Hail my running brothers and sisters! In my journey towards running Nirvana, I have tested and used a number of gadgets and doodads and accessories that would make the tightest of skinflints cringe and the techno-runner weep with joy. I have studied enough garments to make Tim Gunn proud. As such, here are a list of insights that I have garnered from my hoarding of running goods:
1. Everyone knows I love my Garmin Forerunner 305. I refuse to run without it.It gives me relevant information about speed, pace and elevation. With the included heart rate monitor, I can even correlate my effort to various points in the run. I thought this was gimmicky at first, but I have come to value this information. I can now see how much effort a certain pace requires. I also love the online utilities that allow me to sync my Garmin to my computer and upload my runs. LogYourRun.com and Plus3network.com both have utilities that will import your recorded runs directly to their sites. Plus 3 also takes your mileage and makes donations to specific charities of your choice based on your daily distance or work out effort.
2. My second running must-have is my RoadID. This simple tool has your name and contact information in the event of an emergency. They have it in lots of colors and a few different styles. I wear mine all the time as a shout out to other runners that I'm a runner too. I realize this is obnoxious and goofy, but it's less obtrusive than my GPS for this job. Ha!
3. As far as tunes go, my fans know that I'm a staunch opponent to Itunes and Ipod. I can't stand Apple's DRM policy or the clunky way Itunes syncs. Other than the obvious factors to consider (size, sound, storage capacity, battery life, price), I prefer an MP3 player that has an FM radio, so I can listen to the news or a football game. It's also nice to have one that has a memory card slot for additional storage. My current player is a 4 GB Sansa Fuze. It was relatively cheap and with an 8 GB memory card, it can handle all my tunes. It will also play videos in a pinch but the converter is a pain. I used to have a Sansa Clip for working out, but it was not very durable and did not tolerate my ridiculous sweat rate. I'm considering replacing it with a comparable Sony or Creative Zen, but for now, I'm using my Fuze. For purchasing and organizing my tunes, I use Amazon's MP3 store and Windows Media Player respectively.
4. You name the brace/support device and I probably have one. I have so many that I keep them in a separate gym bag. I probably wouldn't need them if I didn't keep over-training and dinging myself up, but I don't see that happening in the near future. The only compression sleeves that I use on a consistent basis are my calf sleeves that help with blood flow, muscle recovery, and injury prevention. My McDavid sleeves appear to be more therapeutic in function and really seem to help my shins. I have a pair of 2XU calf sleeves that I use for races. They are lighter than the McDavid stockings, but they seem to only offer marginal assistance, if any, to my shins. My Zensa calf sleeves are the compromise between the 2XU and the McDavid that I use on my training runs. They are bit heavier and sturdier than the 2XU and seem to offer more in muscle recovery and injury prevention.
5. As far as hydration options, I have tried fuel belts, hydration backpacks and handheld bottles. By far, I prefer handhelds (with a handstrap, of course) for the majority of my runs. I like the form factor of the Amphipod line as they are easier to hold onto, but the valuables pouch is on the handstrap and can be unwieldy with all my keys. The Nathan line isn't bad, but the handstrap can feel loose at times. I'm not a huge fan of handhelds with a thermal sleeve as I can't see how much fluid I have left. The biggest problem however is that they do not hold enough liquid to sustain me over runs of 15+ miles. For those long runs, I will also use my Camelbak, hydration backpack. Still the sloshing of the pack can really through off my stride especially on a faster run. Fuel belts always seem to be sliding around on my frame and then jumping into my back as they slosh around loudly.
6. Socks should have significant cushion on the soles and toes, a breathable upper, and some type of moisture wicking. My everyday running socks are Addidas Performance Socks. My favorite socks for racing are Balega running socks.
7. Shoes are trickier as you will need a shoe to cater to your specific needs. I believe that I over-pronate but I have been working on improving my bio-mechanics. As such, I can also use a neutral shoe. Then you may need a shoe to address whether you have flat, high or normal arches. I have 2 pairs of training shoes (a pair of Asics 2130's and a pair of Brooks Adrenaline 9's), 2 pairs of trial shoes (Nike Structure III's and Asics Enduro's) and 1 pair of racing shoes (Nike Tri-D III's). I rotate my training shoes everyday to preserve them and to prevent repetitive stress injuries to my feet. I like my Nike Tri-D III's for racing as it is light neutral shoe. When buying a running shoe, consider going to running store to have your stride analyzed. They can usually help advise you as to which shoe would help any issues that you have. Also buy your shoe in a half to full size bigger as your feet will tend to swell, and the extra room will help avoid blisters and black toenails.
8. Running clothes are mostly a matter of preference. However there a huge number of brands that offer moisture wicking and breathability. I like most of the Nike brands as well as the C9 brand from Target. I also prefer to wear compression shorts under my running shorts as to letting my boys fly free in the built-in-webbing. Reebok makes a nice compression short that is actually much lighter and cheaper than my Underarmor shorts, but Underarmor has a wider variety of styles and lengths that I've found.
9. For night time/pre-dawn running, I've tried several different reflector and light options, but the easiest, if not the dorkiest, has to be the headlamp. It's nice to have the extra light without having to worry about carrying a flashlight over any long distance. I'm using a Ray-O-Vac headlamp with 5 different main lamp settings. The main lamp is also adjustable so that you can change the angle of the light. It has a red light on the rear battery pack for cars approaching from behind you. It has an adjustable main strap that goes around your head as well as a second strap that goes over the top of your head to keep the headlamp from sliding down your forehead. This second strap might not be necessary if the lamp were a bit lighter, but I think it is probably a good thing to have.
Well that covers most of the junk that I've bought lately, but is any of this stuff really necessary? With the exception of the RoadID (if you are a road runner), then the answer is probably no. The beauty of running is that it can be as low tech/basic as a pair of shoes and socks, some shorts and t-shirt. Beyond those basic necessities (there are some people who would argue that the basic list is still too long, but those minimalist guys are pretty hardcore, and possibly a little crazy), anything else is just icing on the cake. They aren't necessary, but some, like the GPS, can be really fun. My thought is, the more you dress like a runner, the more you will feel like one and will be more comfortable going out every day or every other day to conquer your mileage demons. So good luck and godspeed.