The Running Bag


By Norb Lyle

“Ok. Let’s do this,” my running buddy says to me. We have decided to do a mountain exploration run. “Ready?” he asks as he paces, impatient to go. He travels light with his water bottle, GU packet, and phone. “Ah, not quite,” I respond. My buddy sighs, plops down on my couch and checks his phone as I prepare supplies for our run.

Years ago I decided I was sick and tired of trying to carry multiple running essentials out to the car in one load. I would drop half of what I was carrying before ever making it to the car – breaking some things in the process. This practice got old fast – especially after the third trip to the car. What could I do to avoid this minor catastrophe? I needed to carry a bag of some type. No, not a man purse. No, not a diaper bag (although it resembles one), but a “running man bag.” Turns out, this bag is not only the easiest thing for me to use, but the most practical anywhere I decide to run.

“The bag” is your typical canvas bag with handles used for carrying groceries. I found mine lying in the back forty of our garage housing the neighborhood spider collection. After a few douses of insect repellent and a couple of shakings, the bag was ready to be put to use. It’s my perfect go-to bag for all my running needs. I’ve got everything in the bag and can take it anywhere knowing I am well prepared.

In my bag is food I prepared the night before, a headlamp, water filter, iPod, visor, safety pins, filled caloric and electrolyte water bottles, recovery drinks, small TP roll, mini instant coffee packets, tea bags, band aids, ziplock bags, plastic knives and spoons, ginger, maps, liner gloves, hats, Vaseline, electrolytes, long-sleeve tech shirt, mini rain jacket, good luck cards and notes from my wife and kids, smashed (but still edible) food I want to try but never do, insect repellent, two different hydration packs, a pair of socks, shorts, and shirt to put on post-run; sunscreen, mini first aid packet, wallet and keys. You name it, it’s in the bag.

Who’s to say, when I drive up to the mountains, what I’m going to encounter and how I’m going to feel? What would my needs be if a problem should arise? What if I reach the trailhead and I’ve forgotten to put on Vaseline and band aids at home? No problem – I’ve got them in the running bag! What about come race day at 3:00 a.m. and I need a plastic spoon to eat my pre-race oatmeal and the hotel lobby is closed? What if the weather does a one-eighty during my four hour mountain run? What if I change my mind and want to take a different trail? Do I know exactly where it starts? Yes I do, because I have a map in the bag. The running bag saves the day in all of these scenarios.

As my friend waits for me to fill my bag he eyes me, then snickers and chuckles to himself. I know that one of these days he’ll wise up and eventually carry a bag too.

So when we finally starting running on the mountain, who was it that needed TP for an emergency pit stop? Who was it that needed a band aid after his encounter with a boulder? Who was it that needed to filter more water on the run? You guessed it: my running bud. A year later, who was it that brought out his running bag before another ultrarunning adventure? You guessed it. He finally wised up.

My other ultra running buddies still chuckle at the sight of “the bag.” They don’t realize they too will be converts sooner or later. Yes, the bag can be ugly and also weigh a lot at times, but I know I’m prepared and should be able to handle anything I encounter on any adventure.

Despite how people view my running bag, I am proud to have dusted this puppy off and given all of my running needs a home (and so is my wife). I hold my freak running bag high!



  1. Hi Norb, I loved your article. Gear bags are sort of my thing. Perhaps you’ve heard of, and/or seen the Victory Bags? I designed it for exactly the reasons you love your canvas bag. Obviously, we can’t beat any price tag comparison to the beloved canvas bag, (or plastic bin) but you might find the use, durability, and organizational elements to be pretty unique, & amazing. Shoot me an email if you want to know more about them. I might even be able to get one in your hands. 😉 Cheers, Victor

    • Thanks Victor! Appreciate it. Actually, I have a Victory Bag too (if you can believe it) Ha, too funny! I use it for my crew to have at 100 milers. It’s very easy for them to use, so thanks so much!

      • HA! That is funny. Well, good to know. I sincerely understand the no frills simplicity that tons of folks have with a good canvas bag. 😉 If your Victory Bag is a BEAR model, (or bigger) I would highly suggest turning that into your gear go-bag. Too many folks save them for only “drop bag” use, when they could be getting their money’s worth having everything ready to go for every day use. Cheers!

  2. Having been a runner for a while, I have amassed numerous shoes of various ages, shorts, socks, tights, buffs, etc. I find the best option is to have a larger, multi-sectioned duffel. I fill it with a week’s worth of running gear, including a few pairs of shoes, headlamp, a few hydration options, a towel, some clean street clothes, after run snacks, etc. Then I just keep that in the car for the week. I carry it out on Sunday night, and back on Sunday the next week to refill it. Always having stuff in my car means I never have a convenient excuse to not run. I’ve even done a few “opportunity runs” on my commute to work, where there was an accident and complete gridlock. Pull off on the side of the highway, put on my gear, hop over a fence, and get in an hour. Come back to the car and off to work!

    • Holy cow. Great option there man! YOU are prepared for sure! Actually, that would make a great article to read! Hint…..Hint….!!!
      Thanks man!

  3. Della Lyle on

    As a graduate assistant coach for a Texas collegiate cross-country team, I have come to terms with the fact that my backpack (that first, and foremost, carries all of the essentials for library studying and class-based boredom) has become my “running bag”. Though mosquito season may be over, that doesn’t mean you won’t find some bug spray in one of the pockets! Among other things, I carry two spoons, one plastic fork, a constant supply of mixed nuts (mostly peanuts), lotion, iPod headphones, my phone, seven pens, a stopwatch, a good amount of gum, one water-bottle, one reusable coffee mug, as well as my ever-multiplying books, paper, and my laptop… just in case I get to studying on a run.

    • You ARE getting the most out of your education – taking it with you wherever you go! Proud of you Del! Got to love it!