The great thing about running is that you only have to throw on your running shoes and head out the door, right? Well, kind of … sometimes. In my early years of running, part of its allure was that I could just put on some shorts or sweatpants, a t-shirt or sweatshirt, tie up my sneakers and head out. Of course, I wasn’t going too far in those days (although it felt like it) and I didn’t work up that much of a sweat. And I am not someone who typically buys something unless I need it (well, most of the time, and with the exception of books), so it wouldn’t have crossed my mind to look for special clothes. And what gear could there be?
These days I am the first to say that you really do need to kit yourself out properly for long distance running. For one thing, there is fabulous new fabric now that actually wicks the sweat away from your skin. Whoever thinks of these things deserves a prize. Until you’ve run in a sweat-drenched cotton t-shirt and sweat-soaked cotton undergarments, and then frozen with these wet garments clinging to your skin, you can’t fully appreciate the value of “technical clothing”. The difference is staggering. So first off, until you’ve been in enough races to have a wardrobe overflowing with souvenir technical t-shirts, you need to buy a few. And who could have imagined how important running underwear could be? It not only wicks sweat away from your skin, it is also seamless to alleviate yet another potential source of discomfort. Only geniuses could think of such things.
I know some of you were cringing when I mentioned the sweatpants, at least those who are related to me. Of course, we all know that this is a fashion faux pas. Not only that, they are too heavy for comfortable running, especially when wet. Happily, there are many producers of cool and comfortable running tights today, and they are essential in cold weather. Speaking of cold weather, my favourite pieces of running attire for cold weather are my tops that include retractable mitts at the end of the sleeves, plus a tight hood (complete with ponytail opening) that serves as an effective retractable tuque. One piece of clothing that serves so many purposes! When I received my first one as a gift from my son and daughter-in-law, I thought the sleeves looked way too long and that I’d never wear it, although I didn’t say that to them. When I got it home and realized that the long sleeves actually included built-in mitts, I was blown away. So simple, so useful. Brilliant. Of course, if your gear lacks a hood, a tuque is an essential in cold weather.
There is more. For long runs you need to take your house key, some Kleenex, and usually water or a sports drink as well. How about some power gels to keep your electrolytes up? ID in case you have an accident, maybe a cell phone? There are a variety of belts you can buy to house whatever you claim as essential for the day’s long run. I refused to spend the money on a water belt when I first got hooked on long distances and instead went to great creative lengths to find a cheaper alternative. I now have a collection of unused alternatives, but I do love what I eventually settled on. Needless to say, in the process I have spent more than the initial cost would have been.
Another important item is body glide. It turns out that running for a few hours, with rivulets of sweat coursing down your body, and your clothing – or other bits – rubbing continuously at points of contact, may cause problems. Chafing can occur, maybe even bleeding. Rather than accepting this discomfort as an unavoidable consequence of running (or, as some non-believers would suggest, stop running), simply purchase a stick of body glide at your local running or sports store and glide it on the problem areas prior to your run. Who would have known?
When you are running in warm weather, instead of a tuque you need either a sweat band or a hat with a sweat band in it to keep the sweat from running into your eyes and stinging. A ball cap serves the dual purpose of keeping the sweat out of your eyes and the sun out as well.
You’re almost ready to leave the door now, but of course you still need some socks and running shoes. Not to mention your Garmin. And you may want to take your music as well. But feet, Garmins, and music each deserve their own posting, so I’ll save them for another day.
The bottom line, I have come to learn, is that having the right kit for running makes a huge difference. We all have to play around with what works best for each of us, but it’s worth it.