The Run-Up to the Marathon: Missoula Marathon Gear Bags


Often it is the little things, like water stops, first aid, and quality of food, that make an athletic event special.

So it is with the Missoula Marathon Gear Bag Program.

When we started with the marathon, we simply placed the bags in the back of the bus and then tried to get them out in time for the runner’s arrival. We realized that this was bush league and would not serve us or the runners when we started to grow.

And grow we did.

We contacted two of our local building materials companies, Mutual Materials and Anderson’s Masonry Hearth and Home and asked them to help transport the bags from the starting lines to the finish line. They were happy to help and help they did.

Missoula Marathon gear bags

They arrive just after the runners leave and, with their fork lifts, load the large boxes onto their trucks and take them to the finish line area. But where to get the boxes large enough to handle 5,000 gear bags?

We asked the Missoula Food Bank, which often receives large boxes of food from Costco, to save the boxes. They then use their trucks to deliver the boxes, with 175 bags per box, on pallets to the start lines where they are labeled with each runner’s number.

At the finish lines, the boxes are emptied by volunteers and the bags are lined up by number so that they can be found and delivered to the runners as they finish the run.

In all aspects of this effort, volunteers are the key. From truckers to food bank employees to finish line workers, we strive to make it effortless for runners to leave gear at the start lines and have their goods returned individually at the finish line.

We want the runners to leave the race with the thought, how did they do that?

Calling all volunteers! There’s still time to volunteer to help at the Missoula Marathon. Visit the Run Wild Missoula website for more details.


  Stay in the loop with Missoula’s running community! Check out the Run/Walk It archives for more posts from Missoula runners and walkers.


Missoula Marathon gear bag coordinator Wayne Chamberlain

Wayne Chamberlain moved to Missoula after retiring from the Anaheim Fire Department (Fire Captain/Paramedic). He was hired to be the Executive Director of Blue Mountain Clinic while serving as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in the legal system. He began volunteering at the Missoula Food Bank in 2006 and was elected to the Board of Directors in 2007. Wayne began helping with the Gear Bags at least four years ago.