Some runners claim they’re not bothered about what’s in the goody bag (writes Sarah Briggs). Shame on you - it’s a running tradition and a deserved reward for your race day effort. We look at the wonderful world of post-run handouts...
When I moved from the south of England to the Borders I threw away my medals. The collection is now beginning to grow again, but in the utility room almost out of sight and mind. I’m a bit of a minimalist, like my friend Christine, who also said she’s not bothered about medals as they clutter up her house.
Speak to any novice runner however and a medal is a badge to be worn with pride. Helen has done little exercise over the past few years and never raced, but is hoping to start running regularly; Nicola has done the Race for Life once. For either of these women a medal would be a prized possession, demonstrating pride in achieving her goal.
Likewise at the other end of the spectrum, David has now completed the Lakeland 50 ultra-marathon at least three times and says that he wants a special box for his L50 medals. And for Archie, who has run marathons all over the globe, a medal is a must: along with post-race recovery fluids.
Caps, Mugs and Post-Race Food
Other mementoes can be equally prized but are perhaps a more practical reminder of your achievement. Rachel, from Bristol, is a regular entrant to the Frenchay 10K, with a growing collection of finisher’s mugs; the Langholm Doctor’s race in 2010 gave a race-inscribed shot glass to each competitor; and Penny still proudly owns a baseball cap she got from New York marathon.
The Langholm Doctor’s Run was highly recommended for the quality not only of its goody bag but also the after-race food. With the shot glass was a medal with the race details and a picture of hills depicted on it, and then once over the finishing line home-made soup, cake and tea or coffee were provided free for every entrant.
More About Food
Food features highly in many people’s comments about races: not so much in the goody bag as available at the end or, in a long race, while you are going round. Again the Lakeland 50 and 100 ultra-marathons provide stew, burgers and other delights at various points along the course: the temptation being to stop, relax and eat rather than continue with the race. Andrew, from Aberdeen, was impressed by the Clachnaban Hill race in 2012, saying post-race “not a goody bag, but a tent packed full of home-bakes and urns of tea and coffee, and a keg of Deeside brewery beer. That was my highlight for post-race food, and it lasted until the final finishers were in."
Scottish races are generally highly recommended in terms of food: the Balmoral 10K once had a pasta meal in the goody bag; Christine’s favourite goody bag was from the Loch Ness 10K, sponsored by Baxters, when the bag included a tin of soup. Various races even provide an after race party, although normally you have to pay extra for the entry ticket.
Decent training kit also features in the best goody bags. Kielder Marathon – one of the most beautiful but undulating marathons in the UK - had plentiful water stations and jelly beans available at regular points around the course. Free pre-race massage was available, and the goody bag included a technical t-shirt and fantastic Salomon running socks, as well as an unusual medal.
T Is For Technical
The Lakeland Trails give out technical t-shirts in different colours according to the year: a great talking point if you bump into someone wearing one when you’re out training, as I did along Hadrian’s Wall one day. Races which provide a cotton t-shirt which goes out of shape and loses any design after a few washes tend to be criticised in reviews on blogs and running websites: Stu mentioned a popular Lancashire half marathon as being particularly bad as he got a cotton t-shirt and some Nivea. Likewise the Bath half comes in for mixed reviews, some entrants slating the goody bag, with the overall view seeming to be that for what you got the race entry was expensive. Bristol half marathon also gets some lukewarm reviews, with the t-shirt being the ‘only’ good thing in the goody bag.
Forget The Flyers, Make It A Map
Very few people mentioned flyers as being something they wanted, unless they are also money-off vouchers. Some runners liked them as a way of hearing about other potential races, but others said they use one of the listings magazines – such as SOUTHERN RUNNING GUIDE – as an essential tool in planning races.
Other weird and wonderful race mementoes? David likes the fact that he gets a really good quality detailed map of the Lake District every time he does the Lakeland 50; the Cartmel Sticky Toffee pudding race provides each finisher with, not surprisingly, a sticky toffee pudding; and the Langdale Christmas Pudding race gives out Christmas puddings.
The French Way
What makes a ‘goody bag’ good or bad probably boils down more to the overall experience of the race rather than the goodies alone. If you’ve paid a lot for your race entry, you expect the race to be well-organised and to provide some decent goodies, either on the way round or at the end, or both: and not to run out before the final finishers are through.
By contrast if you only pay £2 entry fee you expect little. Andrew has raced various distances all over the UK. Having paid his £2 entry fee to the Aberdeen beach Metro Proms 3k he was delighted to find he was given a bottle of water and packet of jelly babies on finishing.
But the prize for ‘top experience’ must surely go to the French. The Marathon du Médoc passes through 50 chateaux and vineyards with wine and local food in plentiful supply at feed stations. Whilst serious runners ignore all of this, a cut-off time of 6.5 hours is allowed and the website describes the race as the longest marathon in the world. Each finisher receives a bottle of Médoc wine along with their other goodies at the end.
Next time I’m tempted to enter a marathon I think I’ll be heading to France!