The importance of the race goody bag

After a particularly generous race in Scotland that handed out free whiskey, 220 columnist Martyn Brunt reflects on past goody (and some not-so goody) bags

brunty tri gifts

I feel I must address the topic of ‘race swag’, which is on my mind because I’ve just completed a race and walked away with the greatest array of gifts I’ve ever received in 20 years of racing.


Race gifts are always something of a lottery, and I’ve emerged from the finish area of many an athletic endeavour with little more than a plastic bag full of leaflets for my efforts.

I remember one occasion where, after a forensic search through the many flyers contained in the post-race carrier I was given, I realised that my goodies were a couple of sachets of muscle rub and a small packet of Love Hearts – ideal recovery items for the weary athlete.

On such occasions I naturally try and make up for this shortfall by making off with as many bananas and drinks as I can carry.

Hitting the big time

That said, I once completed a bike and run event in Italy called the Grancombinata d’Italia, and at the somewhat chaotic finish line I had a litre of wine thrust into my hand and so many bags of pasta that I had to pay an extra baggage charge on the flight home.

Yet even this has been trumped by the race I’ve just done – the ‘Dramathon’, a trail marathon in the Highlands of Scotland, which starts at the Glenfarclas Whisky Distillery, ends at the Glenfiddich Distillery, and visits several other distilleries along the route, including Cragganmore, Ballindalloch, Cardhu, Tamdhu and other places of pilgrimage.

Having completed the somewhat beautiful route through Speyside I was rewarded with nine – NINE! – miniature whisky bottles from the distilleries we’d passed, a whisky glass with ‘Dinnae bottle it’ etched on it, a t-shirt, a foldable cup and a medal made out of a piece of whisky barrel. Didn’t he do well!

Swim galas have been where I’ve done the worst in cost vs goodies equation

Swimming galas have typically been the events where I’ve done the worst in the cost vs goodies equation – so much so that I’ve been known on occasion to liberate certain items from poolside, and to this day my garage wall is adorned with signs declaring that diving is prohibited and there should be no bombing, pushing or heavy petting.

Ironman races are where I tend to get the biggest free gifts, like rucksacks, hats and t-shirts – although I’m not sure ‘free’ is quite the right word given the average cost of race entries.

Goodies to be grateful for

But it tends to be the more random or useful race gifts that I remember best, such as:

  • Compression socks, where my calf muscles were measured with string to ensure the right size.
  • A pair of tri-shorts with an insert that was so uncomfortable that it made cycling feel like I was sitting on a typewriter.
  • Body wipes, which were especially useful because since taking up triathlon, public urination has become one of the main cornerstones of my life.
  • A plastic banana slicer, in the shape of a banana, which is too blunt to cut slices so just mashes the banana into a pulp.
  • A drawstring woolly hat with a hole in the top, which made me look like someone had just shaved a bison.

Another notable array of gifts I received was after the Warwickshire Bear Ultra, where I received a bottle of cider, the tastiest flapjack I’ve ever eaten and a piece of paper declaring that a tree had been planted in my name.

This last gift was especially lovely and really appeals to a person like me – someone with a draw stuffed full of race t-shirts that I haven’t worn in five years.

Anyway, that’s now triathlon, duathlon, aquathlon, marathon, swimathon, bikeathon and dramathon that I’ve done.

And I will definitely be returning to do the last of these again, not least because I drank the miniatures at the finish and now can’t remember what the course looks like. Cheers!


Illustration: Daniel Seex