As I went out for a run last week, I was fresh off cashing in a gift card at my local Dick’s Sporting Goods (and loads of coupons), and I was flush with cool new stuff. It occurred to me that I was outfitted with HUNDREDS of dollars in gear – minimal shoes, high-tech socks, absurdly expensive Dri-Tech shorts, Dri-Tech compression shirt, SpiBelt, Garmin FR-10 GPS watch, and even a $25 high-tech running hat! The only thing that wasn’t exorbitant, was the $0.30 of band-aids to prevent ‘shirt front bleeds’, if you get my drift.
Contrast this with what I ran in when I started out so many years ago: random ‘gym shorts’, cotton t-shirt, tube socks, and sneakers. Until a year ago my recipe for running shoes was to get something from the ‘running’ section that was (a) comfortable and (b) affordable … and don’t think I ever broke $50! In other words, my entire outfit from just a few years ago cost less than just the shoes I wear now!
And that made me think of someone I saw in the parking lot waiting for the bus to take us to the start of a half marathon late last year – the person had on pretty much everything you could imagine, and I really had no idea how well they ran. There were special shoes and socks and calf wraps and extra strips and expensive clothes in multiple layers and on and on and on, but it tweaked my inner statistician because I very much doubted that the gear was applied scientifically or every thoroughly proven out. It was just tossed on with abandon and taken as a ‘good omen’ that should be worn since no injury came.
Here are three things you need to go out for a run:
1. Clothes that will protect you against the elements and provide for a minimum of chafing and irritation.
2. Shoes that will protect your feet from road debris (or sticks/rocks on trails) and provide enough support/stabilization to help avoid injuries to other parts of the body.
3. The desire to run.
Perhaps lacking the motivation pushes some to make an investment in gear, hoping that the motivating power of a large purchase will get them out on the roads. This is similar to buying exercise equipment like a treadmill or elliptical machine. But then again, we all know how most of THOSE end up!
It took me many, many years to go beyond the basics in terms of running gear, and I look back on all of the decisions I have made, and I think they make sense. My clothes keep me warm (or cool), wash easily and dry quickly, travel well and have lasted more than a few thousand miles over the last year. The same is true for my shoes – I got more than 2000 miles on my first $100 Nike Free minimal-ish shoes, and have several hundred miles each on my new Nikes and New Balance shoes. They have done their time and earned their keep well. I could probably find something cheaper that did as well for me, but I am happy just to avoid injury.
There are other things like a belt (holds my phone at home, and phone and hotel key when I travel), RoadID (safety), reflective vests and headlamps (more safety) that serve specific purposes that are adjunct to running. I don’t listen to music when running, both because I love the sounds of nature, and because I believe that music through headphones is a distraction and a potentially dangerous thing, especially during the dark hours.
And finally the controversial GPS watch. Many will tell you that listening to your body is the most important thing – but until we get to that point, having something tracking our time and distance is a very nice tool to understand our running. But – it is unnecessary.
What do you use that you find is ‘essential’ to your running, what is superfluous that you use anyway, and what silly things have you seen people using?