the waves lapping up on the beach.
Not that day. That day, it was going to be a very wet, cold walk to the starting corrals and then we’d have to stand there for a while until the gun went off. As we stood in the lobby of our hotel, the athletes looked to me, their coach, for answers. I, as their coach, looked around for solutions. How could I keep them dry, given that we didn’t have proper rain gear and our warm-up gear was minimal? It was Honolulu after all.
One person’s trash (bag) is another person’s treasure
Just then, I spotted it. The hotel had large garbage bins at the entrance. Bingo! That’s all we needed, a few of these large garbage bags. I hustled over to the front desk to as if we could borrow a few and soon enough, the athletes were warm and dry in our homemade ponchos.
The walk to the start was wet and cold and breezy but we looked like the most prepared team in the race. The rain let up by the half-marathon and the athletes enjoyed the stunning views from Diamondhead and that wonderful finish at Kapiolani Park.
Since then, I’ve always recommended that athletes pack a large trash bag as part of their running gear for races. It packs well, travels well and conforms to the more and more stringent gear check rules at big races. It costs nearly nothing and is available at nearly every grocery, home center and pharmacy in any city where you race. You can get short ones, long ones, black ones, white ones and even ones with scent if you want to some aromatherapy.
More than just a poncho
Best of all, it has so many uses on race morning. I’ve used them to keep me warm and dry (as we did in Honolulu) but I’ve also used it as a dry place to sit when the starting area is damp. I’ve used it as my yoga mat for pre-race flexibility. I’ve used it as a final layer to keep me warm as I stood in corrals waiting for the gun to start. I’ve used it as my own personal changing room before and after races. And sometimes, I don’t use it at all. But it sure was nice to have it there. Next time you head to that start line, make sure you pack a trash bag. It just may save your butt (or at least provide a dry spot to sit yours on).