With training for the 2014 season starting in just over a month, I want to talk a little bit about what gear you need to get going with your training. If you already have a significant portion of your home dedicated to your gear this may just be a review, but if you have a good pair of shoes and are a little overwhelmed by all the options for gear out there then this is for you.
First things first, when thinking about running gear please make sure the you are planning to take advantage of the knowledge you will find in your local specialty running store. I am personally a big advocate of supporting small local businesses in general, but running stores especially are important to support because they really do go way beyond selling product. Running stores are the backbone of the running community, they sponsor races, support running groups like ours with clinics, advice on running routes and you can find them providing water and electrolytes out on popular trails during the summer. As a customer at a running store making a purchase is a personalized experience that usually includes a discussion about your running goals, training plan, upcoming races and insights into what products will work best for you. I will post later about the in depth process of helping you find your best shoe, but it will essentially boil down to this - go to your local running store and they will take care of you and get the right shoes for you on your feet.
So, after you have your shoes, what next? I went out to some local running stores and asked "besides shoes, what gear would someone training for their first marathon or half marathon need?"
The top answer was socks, moisture wicking, running specific, non-cotton socks. The thing about cotton is that it is very absorbent, which is why cotton makes such good towels. Next to your feet when you are running the last thing you want is moisture because that will increase friction and friction causes blisters and blisters cause foot pain and foot pain causes running imbalance and running imbalance causes additional injuries that could prevent you from running. So if you want to keep running get some socks that keep moisture away from your feet.
Continuing on with a campaign against cotton, why stop at your feet? Keep moisture away from all your skin by investing in apparel that is designed to wick away moisture and avoid the dreaded chafing. If you aren't familiar with the concept of soft fabric scraping away until perfectly good skin becomes raw and bloody then throw on a cotton tee and run for a couple hours, the result is painful and bad.
Ladies, the one additional apparel item that you need to make sure to consider is a good supportive bra. Keep in mind that over time bras can lose elasticity so make sure that you are keeping your bra current. Your local running store can help you find the right size and style for your body. A good fit is not only important to keep the bounce down, but poor fit can lead to chafing here as well.
At this point you may be getting paranoid that you clothing is out to get you and tear off all your skin, but don't worry, buy some Body Glide and rub it in all the areas where chafing could happen and it will help prevent issues.
So far the recommended items suggested contribute to comfort, but what about items that support life? Food and water are of course required to stay alive, but in distance running it's nutrition and hydration.
When training for a marathon or half marathon the time spent on your feet running and walking burns a lot of calories and in order to maintain energy on a long run you'll need to replace some of those calories during the run. Unfortunately when you are burning so many calories your body cannot support the level of digestion to process large amounts of foods, or even some types of food such as protein and complex carbohydrates. This is why there are companies that have developed specific easily digestible simple carbohydrate, high electrolyte nutrition products. These options come in the form of gels or chew-able chunks of jelly candy-like food that are easy to take with you on your run. Because everyone is different it is a good idea to pick up a few different kinds to try out on long training runs to see what works for you.
You may have observed how much sweat running can produce, and all that sweat can lead to dehydration, so replacing the water you are losing is a key component to staying healthy and alive. It is a good idea to run on trails that have water available along the way, but the best way to make sure that you have enough water is to carry it with you. As our group runs go over 4-5 miles carrying your own water is a requirement, so finding a hydration system should definitely make your list. Your options include backpacks, belts and handheld water bottles. Each of these options can include differences in water delivery - such as a straw with a Camelback, or removable water bottles. Most hydration systems will also include pockets to hold other essentials such as cell phones and nutrition. Make sure to try it on and sun a few steps to make sure that the fit will be comfortable.
Thanks to the Salt Lake area running stores for helping with this post. Make sure to visit them to stock up on all the gear you need to train and race.